Portrait of An Artist, Gallery Joe James, Jamaica

Joe James Gallery Art, Jamaica

The sea is gentle today as it splashes against the centuries old converted Georgian wharf which was once the Harbour Masters quarters. It is a fresh warm day.  Overcast by Jamaican standards, but then again those standards are high. After all this is the island in the sun that Harry Belafonte sang about so fondly.  On the day of our visit the ominous clouds held back.  This was a good sign.

When we arrived, Mr. James was working on a new creation.  It had been a long time since I last saw him, too long.  Joe James, his gracious wife, Joy and son Michael gave us a warm welcome.

Joe James, Artist at his Gallery, Jamaica © Judith
Joe James, Artist at his Gallery, Jamaica © Judith

Those of us who are artistically challenged, like myself, would just lounge in the ambiance of the tranquility that is Rio Bueno Bay, Trelawny. This setting is grist for the mill for one of Jamaica’s most accomplished artists.

Mr. James is a remarkable host, with a voice that a radio announcer would envy.  His eyes seem  to hold you captive as you listen to stories of his life’s journey which he is happy to share. The story about being kidnapped by county rugby players, who saw his playing potential, in 1960’s England, is enjoyable. The even better story is of his impromptu audience with the Queen of England, who was visiting Jamaica at the time.  So shocked were his family aboard that they called from England to say that they had just seen him on the telly.

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and his vision is poured into his paintings. The gallery is bursting. Viewing the pieces is a journey through the life and times of not only the man, but the people and a country.

As a young man, Mr. James, was part of the Great migration from the West Indies to the England.  Eight years after the Windrush brought the first wave of immigrants to Southampton, England.  Mr. James arrived with his brother to take up his scholarship to the prestigious Saint Martin’s School of Art, London. On his return to Jamaica he  established himself as an accomplished artist and entrepreneur opening the Gallery Joe James, Lobster Bowl Restaurant, and Hotel Rio Bueno.

Come to Rio Bueno,Trelawny for the serenity, the 22 room hotel, owned by Joe James  is quiet in a sublime way. The forced seclusion was brought  about by the new highway bypassing the old one, the life blood of local entrepreneurs. However,  it is also an opportunity to leave behind your beds on the beach in Negril, the parties of Ocho Rios and  the craziness of Kingston. This complex retains the ambiance that allows not only artists, but sun seekers to thrive far from the “madding crowds ignoble strife.” Inquire about art classes here, as this is a place where your creative juices will flow.

Gallery Joe James is a canvas that beckons your exploration. The visual art here, explores the beauty of the island, colonialism, the birthing pains of a nation and the return of a native son. The wall to wall art works embody the passion of remembrance.

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The  sea is ever present, in his work and life, and he has weathered the storms of its sometimes caprious nature.  From floods by the sea in Suffolk, England to life by the Bay of Rio Bueno, Jamaica.

In 2016, the Gallery will celebrate 50yrs  in Trelawny. Mr. James invites everyone to visit.  Tell him Judith sent  you.


Disclosure:  I am related to this wonderful artist, and count myself lucky to be able to share his life and his work with my wonderful audience.

Highly recommended: Hotel Rio Bueno     Facebook

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Gallery Joe James, Jamaica

J. L. James
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J. L. James

Writer at EmptyBesters
Social Commentator, Original EmptyBester.
J. L. James
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8 thoughts on “Portrait of An Artist, Gallery Joe James, Jamaica

  1. My daughter and I were in Jamaica in April 2016. Went to Joe James restaurant for some traditional jerk chicken (delicious) and Mr Joe James took time to come over to our table and talk with us for a good 30 minutes. Wonderful person and very friendly located right on the ocean and contained many of his awesome paintings. If your in the area it’s a must stop!!!!

  2. Wonderful evocative piece. Beautiful works of art too. Sounds like an incredible place and he sounds like an amazing man. I had a lovely friend at school whose family came from Jamaica to settle here in Suffolk in the 50s. I was always fascinated by the way her parents spoke – it was like poetry. Many of the Jamaicans who settled here are now very old and dying off. Wonderful people who faced unbelievable prejudice from many. Thanks for this lovely post.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it Gilly. When I was in Jamaica, I saw many areas of gated communities of retired returnees from England. They had bought houses by the sea, to live out the rest of their years. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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