Returning from her studies in Europe, Kay Sullivan’s sculptures came to prominence in the 1970’s at a time when public sculpture was in demand. Skilled in many different media such as resin, fiberglas and bronze, her understanding of the human form as well as her empathy for Jamaican subject matter made her a candidate for these commissions. At a time when the health of Jamaica’s pioneer sculptor Alvin Marriot was failing, Sullivan became an ideal choice for commissions.
Sullivan’s style is representational. Her ability to capture the likeness of her models brought her increasing success with a Jamaican public still wary of abstraction. In particular, the Sam Sharpe Monument (1983) commissioned for the city center of Montego Bay brought her great acclaim even as the more symbolic public monument honouring reggae singer Bob Marley was being rejected for its lack of realism. There is little controversial about Sullivan’s work, rather its strength resides in its traditional approach and truth to form and materials. But, her figures are far from passive, she captures mood and action through gesture and expression giving her work an engaging intimacy seldom found in formal statues. In particular her life size busts of colleagues and friends from the artists community shown in the exhibition The Self and the Other (National Gallery of Jamaica, 1977) deftly communicated the character of her sitters with sensitivity and verve. The accuracy of these portraits made an important documentary statement even as they earned the respect of her peers. Sullivan lives and works in Jamaica and her work can be found in private collections as well as public parks locally