The Art of Jamaica: A Prelude
by Wayne Lawrence
Trafford Publishing

"The Jamaican artists are of a people who have emerged from the holocaust of chattel slavery and survived that arid period of cultural sterility called colonialism. These people have tapped the springs of creativity that have always sprung and have finally been able to express their talents."

Eighteen artists share their history, their passions, their artwork, and their homes in Lawrence's eloquent portraiture of this eclectic group of Jamaican artists. Before showcasing each artist's talents, Lawrence provides readers with a bit of historical, geographical, and cultural context. His exploration of the relatively recent developments of Jamaica's formal art education programs, including the establishment of the Jamaica School of Art in the 1950s and the Jamaican Artists and Craftsmen's Guild in 1977, serves to inform the portraits of these artists individually and as a group. With this introduction acting as a backdrop, readers are better able to understand the significance of each artist's education both at home and abroad. Furthermore, each artist's portrait charts personal and professional struggles and accomplishments, as well as the artist's perspective on selected works of art, before closing with words of wisdom for the next generation of artists.

Lawrence's writing, coupled with full-color reproductions of multiple works produced by each artist, come together for a lush reading and viewing experience. Through writing that is at once evocative and journalistic, Lawrence takes readers with him as he visits each artist. "Brisk gusts of wind raise white caps" on our visit with self-taught artist David Boxer. Meanwhile, a visit with semi-abstract artist Rafiki Kariuki reveals "a plant-filled verandah," which "echoes with the sounds of the neighbourhood." Each portrait includes artwork interspersed with the artist's reflections on the work in their own words. Together, these portraits reflect variety in artistic approach and style coming together in not only a common heritage, but a common artistic passion that Lawrence clearly shares.

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