Spiritual Yards – Gallery 1: Pastor Winston Brown, Reginald English

Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives – Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection will be on view at the NGJ from December 11, 2016 to January 29, 2017. Here is the first of a series of short features on the artists in the exhibition, organized according to which gallery their work appears in, and accompanied by rare video footage on each of them, courtesy of Wayne Cox (all rights reserved).

Pastor Winston Brown (1932-2015) was born in Manchester and moved to Hope Bay, Portland, as a young adult. He was employed in Public Works for the Parish Council and later kept a shop. In his spare time, he would visit various churches, sermonizing based on his visions. He built a house just west of Hope Bay, adding on a room at a time. Pastor Brown began with creating assemblages mounted on poles. He painted vibrant floral and abstract design on his walls and on objects outside. On the street, he constructed signs and assemblages with spiritual messages, calling this place the Garden of Eden attraction. He leaned zinc fencing painted with his designs along the slope of the hill across the street. He had a bench there where he would lie down, read his Bible and wave to drivers passing through the Garden of Eden.

Reginald English (1929-1997) was a Jonkunnu performer, who was known for creating painted metal cut-outs depicting Jonkunnu characters and spirit figures he called “whoodies” which he believed lived in the countryside. During the 1980s and 1990s, English created and sold these works of cut-out metal at a stand on the main road just east of Boscobel, St Mary. English often recycled discarded metal to make his figures, which displayed strong gestural characteristics, and he used metallic automotive spray paint to provide vivid and radiant colouring. His work was has been exhibited both locally and overseas, most notably in the exhibitions Prophets and Messengers (2000) and Intuitives III (2006) at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston and National Gallery of Jamaica, as well as the Redemption Songs exhibition in the United States, held in 1997. English also represented in the permanent collection of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum in Miami.

YARD POWAH by Wayne Cox – Part II

Pastor Winston Brown (Photo Wayne Cox - all rights reserved)

Pastor Winston Brown (Photo Wayne Cox – all rights reserved)

Here is part II of Wayne Cox’s catalogue essay for the exhibition Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives – Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection, which opens on December 11. Part I can be found here.

Pastor Winston Brown

Pastor Winston Brown created the Garden of Eden attraction at his home on the main road just east of Hope Bay, Portland. It is by far the most vibrantly colored of Jamaica’s yard shows. At the roadside, he has signs with spiritual messages, seals, rows of zinc panels, even his whole house, all covered with unique patterning. He preaches occasionally in the area, sermonizing on his visions.

Vincent Atherton (photo Wayne Cox - all rights reserved)

Vincent Atherton (Photo Wayne Cox – all rights reserved)

Vincent Atherton and Errol Lloyd Atherton

Errol Lloyd Atherton lived back in the countryside in Albany, St Mary. He knew the power of carved effigies from his father Vincent who carved to help him gain control over unpredictable forces. Vincent carved highly evocative heads, the tops of which were carved out or burned out, becoming vessels. In 1999, he carved two figures—one to propitiate the century leaving and another to welcome the new one arriving.  His son Lloyd was known as “Powah” in part because of the “powah” his yard possessed.[1] He participated in Kumina-influenced “Bongo” meetings that brought forth spirit possession, particularly, by the ancestors.

Errol Lloyd Atherton (photo Wayne Cox - all rights reserved)

Errol Lloyd “Powah” Atherton (photo Wayne Cox – all rights reserved)

Lloyd displayed numerous stands on bamboo poles, many holding highly charged figures carved by his father or himself. On some he added material such as dried herbs, libations, metal objects and toy figures. The zinc at the border of his yard was painted with messages to please the ancestors. He hung a three-meter long strap of metal he says was an earlier relative’s gong. A gowned figure hung in effigy from a tree high above his front gate. He incised panels of zinc fencing, some in the shape of crosses, with designs and spirit words. Backlit by the sun, the panel’s spirit message would shine through. He placed round objects reflecting the power of the circle passed down from the Kongo cosmogram that evokes the redemptive healing of the daily movement of the sun where the day’s troubles are lifted each night during one’s time with the ancestors when the sun goes below the ground.[2]   Continue reading

Spiritual Yards – Introduction

The exhibition Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives – Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection opens on December 11. As usual, we are posting texts that appear in the catalogue and serve as text panels in the exhibition. Here is the first installment of these posts, the catalogue introduction by Executive Director Veerle Poupeye.

The story of John Dunkley’s discovery by the emerging Jamaican cultural establishment of the late 1930s is well-known. The then Secretary of the Institute of Jamaica, Delves Molesworth, was impressed by Dunkley’s elaborately decorated barber shop on Princess Street, which included paintings and carved elements, and Dunkley was soon recognized as a major, self-taught artistic talent and included in exhibitions and collections. Dunkley’s work did not emerge from the popular tradition of the “spiritual yard,” which is the focus of this exhibition, although the mystical symbolism apparent in his work may have related to his Masonic beliefs. His barbershop however reflected a similar impulse to create a cohesive aesthetic and symbolic environment. Dunkley’s story also drives home that there must have been spiritual yards in various parts of the island at that time. However, none of the producers of the ritual and symbolic objects and images that would been part of such yards made the transition to the formal art world, even though popular culture, including Revival practices, served as iconic subject matter in the nationalist art of that era. This was clearly a function of how “art” was defined in the context of the early nationalist movement, which was premised on middle class cultural values, and what was deemed worthy of documentation and preservation or recuperation as “art,” to which Dunkley more readily conformed.

It took until the 1950s and 60s for this to change, thanks to the advances in the cultural anthropology of the Caribbean and changing public and official attitudes towards popular culture. Rastafari and Black Power were a major factor in this, as these movements challenged the old cultural hierarchies and assertively claimed space for all aspects of black culture. The young politician Edward Seaga, who had been trained in sociology and had done pioneering research on Jamaica’s Revival religions, became an influential advocate of the art of Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, who was a Zion Revival leader. Kapo also found an avid supporter in John Pringle, Jamaica’s first Director of Tourism. Aspects of the popular culture were, interestingly enough, used in the promotion of Jamaican tourism, as Jamaica was trying to assert a more distinctive voice in the lucrative but socially problematic and culturally reductive “sun, sea and sand” tourism industry which was emerging during that period. Some of the earliest photographs of Kapo and Brother Everald Brown, another self-taught artist who was associated with the religious side of Rastafari, were commissioned by the Jamaica Tourist Board, as well as being produced by, more predictably, the pioneering anthropologists and cultural researchers of that period. Kapo and Brother Brown had both established spiritual yards before they were recognized as major artists, and maintained such spaces throughout their lives, and several of these photographs document the early incarnations of their spiritual yards. Their work was also exhibited and collected by the Institute of Jamaica from the late 1960s onwards and the National Gallery inherited most of these early holdings.

Everald Brown at his church yard, the Assembly of the Living, photographed by Penny Tweedie for the Jamaica Tourist Board in 1972

Everald Brown at his church yard, the Assembly of the Living, photographed by Penny Tweedie for the Jamaica Tourist Board in 1972

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“Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives – Selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection” Opens on December 11

spiritual-yard-flyer-invite

The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to present Spiritual Yards: Home Ground of Jamaica’s Intuitives, which features selections from the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection. The exhibition opens on Sunday, December 11, with the formalities starting at 1:30 pm, starting with opening remarks by Wayne Cox and followed by a musical performance by the Nexus Performing Arts Company.

The theme of Spiritual Yards was proposed by Wayne Cox, who co-curated this exhibition, and explores how many of the artists who have been recognized as Intuitives are rooted in popular religious and spiritual practices, especially the Revival religions and also Rastafari. Several produced or contributed to so-called spiritual yards, also known as home ground, or sacred spaces that featured ritual and symbolic objects and images that are meant to engage or represent the spirits, which was either the start of their artistic practice or remained as its main focus. As Wayne Cox has rightly argued, these spiritual yards are often their most outstanding works of art and their cultural significance in the Jamaican context warrants further exploration. Spiritual Yards features the work of ten such artists, namely Errol Lloyd “Powah” Atherton, Vincent Atherton, Everald Brown, Pastor Winston Brown, Leonard Daley, Reginald English, Elijah (Geneva Mais Jarrett), William “Woody” Joseph, Errol McKenzie, and Sylvester Stephens, along with photographs and video material on their life, work and spiritual yards from the Wayne and Myrene Cox archives. Spiritual Yards will be on view until January 29, 2017.

Wayne Cox and his wife Myrene have collected and documented the work of Jamaica’s Intuitives for 30 years. Their homes in Port Maria and in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, serve as important repositories of the work of these artists. Works of the Wayne and Myrene Cox Collection have been widely exhibited internationally. Wayne has written exhibition catalogue essays for a number of exhibitions, including Intuitives III at the National Gallery of Jamaica. He has presented at symposiums including Taking the Road Less Traveled: Built Environments of Vernacular Artists at the Kohler Art Center and Uncommon Visions at the American Folk Art Museum in the United States. In 2005, Art and Antiques named the Coxes to their list of the “Top 100 Art Collectors in the United States.”

In what is now an established Holiday Season tradition at the National Gallery of Jamaica, the programme on Sunday, December 11 will include the award-winning Nexus Performing Arts Company, with a performance which will start right after the short 1:30 pm opening function for Spiritual Yards. The Nexus Performing Arts Company was formed in 2001 by Hugh Douse, Artistic Director, voice tutor, singer, actor, conductor, songwriter, and a former Director of Culture in Education. The group has a broad musical repertoire that draws on Gospel, Negro Spirituals, Semi-classical, Popular music including Reggae and show tunes, African and Classical music of the European and African traditions. The performance by Nexus will take the form of a musical tour of the galleries, with selections inspired by the Spiritual Yards exhibition.

Since the last Sunday of December of 2016 coincides with Christmas Day there will be no Last Sundays programme on December 25. The programme presented on December 11 thus takes the place of what would have been our Last Sundays event for December. Admission on December 11 is free but donations are always welcome. The gift and coffee shop will be open for business and the gift shop is well stocked with Jamaican-made art and craft items and a wide selection of Christmas cards that feature outstanding examples of Jamaican art. Proceeds from these ventures and donations help to fund the National Gallery’s programmes and exhibitions.