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Island Shop: An Ode to Jamaican Sculptor Gene Pearson

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

What do I have in common with Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, and Bill Clinton? Not a whole lot. Except that we’re all fans of celebrated Jamaican sculptor Gene Pearson.

His work caught my eye back in the ‘90s, and I fondly remember my first Pearson purchase, a ceramic mask, from an art gallery in Montego Bay. It cost way more than I could afford.

But the gallery owner graciously allowed me to pay in installments and that moon-faced, crackle-finished masterpiece became mine. Since then it has criss-crossed the Atlantic, to three countries and umpteen apartments, making each one feel like home.

Now whenever I’m in Jamaica I’m always on the look out. I’ve admired his work in public spaces such as Swept Away in Negril; Couples Tower Isle in St. Mary; at Strawberry Hill in Irish Town; and in the Club Montego Bay lounge at Sangster International airport, where its incorporated into the décor with elegant effect. And I’ve adored his masks in the homes of many Jamaican friends (who, despite my pleading, were unwilling to part with them).

Over the years I’ve added a few more pieces to my collection. And each one brings me a little frisson of excitement as I mount it on the wall. But, I have to admit, nothing compares to that first thrill, 20 years ago. I suppose it’s true what they say: There’s nothing like your first time.

CJ’s new Island Shop column focuses on the best in Caribbean shopping, with an emphasis on the real, the authentic and the unforgettable.

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