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» GUEST RUNDOWNS » CERAMIC ARTIST AND SCULPTOR GENE PEARSON TO BE RECOGNIZED BY THE JAMAICAN GOVERNMENT!

CERAMIC ARTIST AND SCULPTOR GENE PEARSON TO BE RECOGNIZED BY THE JAMAICAN GOVERNMENT!

  By Richard Johnson—
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 PEARSON… It’s great to know somebody is looking on and that I am being noticed. (PHOTOS: BRYAN CUMMINGS)

CERAMIC artist and sculptor Gene Pearson is in a good place.

This is evident in how comfortable the renowned artist is in his own skin and his unwavering humility despite the accolades heaped on him, plus the fact that his signature heads are always in demand.

The slender, dreadlocked Pearson cracks a smile when he speaks of his most recent accolade which sees him being upgraded from the Order of Distinction Officer Class (OD) to the Commander of the Order of Distinction (CD), Jamaica’s sixth highest honor.

“It’s great to know somebody is looking on and that I am being noticed,” he told the Sunday Observer during an interview in his airy studio, high in the St Andrew hills with a panoramic view of the city and harbor below.

“I am happy they did not wait until I was tilting forward. I am so pleased with the honor at this time,” continued the 70-year-old.

Pearson readily speaks of being a country man. Born in Wood Hall, St Catherine, the same community with spawned Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, he stressed that having started out without much made him very open to new ideas once he moved to city Kingston in the early 1960’s.

He was one of the early students of what has become the School of Art, and speaks with pride at being part of that second generation of Jamaican artists, following in the footsteps of founding fathers Eugene Hyde, Barrington Watson and Karl Parboosingh. He would also be one of the first student for master potter Cecil Baugh. The travels and experiences of these artists and teachers would have a profound impact on a young Pearson.

Upon leaving the School of Art, he quickly realized that he would have to create his own form of employment and quickly started building a name for himself. There were stints teaching at Calabar High School and Vere Technical, but then Pearson related that there was a crossroads. The work moved from pottery and craft to art, and in 1971 he created the stamp for which he is best known — the head, with closed eyes and sharp features.

Gene Pearson with one of his works.

Gene Pearson with one of his works.

“I had to start forming my own opinion, freeing myself mentally from all the colonial oppression. I realized that the (potter’s) wheel was limited. I experimented and this is the result.”

Today, Pearson sources his clay both locally and from California in the US, a city which had also brought him much acclaim. For 25 years, he would travel between Jamaica and Berkeley, California, because as he put it, “I went there to grow”.

He no longer makes that trip on a regular basis, but he is pleased with the network be built during those years and is reaping the fruits of his labor.

Gene Pearson with one of his works.

Gene Pearson with one of his works.

“Thanks to technology, I can now stay right here in Jamaica and with Facebook I can see how people are reacting to my work. So I take orders and send to people all over the world. It’s a good time.”

Not one for frequent exhibitions of his work, Pearson has been coerced into showcasing his work alongside fellow local artist Cecil Cooper, but a date is yet to be set for this event scheduled for next year. But before that, his yearly open studio is set for December.

There is a defiant no when asked of plans to retire.

“We don’t retire or fall… will keep on creating the work as long as I am able to.”

Pearson is among a number of persons from the arts who will receive their insignia during the National Honors and Awards Ceremony at King’s House on October 19. This list also includes Marjorie Whylie, Harold Butler, Ronnie Burke, Pat Gooden and Jackie Guy.

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