Stafford Schliefer, self-taught artist, born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1939, has been painting professionally since the age of 28. When asked what motivated him to paint, Schliefer simply says that painting was like breathing for him, and that he remembers painting from early boyhood. His career began humbly, by exhibiting his art on the hotel strips in Kingston and Montego Bay. The recognition from art critics allowed his work to be moved off the streets and into the art galleries and museums. Very early in his career, he received two Certificates of Merit from the Jamaica Festival Arts Commission (1970, 1972) and a High Commendation Award from the Institute of Jamaica (1971). His first solo art show was also in 1971.
Schliefer’s art has been thematically mixed from the outset, including erotica, Jamaican cultural traditions, and socio-political themes, executed in acrylics, oils, watercolour, mixed-media collage, and drawings. His paintings articulate distinctive styles, with the use of figuration and abstract expressionism, often energetically transmitted by exuberant use of colour and motion with gestural brushwork. His depictions of Jamaican pocomania ceremonies, Jonkunnu masquerades, and sugarcane workers in the field are examples of this. A substantial part of Schliefer’s art reflects issues relevant to the conditions of poverty and violence in the society, expressing his personal confrontation with same, in visual terms.
Schliefer is currently living and working in Irish Town, Jamaica.
Main Exhibitions and Awards
Since his first exhibition in 1969 at the Jamaica Festival of Fine Arts, Schliefer has exhibited continuously, both locally and internationally, and in group and solo exhibitions. He has exhibited in Canada, the United States, Germany, but most of all in Jamaica. His work has been in the Annual National Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica consistently since its inception in 1984, and in the National Biennial Exhibition, held since 2002. His solo exhibits include annual shows at the Mutual Life Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica between 1983-2000, a 1989 show at the Contemporary Artists’ Association in Kingston, a 2002 show at Mint Galleries in Kingston, Jamaica, and two shows in 1978 and 1981 at the Mohave Museum of History and Art, in Kingman, Arizona. His latest shows were ‘Potpourri’, a one-man show held December 1-8, 2013; ‘New Work by the Masters: Alexander Cooper and Stafford Schliefer’, held at the Mutual Gallery & Art Centre in Kingston, Jamaica, 31 March-29 April 2012; ‘A Celebration of Art: A Tribute to Albert Huie, Master Painter’ (a private group exhibit, 2010).
His participation in international group exhibits includes Caribbean Visions which toured the USA 1995-98; Jamaican Contemporary Painters, Galerie Malraux, Los Angeles, California in 1991; The Second Annual Atlanta Life Exhibition, Atlanta, Georgia in 1982; the 1976 United States Postal Service Bicentennial Art Contest, held in Phoenix, Arizona, where his work was awarded Second Place;Jamaica National Art Collection which toured Boston and Miami in 1973; Three Decades of Jamaican Painting at the Commonwealth Institute, London, UK in 1971; the Eleventh Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1971; A Generation of Jamaican Art in Ontario, Canada and Georgia in 1969. He was invited to represent the US in the 2nd World Black & African Festival of Art & Culture which was to be held in Nigeria in 1976.
Over the years, various Jamaican Prime Ministers have selected his work as official gifts to the late Pope John Paul, former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, US President Bill Clinton and South African President Nelson Mandela.
Schliefer is listed in several biographies and art works, such as ‘Who’s Who in American Art’ (1976 edition), ‘Personalities of the West and the Mid-West’ (1977-78 edition), ‘American Artists of Renown’ (1981-82 edition), ‘Men of Achievement’, ‘Dictionary of International Biography’ (Volume 15), ‘International Who’s Who in Community Service’, ‘Caribbean Visions: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture’ (1995), ‘Modern Jamaican Art’ (1998), and ‘Jamaican Art, then and now’ (2011).
Important collections such as The John Deere Art Collection, one of the Vatican’s 23 Papal Art Collections, The National Gallery of Jamaica, The Bank of Jamaica, the estate of the Right Hon. Michael Manley (former Prime Minister of Jamaica), as well as those of private and institutional collectors in Jamaica and elsewhere, bear examples of his work.