BuyDay Friday: Jamaican Masks


I couldn’t afford it. But oh, how I wanted it. I’d just started a new job in Montego Bay. One afternoon, as I explored my new home town, I wandered into an art gallery, where I fell instantly in love with a ceramic mask. Turns out it was a piece by celebrated Jamaican sculptor Gene Pearson, whose work graces the private collections of Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Alice Walker, and has been displayed in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Never mind that I hadn’t even got my first paycheck and that the mask cost hundreds of dollars, more money than I’d ever spent on a single piece of art; I needed it.


One sympathetic gallery owner, a small downpayment and four installments later, the mask was mine. It has since traveled with me from Mo’Bay to Kingston to South Florida, where, hung on the wall over my bed, its moon-shaped face, crackled and dimpled just like the lunar surface, performs a nightly vigil.

Since that first purchase I’ve added two more Pearsons to my collection. One a diminutive gem that set me back $200 at the airport in Montego Bay.


The other a larger piece, scored for a (relative) song at the gift shop at Couples Tower Isle.


You often see Pearson’s pieces on display at local hotels – Idle Awhile, Couples Swept Away and Strawberry Hill among them.IMG_2376


But Tower Isle is the only place I know where you can buy Pearson’s “seconds” (masks that spent a little too much time in the kiln). Though they’re unglazed and the colors are mostly mottled neutrals, I think they’re just as compelling. And at less than 50 bucks a piece, they’re a real steal too.