Jamaican artist David Marchand in his studio, with his painting “The Dread and the Tourist.”
Ask Jamaican artist David Marchand when he had his big break and he’ll tell you that at the age of 72, he’s still waiting for his moment.To the Jamaican art community, however, he’s one of the most influential figures in the burgeoning movement. He’s also one of its most colorful—some on the island have chronicled his quirky personality and describe him as an “eccentric, scraggly-haired, wild-eyed man.”
Outpostings stopped by Marchand’s home and seaside studio in Runaway Bay to take a closer look at some of his most recent works. He spends most of his day creating more art, and has over 100 pieces on his own walls.
Marchand began his lifelong journey as an artist when his mother handed him a paint brush and a canvas at the age of five. He studied in New York for a few years in the 1960s, but returned to Jamaica after the city proved too distracting for the young artist. Back in the Caribbean, he has dedicated his life to creating art that feels true to him, identifying mostly with the early 20th century Dada movement. Creating pieces with little regard to formal technique, his art is at once comical, religious and erotic.
Scenes from David Marchand’s home studio.
Unable to support himself, he worked in advertising for some years and relied on family support. And when his family stopped paying, Marchand burned down his mother’s home. Marchand describes the incident as the moment that brought him “closer to God,” and he now considers himself a prophet. “I didn’t know I was a prophet until it all came to me one day,” Marchand says. Such visions from God inspire many of his later works.
One of his most famous pieces, “Tsunami Scarecrow,” is a still unfinished work—based on a vision—of a steel figure of an imaginative character with arms raised upwards, covered in diamonds and emeralds. He showed a small scale wooden model at the 2014 Jamaica Biennial, and hopes to recreate the full scale statue when he receives funding to kickoff the project.
Tsunami Scarecrow model.
Galleries throughout Jamaica, the U.S. and Europe have shown Marchand’s art, and he’s earned a following of loyal collectors. Film and television producer Maxine Walters, for example, decorates her house in Runaway Bay with some of his otherworldly pieces. Her daughter, filmmaker Chloe Walters-Wallace, is also a fan. She spent four years shadowing Marchand while making a short documentary on him. A full-length documentary, like Marchand’s anticipated artwork, is still in development.
The visit to the studio confirmed that Marchand is at once a force to be reckoned with in the Jamaican art scene and a man with a unique take on life. Not only does he see himself as a prophet, but he also drew a parallel between himself and Bob Marley, whom Island Outpost owner Chris Blackwell introduced to international audiences.
“Now Mr. Chris Blackwell can have his visual Bob Marley,” Marchand mentioned, as Outpostings drove off from its studio tour.