7 Great Jamaican Sculptors You Need To Know

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(L-R) Alvin Marriott’s sculpture of Bob Marley and ‘Walking Tree’ by Laura Facey Cooper

We have been featuring some of Jamaica’s best known and highly acclaimed creatives since World Creativity and Innovation Week, which was observed earlier this month. Today, we take a look at some of Jamaica’s most celebrated sculptors.

Laura Facey Cooper

The daughter of late business tycoon Maurice Facey, she has been a sculptor for more than 40 years. Facey was trained at the Jamaica School of Art. In 1976, while creating sets for the pantomime, she Facey discovered her passion for working on a large scale. More than 20 years later, her grand passions became a reality with the 1999 completion of ‘Earth to Earth’ for the University of Technology, a life-size mahogany carving of ‘Christ Ascending’ in 2000 for the St Andrew Parish Church, and the 2003 unveiling of ‘Redemption Song’ at the ceremonial entrance to Emancipation Park. ‘Their Spirits Gone Before Them,’ an installation of a 16-foot cottonwood canoe housing hundreds of the miniature resin figures of the ‘Redemption Song’ monument, is also a significant work. Facey was awarded the silver Musgrave Medal in 2006 and in 2010, she won the Aaron Matalon award for best in show at the National Biennial, The National Gallery of Jamaica.

Christopher Gonzalez

He was born in Kingston in 1943 to a Puerto Rican father and Jamaican mother. Gonzalez graduated from the Jamaica School of Art (now The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) in 1963, where he majored in sculpture and later became a faculty member. He went on to earn his Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the California College of Arts and Crafts, and taught at schools and institutions in Jamaica, California, and Atlanta. His first came to national recognition in the mid-1960s when he was commissioned to do the Coat of Arms and a bust of National Hero George William Gordon.

Some of his later work would earn him many admirers, but shocked others. Among these was a statue of Christ with protruding phallus, which was rejected by the local Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps his most controversial piece is the bronze Marley statue, commissioned in the wake of the the iconic singer’s death in 1981. Featuring Marley appearing to ‘grow’ out of tree-like roots, it did not get the approval of the government nor Marley’s family and was never officially unveiled. It stood at the National Gallery for nearly 20 years before it was moved in October 2002 to the Island Village theme museum in Ocho Rios. Gonzalez lost his battle with cancer in August 2008, at the age of 65.

George ‘Fowokan’ Kelly

Born Kenness George Kelly in Kingston, he migrated to Britain in 1957. Exhibiting under the Yoruba name ‘Fowokan,’ which means “one who creates with the hand,” the largely self-taught artist has been practising sculpture since 1980.

Here, he speaks about his work: “My work is rooted in the traditions of pre-colonial Africa and ancient Egypt rather than the Greco Roman art of the west. Coming to the visual arts late in life I deliberately chose not to be trained in western art institutions as I felt that these institutions could not teach me what I wanted to know. They were too deeply entrenched in their own traditions with little or no understanding or interest in the things that interested me most, which are the ideas that lie behind the art and culture of Africa…

I decided to become an artist while on a visit to Benin Nigeria, in the mid 1970s. I had travelled to Nigeria as a musician where I experienced some kind of spiritual transformation or enlightenment. I returned to London determined to acquire knowledge of the technique of sculpting, which I was able to find in books and through trial and error.”

Edna Manley

Manley was born in Yorkshire, England in 1900 to a Jamaican mother and an English father and died February 2, 1987. She studied at various art schools in England including St, Michael’s School of Art, London and privately with Maurice Harding, the animal sculptor. She married Norman Manley in 1921 and in 1922 moved to Jamaica with him. Manley is credited as the mother of Jamaica’s modern art movement. She was a teacher and co-founder of the Jamaica School of Art, which paved the way for many who went on to excel in Jamaican art. Some of her most notable and enduring work are Negro Aroused (1935 – 1940), The Dying God Series (1941 – 1948),The Public Year and Public Commissions (1949 – 1969) and ).designed the People’s National Party’s Rising Sun logo. Manley died in 1987. Her awards include a 1943 Musgrave Gold Medal and the Order of Merit in 1980. Read more about this pioneering artist here.

Alvin Marriott 

Marriot was born in Essex Hall, St Andrew in 1902. The family moved to Port Antonio in 1913. While attending Titchfield High School, Marriott displayed a keen talent for drawing, and he soon moved into carving, using the soft limestone found around Port Antonio. His first effort was a doll’s head for his sister.

Following the death of his father in 1923 and the family’s relocation to Kingston, Marriott began carving to help support his his mother and six siblings. He soon became known for creating busts of prominent members of society, and he also produced a bust of King George V, which was placed on display at Headquarters House, which now houses the offices of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT). During the 1930s, he was employed to Jamaica Sawmill as a furniture designer and some of his creations won prizes at exhibitions. In the 1940s, following stints in Panama as a carpenter and the USA as a farm worker (where the Hartford Times soon got a hold of his story, which led to some of his work being exhibited publicly), he applied for and received a British Council Scholarship to Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in England. After returning to Jamaica, Marriott tutored at the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts from 1955-61. He left to take up a commission to create the Olympic statue, which was completed in 1962 and now stands at the National Stadium.

Marriott’s other popular works include ‘Banana Man’ (1955), ‘Boysie’ (1962), sculptures of several National Heroes, and the still unfinished National Monument. He died in September 1992.

 

Basil Watson

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of internationally acclaimed painter Barrington Watson, it was a natural progression for Basil to pursue studies at the Jamaica School of Art (now the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts). Through a strong foundation in drawing, he eventually discovered sculpture and with excitement and enthusiasm found it an excellent medium to explore his fascination for the human form.

Through the exploration of the language of the body, Watson depicts exaggerated movement or subtle gestures in the expression of moods, thoughts and feelings. Sensuality has always been a strong underlying element within his work and while he sculpts both sexes, his works often celebrate and radiate a great appreciation of women, whether in thematic pieces, athletic movement or intimate studies of the model.

Watson is represented in galleries in Jamaica and has the distinction of having his major works in each of the three universities there: the University of the West Indies, University of Technology (the UTech Sculpture Park and the Technology Innovation Center) and Northern Caribbean University. He has accomplished numerous commissioned works for the Government of Jamaica, public parks, hotels, corporations and private individuals. His works include Beyond the Tape, a statue of the late Herb McKinley.

Raymond Watson

Born in London in 1954, and schooled at Kingston College, Jamaica 1966- 1972, he attended the Jamaica School of Art from 1977-1981, graduating with a Diploma in Sculpture.

Raymond has lived and worked in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and London, and has exhibited in the Caribbean, The United States, South America and England. He mounted public sculptures in London, Kingston, and Port of Spain, as well as being represented in private collections world wide. In 1990 he along with his brother Basil mounted ‘Sculpture in the Park’ an outdoor exhibition of life-size sculptures in New Kingston Jamaica. His most recent work is the ‘Evolution‘ monument, created with Chung Knight, that is located at the Breezy Castle Roundabout in downtown Kingston. It was commissioned by the Digicel Foundation as a gift to the citizens the organisation has worked with over their first 10 years in Jamaica.

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