Elton Braithwaite is a master sculptor, a shaper of wood, whose output of more than 3,500 pieces spans a career of 44 years. His work is a tribute to the foundational role wood has played in the development of world cultures. For thousands of years, wood has enabled humans to design eating utensils, homes, doors, wheels, furniture, and tools for fishing, hunting and gathering. Wood has been the primary material used to express spiritual traditions concerning burial of the dead, construction of churches, temples, pews, and alters.
For over four decades Mr. Braithwaite has contributed to the legacy of cultural visionaries who have helped us appreciate aesthetic excellence in functional artifacts of wood. Whether through busts, masks, amulets or sculpture gardens, Elton Braithwaite reminds us of the essentiality and beauty of wood, as well as of the history of its use.
Born on 01/10/1950, in Linstead, Jamaica in the West Indies, he began carving at the age of 13. Initially using a sharpened screwdriver and a wooden mallet, he sought to release the beautiful images that he perceived were trapped just below the surface of a piece of wood. It was instantly apparent that he possessed the talent and passion for this type of undertaking.
Braithwaite is a graduate of the Jamaica School of Art, where one of his mentors was Edna Manley, the renowned sculptor widely known as “the mother of Jamaican art.” His passion for learning led to a journey of discovery through London, Ghana and Canada before settling in the U.S. in 1970. In each locale he sought out masters, studying carving techniques and absorbing the sacred images of the world’s cultures.
Elton Braithwaite’s work resides in corporate headquarters and private collections throughout the Northeast and has been the focus of exhibits at:
- Springfield, MA
- Pan-African History Museum
- Western New England University
- Springfield Science Museum
- Walter Vincent Smith Museum
- Springfield Fine Arts Museum
- Old First Church
- Springfield Science Museum
- Smith College
- Paradise City Arts Festival, in Northampton
- Taber Art Gallery at Holyoke Community College
- Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst
- Quinsigamond Community College
- Northampton Center for the Arts
- Brimfield Antique Show
- Starbucks, in Amherst
- Hartford, CT
- Old State House
- CRT’s Craftery Gallery
- Trinity College
- Hartford Commission of the Arts
- West Indies Social Club
- Connecticut Office of Cultural Affairs
- International Festival of the Arts, in New Haven
- Saltbox Gallery, in West Hartford
- Central Connecticut State University
- Academic Artists Association
- Black Expo, in Atlanta
- New Orleans Jazz Festival
- The Shelburne Museum’s Art and Fine Craft Festival, in Vermont
- Eastern Regional Art Show, in New Jersey
Recognition and Prizes
Braithwaite was the recipient of the first prize for sculpture at the 1971 Jamaica Festival in Montego Bay, and the Tenth Annual Eastern Regional Art Show in New Jersey. He has been named to the Artist Roster of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and sits on the board of the Cultural Council in Granby, MA. Elton has been commissioned by Job Corps and the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services to create educational programs designed to teach his techniques, while using his art to instill a positive work ethic, patience, determination, concentration, and positive self-image.
Elton was awarded a grant from Springfield Cable Endowment, to produce a documentary series that can be seen regularly on WGBY. In addition, he appears in a series, called Making it Here, which can be seen on WGBY. His work has also been documented in the book Struggle for Freedom: The History of African Americans in Western Massachusetts published by the Springfield Republican newspaper.
Braithwaite is a dedicated teacher who believes that this art form is accessible to everyone. In conjunction with exhibitions of his work, he has lectured and conducted master classes at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Smith College, Western New England University, and Holyoke Community College.
Elton enjoys introducing his art form to young people. He has been funded to offer lecture-demonstrations and artist-in-residence programming in public school districts in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. Private students throughout western Massachusetts also travel to his studio, Species of Earth for ongoing study.