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THE FIRE WITHIN Vincent Atherton

+ Errol Lloyd

“Powah” Atherton

Cavin-Morris Gallery NEW YORK, NEW YORK







Tonight I am standing on a hill overlook-

not the wild haired old man I had met for the

ing the water outside Port Maria in St. Mary’s

first time the year before. This man in the cof-

Parish where Atherton lived. There are fireflies

fin had been carefully groomed and besuited

and stars and great expressionist dark clouds

and one could sense that in the ceremonies and

that muffle and render occult the excited ener-

celebrations that had been held all the previ-

gy of the lightning behind it. A breeze is blow-

ous week while he lay in state at his house, the

ing and it is like a lover whispering everything

spirit that had occupied that flesh was well on

in particular against your neck. I am drinking

its way to the original Homeground. This was

guava and pineapple juice and thinking about

the shell left behind.

Vincent Atherton the Carver.

Wayne and I went to Vincent Ather-

Raphael Atherton, a son I hadn’t met

before, the oldest son, an ex policeman, was

ton’s funeral today. Was in a 7th Day Adven-

dressed in a white shirt suit and white patent

tist church but none of the Athertons are

leather shoes. He was sitting next to Leroy

Adventists. There was one local pastor and

Atherton who wore a new black suit and was

two visiting deacons. Atherton lay in a bright

holding in his hand an old tattered copy of our

candy-flake purple coffin covered with floral

(Waynes and mine) exhibition from 1996 “Re-

wreaths. He had 15 children, 5 sons and five

demption Songs.” Raphael leaned over and told

daughters survived. They were all present ex-

me that his father had told him he wanted to be

cept Lloyd who was at the house. Lloyd is the

remembered somehow for his carving and his

one most like his father.

works and Raphael at the time had wondered how that could ever happen but when he came

As we walked into the small but airy

back to Jamaica two years later Redemption

Church, ventilated by rows of fans mounted

Songs had been published and his father was

on the walls, the electric keyboard was being

known. This had been a major life-affirming

set up by a young musician. He tested it with a

thing on his own personal path. He repeated

pre-set of Hard Day’s Night. We walked up the

this when he got up to do the eulogy except

center aisle and looked in the coffin but it was

he even remembered the page numbers his

5 father’s photograph and words appeared on.

Again I was reminded of the delicate

When I looked back at the text again I wished

path we in the art world walk through these

it could have been the expanded version I am

people’s lives. It had never even occurred to

working on now. It has been over ten years

me remotely that the patriarch would be af-

since that time till this great man died and in all

fected by the few words I had written for him. I

that time there was a long section written on

had called him enigmatic in the text and he was

him by Wayne in Prophets and Messengers but

still enigmatic to me now. Sylvester Woods,

still nothing in a major book and I am thinking

Ras Dizzy, Leonard Daley, and Vincent Ath-

this was a major crime. So I was grateful, very

erton are all gone. We are in the presence of

grateful to hear Raphael Atherton’s words,

an art historical and cultural changing of the

thinking I am reaffirmed also in my need to


continue to write about these people and still struggle to catch as many of them alive in their

Of course I have no worries whatsoever

own time as I can. In a way then writing itself

that other self-taught artists are out there and

becomes an act of libation.

will be found in Jamaica. This country exudes creativity from every pore, from the endless

It was a good feeling to hear his family

praise him for his role as a Carver. Atherton was a bush doctor, a role too complex to fully explain here. Even the pastor remembered his command of gathering and dispensing healing herbs. He was not a church-going man, his church was the bush. The pastor pointed out that the first carving by Vincent Atherton he had ever seen was a merry go round the old man had made for the local schoolyard. I kind of wished I could have been a fly on the tree at the Nine Night Ceremony the week before to see the communities less formal responses to the man’s death.

delight of its street signs to the painting and patterns on the surfaces of its buildings to its

6 unending wordplay in speech and song. As in

mented with wood structures, some in bizarre

the US the forms will change and our expecta-

shapes and then brightly painted with enamels.

tions will always be sidestepped. One can never

The Hemphill in my head was positively danc-

be too complacent here for too long. The next

ing with excitement. It was what will happen

to last hymn was sung to the tune of Finiculi

and still does happen in Jamaica over and over

Finicula and I knew it would be a great mistake

again once you learn the ancient ceremony

to sell this funny old world short.

called “Stopping the Car”. You drive along an innocuous road and you see a sign that says

A few days ago we were driving down

Helicopters and so you stop the world and

one of the most commercial anonymous roads

investigate and instantly you have something

in Jamaica near Negril and we saw a sign that

new and deep added to your world. Several

simply said: Helicopters. I didn’t take a picture

days later you are standing in front of a bright

of the sign and I am wishing now of course that

purple coffin which holds the body of a cultur-

I had. But we stopped. We did stop and asked

al artist elder singing a hymn to the tune of

this bright eyed woman where the helicopters

Finiculi Finicula.

were. She pointed around the side and we saw this little structure no bigger than a voting

Vincent Atherton’s carvings are made

booth and on it was a metal cutout flat heli-

to flail off evil in any of its forms. They are

copter brightly painted and nailed to the door.

expressionistic amulets. His herbs were to heal

It actually was a pretty damn good helicopter

the body from the vagaries of what people

cutout and it was also a pretty damn good Bert

in Jamaica have to do in order to survive. His

Hemphill moment.

carvings were for repelling evil and attracting good. He started carving late in life yet it is so

She asked if we wanted to go in and we

obvious from the confidence of his hand that

said of course we wanted to go in and we had

he was not unsure or insecure about what he

to get out of her way so she could pull the door

made. Yet they look unlike anything made in

open and we went in after she turned on the

Jamaica since the time of its premier inhabi-

light and there were three or four shelves on

tants: the Taino who either went maroon with

two walls of the room filled with hand made

those who wouldn’t be slaves or else commit-

helicopters. They were made of gourds supple-

ted suicide rather than give in to the colonial-

7 ists and the slave drivers. They were gone by the 17th Century. But they used the same materials as Vincent Atherton and other vernacular artists did later. Lignum Vitae, Cedar, all the indigenous flora that is still growing on this lush island. They painted on cave walls. Some of Vincent Atherton’s carvings look like what was painted on those walls. Eccentric minimal faces. But they also look like the three dots on coconuts which Jamaican folklore sees as eyes. The saying is : The coconut has three eyes, it sees you before you see it.

Vincent Atherton’s ancestral seal in his son’s yard. All site photos in this catalog are from Lloyd’s yard.


VINCENT ATHERTON, Untitled (Bust, Arms Raised in a ‘V’), c. 1980s Cedar, 33.5 x 26 x 9 inches, 85.1 x 66 x 22.9 cm, ViA 47




VINCENT ATHERTON, Untitled (Head), 1980s Cedar, 15.5 x 10 x 8.5 inches, 39.4 x 25.4 x 21.6 cm, ViA 36


VINCENT ATHERTON, Vessel, c. 1980s Cedar, 20 x 8 x 4 inches, 50.8 x 20.3 x 10.2 cm, ViA 20


VINCENT ATHERTON, Untitled (Three Faces), c. 1980s Cedar, 21 x 7.5 x 5.25 inches, 53.3 x 19.1 x 13.3 cm, ViA 26


VINCENT ATHERTON, Untitled (figure), 1980s Cedar, 24 x 16 x 8 inches, 61 x 40.6 x 20.3 cm, ViA 46


VINCENT ATHERTON, Untitled (white standing figure), 1980s Cedar, 31.5 x 8 x 6 inches, 80 x 20.3 x 15.2 cm, ViA 45


VINCENT ATHERTON, Spirit Figure (Two Pieces), 1996 Cedar, 17 x 11 x 10 inches, 43.2 x 27.9 x 25.4 cm, ViA 35


VINCENT ATHERTON, Horned Helmet, 2002 Cedar, 17 x 11 x 9.5 inches, 43.2 x 27.9 x 24.1 cm, ViA 37



Cedar, 8 x 16.5 x 15 inche

, Untitled (Helmet), c. 1980s

es, 20.3 x 41.9 x 38.1 cm, ViA 30



VINCENT ATHERTON, Staff, c. 1990s Cedar, 38 x 1 x 1.5 inches, 96.5 x 2.5 x 3.8 cm, ViA 43




VINCENT ATHERTON, Protection for the End of the Century, 1999 Cedar, 37.5 x 8 x 2 inches, 95.3 x 20.3 x 5.1 cm, ViA 44


VINCENT ATHERTON, Untitled (serrated), c. 1980s Cedar, 27 x 8.5 x 2 inches, 68.6 x 21.6 x 5.1 cm, ViA 29



VINCENT ATHERTON, Vessel, c. 1980s Wood, 21 x 10.5 x 13 inches, 53.3 x 26.7 x 33 cm, ViA 7


VINCENT ATHERTON, Cross, c. 1980s Cedar, 16.25 x 7.5 x 4 inches, 41.3 x 19.1 x 10.2 c m, ViA 8


VINCENT ATHERTON, Bird Vessel, 2006 Cedar, 17 x 11 x 10 inches, 43.2 x 27.9 x 25.4 cm, ViA 33


VINCENT ATHERTON, Mask, c. 1980s Cedar, 14 x 8.5 x 15 inches, 35.6 x 21.6 x 38.1 cm, ViA 39



Cedar, 10.5 x 12 x 15.5 inches,

otection Helmet, c. 1980s

, 26.7 x 30.5 x 39.4 cm, ViA 40



VINCENT ATHERTON, Untitled (Figure), c. 1980s Cedar,15.5 x 6 x 6 inches, 39.4 x 15.2 x 15.2 cm, ViA 38


VINCENT ATHERTON, Effigy, c. late 1990s Cedar, 11 x 6 x 2 inches, 27.9 x 15.2 x 5.1 cm, ViA 17


VINCENT ATHERTON, Protection for the New Century, c. 1980s Cedar, 20 x 8 x 10 inches, 50.8 x 20.3 x 25.4 cm, ViA 41













It was a yam roast of a day when we

left to go southwest a bit from Port Maria to visit Lloyd Atherton. The last time I had seen him was on a similarly sun-drenched day last summer. I had been very excited by what I had seen, but was so distracted by all the parts that I felt I hadn’t paid enough attention to the whole. Although he is a second generation carver Lloyd has marked out a distinctly

rasta though he does have neck-length locks,

different place for himself in the art world that

glyphs, and seals placed all around the yard

seems to be more connected to the bush than

with various types of offerings and arrange-

his father. But even more significantly for me, I

ments on them. Much of his iconography and

feel Lloyd’s yard is a direct tie-in with the yard

personal sense of writing recurs enough that

shows of the Southern United States.

future visits will be needed to focus on them and come up with some way of interpretation.

Lloyd Atherton wastes no time pulling

you into his visions. You cannot go into his

There is nothing accidental or random in this yard.)

yard without first crossing a stone laid into the ground at the gate marked with warding callig-

We waited outside the gate for him and


then there he was striding toward us looking like a lion in his kingdom from the Burning

The gate itself is strikingly painted in

Spear song. Muscular, full bearded with just the

black with punched out symbols and others

beginnings of white showing through here and

created by laying on red tape. Crosses, num-

there, a cord around his neck with two mule

bers and any number of kalunga signs, circles

teeth on it, plaid shorts worn well beneath his

with crosses are everywhere. On the gate

lean belly, blue plastic sandals and a big cau-

is painted the words Dred Love (He is not a

tious grin. Had to keep telling myself that with

46 his father passing in the last two weeks his life

three days before, the nine-night and other

was in the midst of many changes.

ceremonies performed to release and free the old man’s spirit were over and suddenly Lloyd

“Did you see that?” He pointed up into

was the one of the five Atherton sons who

the large tree that nearly abutted his gate. I

seemed to hold the old man’s legacy of herbs,

looked up and there was a human figure hang-

power carvings and spirituality. In fact his nick-

ing by the neck wearing a turban and an over-

name is ‘Powah.’

sized shirt. Next to it in classic Yardshow 101 style dangled a truck tire slowly turning in a

There was that feeling of beneficent

delicious breeze. We hadn’t even gotten inside

tingling again as I realized that once again

the gate yet! The figure seemed to be fully

I had stepped into a place unlike any other

carved under the clothes. He chuckled softly

known place on this island. Not even close to

as he saw my surprise. “What do you call it?”

art for art’s sake but art made for its original

I asked, cringing as the words left my mouth

meanings and from an intentionality formed

knowing I was going to get one of those ex-

by culture and iconoclasm because it wasn’t

pected and totally understated answers. “Oh,”

dictated by any sort of immediate traditional

he said, “It’s a scarecrow.”

form. Yet it reached out in the world. Yet it connected with those yards in other places.

Of course it was more than that. Don’t

For me this is the quintessence of what I mean

fool yourself for a second. It isn’t like we were

by homeground. Some might call it the racial

standing in a cornfield waiting for a murder of

unconscious but to me it is very conscious in

crows to swoop in picking off the crops. This

the sense of awareness and wakefulness. The

was St. Mary, a parish known for its higher

spring that feeds creativity here is thousands

percentages of Revival Zion, Pukkumina, Con-

of years old and is not dictated by materials or

vince, Maroons, balmyards, and some Kumina.

fashion but rather by deep interwoven genea-

There could be no mistake about the constant

logical needs and human hardwiring. The hand

and never-ending presence of double-valenced

that puts the yard together is the artists and

meanings here. In many ways this was a new

the creative talent that shapes the space is

beginning for us in initiating dialogue with

the artists and the language he speaks is his

Lloyd Atherton. His father had been buried

cultures’. And when it is bigger than or more

47 special than the ordinary we call it art. As Paul Arnett says in Souls Run Deep there are many quiet yardshows as well. Lloyd Atherton’s yard is not quiet.

In fact Jamaica is not a quiet culture.

Earlier in the day I stopped off to finally see if it was cowfoot day at the restaurant and Wayne went off to get a machine part and I stood waiting for him on the main street in Port Maria. It is a small town. But if I closed my eyes the place was a wave of sound. I could listen to it like musique concrete. Not so much traffic sounds but human. Arguments, laughter, children, higglers calling, jitneys calling for passengers, wandering merchants selling batteries and plastic bags of juice, men and women flirting, and the babble of madmen and madwomen. Noisy and very much alive. And so it isn’t such a surprise to me that the spirit world reciprocates and echoes this noise with its constant presence on other planes. It is languages’ life without or beyond the written word. Mankind is always in a boisterous dialog with the ancestors. Word sounds have power.

As we walked past the gate into Lloyd’s

yard for a few moments I thought that I was actually seeing the spirits and hearing the sharp tiny buzz of their barely articulate voices. They

48 were all around me and I could feel the wind of

There are certainly larger and more

their passing against my neck and face.

elaborate yard shows than Lloyd Athertons’.

Then Wayne said ‘bees’ and Lloyd said ‘bees’

But the intimacy of the space has the effect of

and pointed over to the corner of the small

making the whole thing seem more shrine like

yard where he had two hives both painted

even though he lives in a small elevated shack

with symbols and faces. “Don’t wave your

about eight or nine feet square. The first thing

arms around.” And I’m thinking to myself little

you see when you get in, after you reach men-

cynical thoughts like ok ok if it were too easy

tal equilibrium from the bees, is a loose almost

you’d be suspicious…there is always going to

basket like structure where he keeps a group of

be something that reminds you of your hu-

his larger carvings willy-nilly mostly open to the

man condition whether it’s the heat or mud or

elements and insects. I was instantly reminded

mosquitos etc. The bees were everywhere and

of the Yupik masks or the Zuni War Gods slowly

I do have to say they animated the landscape in

returning to the earth.

such a way that nothing was static. I cut back my art world propensity towards grand sweep-

I peered out between the bees and

ing gestures and joy dancing.

forced myself to slow down and contain my excitement so I wouldn’t miss anything. I of

You walk through Lloyd’s gate and you

course felt a buzz that went way beyond the

are immediately immersed in spirit languages

teeming apiary. My disappointments about the

and spirit writing and iconography. It is tacked

Jamaican exhibition falling through were gone

to the trees and painted on the buildings and

and one year later I could see things much more

scattered on the ground. I wouldn’t swear to


the fact that Lloyd is literate but he has a very finely tuned in sense of the iconic power of

Lloyd was excited we were there and

inherent in the word sign. His shack is splashed

Wayne and I both picked up a new openness to

with words, pieces of zinc are painted with

our presence in him. It wasn’t so much about

what he says are the watchful faces of an-

the selling of carvings and because of his fa-

cestors making sure the yard is under cosmic

ther’s presence in our book Redemption Songs


and the mention of it at the funeral. He seemed to have just as much need to tell us things

49 as we needed to hear it. Later on Wayne and I

hanced offerings that beckon and invite

agreed that it seemed he was taking his role as

the spirits in. We had known that Atherton

his father’s successor and cultural gatekeeper

senior considered his pieces attraction

very seriously.

and repelling devices for spirits but calling

them seals placed them in a Jamaican per-

On a table off to the side were an al-

tar-like arrangement of plants, bottles with

spective and added depth to those words.

liquids in them, a mesh basket covered with

It also opened up discourse on other carv-

one of his fathers sculptures. In a few words

ers and this absolutely New World manifes-

Lloyd opened a major discourse about Jamaican

tation of older forms.

religion and about the intentionality behind his work and his father’s work. He called his father’s

This is American art and an import-

sculpture a seal. Bang! Him calling the sculpture

ant part of our understanding of the Afri-

a seal answered volumes on why and what he

can Diaspora. It is time that serious atten-

and his father carve. Seals are spiritually en-

tion be paid to it.




ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled, 2006 Metal, 39 x 28 x 4 inches, 99.1 x 71.1 x 10.2 cm, LAt 47





c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 18 x 17 inches, 45.7 x 43.2 cm, LAt 41



c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 19.5 x 12.25 inches, 49.5 x 31.1 cm, LAt 24



ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Animal Spirit Plaque, c. 1980s Cedar, 40 x 7.5 x 1 inches, 101.6 x 19.1 x 2.5 cm, LAt 32



ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Standing Woman, 2006 Cedar, 11.5 x 3.5 x 2.5 inches, 29.2 x 8.9 x 6.4 cm, LAt 7


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Standing Woman, 2006 Cedar, 12.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches, 31.8 x 11.4 x 6.4 cm, LAt 10



c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 18.25 x 12.25 inches, 46.4 x 31.1 cm, LAt 25



c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 21.5 x 13 inches, 54.6 x 33 cm, LAt 23




c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 16.75 x 11 inches, 42.5 x 27.9 cm, LAt 22


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Spirit Totem, 1997 Cedar, 51 x 13.5 x 2.5 inches, 129.5 x 34.3 x 6.4 cm, LAt 48



ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled, Early 1990s Cedar, 20 x 1 x 1 inches, 50.8 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm, LAt 15


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled, 2003 Cedar, 25 x 3 x 2 inches, 63.5 x 7.6 x 5.1 cm, LAt 16


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Offering, 1997 Cedar, 36 x 7. 5 x 8 inches, 91.4 x 19.1 x 20.3 cm, LAt 35


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Effigy with Three Heads, 2000 Cedar, 33 x 4.5 x 5 inches, 83.8 x 11.4 x 12.7 cm, LAt 31


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled (Figure), 1992 Cedar, 32.5 x 9 x 8 inches, 82.6 x 22.9 x 20.3 cm, LAt 29


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Effigy Woman, 2000 Cedar, 26 x 5 x 5 inches, 66 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm, LAt 30


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled, Early 1990s Cedar, 10.5 x 1.5 x 2 inches, 26.7 x 3.8 x 5.1 cm, LAt 20




ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Cross Spirits, 1996 Cedar, 24 x 10.5 x 1.5 inches, 61 x 26.7 x 3.8 cm, LAt 21



c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 19.5 x 12 inches, 49.5 x 30.5 cm, LAt 46



c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 21.25 x 16 inches, 54 x 40.6 cm, LAt 45





c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 7.5 x 7.25 inches, 19.1 x 18.4 cm, LAt 39




c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 6.75 x 5.25 inches, 17.1 x 13.3 cm, LAt 40




c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 18 x 16.25 inches, 45.7 x 41.3 cm, LAt 44



c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 21.5 x 18 inches, 54.6 x 45.7 cm, LAt 43


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled, Metal, 9 x 8 inches, 22.9 x 20.3 cm, LAt 37

c. 2000 - 2005


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled, Metal, 9 x 5 inches, 22.9 x 12.7 cm, LAt 36

c. 2000 - 2005




c. 2000 - 2005

Metal, 17.25 x 13.25 inches, 43.8 x 33.7 cm, LAt 42


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Forked Staff, 1997 Cedar, 66 x 8.25 x 1.5 inches, 167.6 x 21 x 3.8 cm, LAt 49




Cedar, 9 x 27 x 3 inches, 22

TON, Eyes and Heart Plaque, 2004

2.9 x 68.6 x 7.6 cm, LAt 26



ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Standing Figure, 2006 Cedar, 13.75 x 4 x 1.25 inches, 34.9 x 10.2 x 3.2 cm, LAt 8


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Figure with Two Heads, 2006 Cedar, 10 x 5.5 x 1.25 inches, 25.4 x 14 x 3.2 cm, LAt 9


ERROL LLOYD “POWAH” ATHERTON, Untitled, c. Early 1990s Cedar, 21 x 2.5 x 3 inches, 53.3 x 6.4 x 7.6 cm, LAt 17




Copyright © 2019 CAVIN-MORRIS GALLERY Cavin-Morris Gallery 210 Eleventh Ave, Ste. 201 New York, NY 10001 t. 212 226 3768 Catalog design: Sophie Friedman-Pappas Photography: Jurate Veceraite, Wayne Cox, and Randall Morris Text contributed by Randall Morris



Profile for Cavin-Morris Gallery

The Fire Within: Works by Vincent and Errol LLoyd 'Powah" Atherton  

This catalog documents an exhibition by Jamaican sculptors Vincent and LLoyd Atherton with two journal entries by Randall Morris

The Fire Within: Works by Vincent and Errol LLoyd 'Powah" Atherton  

This catalog documents an exhibition by Jamaican sculptors Vincent and LLoyd Atherton with two journal entries by Randall Morris