Sunday, February 03, 2013


Each winter my coddled colleague, David Schoffman spends six weeks "working" in Jamaica. He owns a small cottage in Bull Savannah a few miles west of the Nassau Mountains in Saint Elizabeth Parish.

David Schoffman's Gyalis Street cottage, Bull Savannah, Jamaica

He claims he loves the light and judging from my few brief visits, his infatuation seems justified. I just don't buy the fact that he goes there to work.

View from David Schoffman's Bull Savannah studio

Each year, the only evidence of work that ever surfaces are a few minor sketches of the same anonymous young woman.

This is very strange because as is well known, David Schoffman hates to draw and only does so under duress. 

People have compared these works to Andrew Wyeth's legendary Helga Paintings, a comparison that sends Schoffman into paroxysms of unbridled rage. The idea that a "secret woman" is somehow furtively cloaked behind a veil of dissimulation reeks of the kind of opportunistic gimmickry that David abhors. At the same time, when he is asked about the identity of his model, Schoffman shrugs and dodges like a tobacco executive in front of a
Congressional Committee.

A few years ago, on my way to Havana to visit Micah Carpentier's oldest son Danilo, I stopped in Jamaica for a few days to see David. Bull Savannah is fairly remote and it is Schoffman's habit to stay home most evenings and retire early to bed. One night, unable to sleep, I decided to take a walk along the limestone bluffs and listen for the hollow moans of the famous Black River crocodiles. I had had a few pernods at dinner and I ended up getting lost by the decrepit Chalice bauxite mines. By the time I returned to David's cottage it was almost 3 in the morning.

I was stunned to see a light on in his studio. I quietly propped myself up on an empty 50 gallon drum (for some reason these big rusty drums are everywhere in the Caribbean) and angled myself to get a view from an open window. Unbeknownst to David and his guest, I took the following picture with my phone.