A B O U T
Traditional singer, dancer, speaker and carver, Jonathan Perry is grounded in the traditions of his ocean-going ancestors. He considers designs by examining the raw materials closely, and draws his images from the grain, hues, and patina of wood, stone and copper. Jonathan enjoys using the materials and knowledge handed down from his ancestors to express his understanding of the natural world as well as the changes over time since Creation. His mentors, like the late Nanepashemet (Tony Pollard) of the Wampanoag Nation, have taught him to observe and take special care when handling these materials, and breathing life into his pieces of art. Jonathan’s work embodies the refined quality of those of his ancestors, while still drawing upon his experience in a contemporary society. His pieces reflect balance within the Natural World, incorporating stories, effigies, and symbology of Wampanoag traditions.
Jonathan is influenced by his ancestors and his time spent on the ocean, something very close to him, being from an island Native community. Jonathan continues to use the materials and knowledge handed down from his ancestors to express his understanding of the Natural World and the change that it has experienced in the past four hundred years. Jonathan’s three dimensional artwork ranges in size from large, hand-carved dugout ocean vessels, to stone effigy pipes and high-end copper jewelry.
Jonathan is a direct descendant of the prominent Cuffe family out of Westport, and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. His relative, the notable Captain Paul Cuffe (1759-1817), was an abolitionist, businessman, and one of the most successful people of color in the United States. Paul would not have had the impact he did without the support of his Wampanoag family and community. The Cuffes, Wainers, and many subsequent Wampanoag whaling captains participatory in the New England Whaling industry in Jonathan's family have helped to provide him with a unique eye for 19th century art, Indigenous history, and perspective. He brings this connection and expertise to his scrimshaw and his consultation with many historical organizations, scholars, and filmmakers.
An articulate and thoughtful speaker, Jonathan has lectured on the topics of Eastern Woodland art and traditions for over 25 years at both regional and national venues and his performing arts career has spanned over 30 years. These venues have included the Peabody Essex Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Harvard College and Brown University.
In his personal time, Jonathan enjoys spending time with his family and participating in cultural activities in the Native community. He particularly likes to collaborate with his sister, Elizabeth James-Perry on artwork, research and exhibitions.