Gloria Escoffery was born in 1923 in Gayle, St Mary, Jamaica. Her father was a government medical officer and her mother was a professional violinist and Bridge champion. The family (who are white Jamaicans) can trace their arrival in Jamaica in the late 18th century, probably from Haiti after the revolution of 1790. She was educated at St Hilda’s School and was Jamaica Scholar in 1942. She studied at McGill University (Montreal), Slade School of Fine Art (London) and at the University of West Indies School of Education.
She started out work as a journalist on the Public Opinion newspaper, taught art in Kingston and then taught English for many years at Brown’s Town Community College until her retirement in 1985.
She is one of Jamaica’s most outstanding painters, her work first coming to notice in the 1940s. Her paintings of rural Jamaican life are particularly well known, with strong sympathies for grass-roots people, though there is nothing sentimental in her work, which has strong surreal, non-figurative elements. She is also an important art critic, with scores of articles in Jamaica Journal over the years. She was awarded the Order of Distinction in 1977 and the Silver Musgrave medal in 1989 for her services in the field of art.
She is also a highly distinctive poet - unconventional, surreal and strongly visual in imagery. She has published Landscape in the Making (a pamphlet, 1976); Loggerhead (Sandberry Press, 1988) and Mother Jackson Murders the Moon (Peepal Tree, 1998). Her poems have been anthologised in Caribbean Voices, Breaklight, Caribbean Poetry Now, and The Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse.
She lived in rural splendour in an old house in Brown’s Town where she remained active as both a painter and poet throughout her late 70s. A long interview with Alex Gradussov can be found in Jamaica Journal, vol 5 no. 1, 1971, in which she says, ‘My limitations are infinite. But as I am getting older, I learn to use my limitations better. That may be my greatest achievement’.
Sadly, Gloria Escoffery died in 2002 at the age of 78.
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