Category Archives: Haiti

Happy 2013!

I’m a little behind on the whole New Year’s thing, my intention setting got rolled right into the Haiti pre-trip, trip and post-trip, and now on the other side, life is slowly returning to it’s regular rhythms. Beginning tomorrow, I get back on the regular school schedule of getting up at some ridiculous hour to prepare and then head to work.

So 2013. My days will begin with A Year with Rilke: Daily Reading from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke Translated and Edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. When I first decided to use this book as my morning inspiration, I was going to continue making a collage-a-day in response to the reading. So I bought my $1.99 Kindle edition that I can read on my iphone and have with me no matter where I find myself. But then I had this brilliant idea, why not do a visual response right in the book? Do my own Humement of sorts. So then I ordered a hard copy of the book and today I began.

I visually responded to both January 12 and 13th entries, honing in on the narrowing circles versus the widening circles, and completely focused on one of the lines from January 13th’s entry from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13:

Be. And know as well the need to not be

This is the lesson I want to learn this year. To not always have to be doing something. To be okay with just being sometimes. This is my biggest intention. It doesn’t mean I will do nothing, but that I will, every now and then, really and truly rest and just be.

January 12 +13, A Year with Rilke and fabric circles from Onel

January 12 +13, A Year with Rilke and fabric circles from Onel

Onel discusses his work

Onel discusses his work

What you see pictured here is my visual response along with some fabric circles that I got in an exchange with the artist Onel while in Haiti. I gave him one of my Manifest cards, and I got the fabric circles. They will be in some collage soon. I’ll keep you posted.

I invite you to get your own copy of the Macy/Barrows translation and follow along/do your own altered book. If you do, let me know–we can share at the end of the year.

 

The Responsibility of the Artist

We left Haiti Monday morning after a short press conference with Haitian news outlets about our trip. The conference focused on the students responses, but at one point, they wanted everyone, including me, to share what stood out the most to us.

What stood out to me was the responsibility of the artist, modeled especially by Philippe Dodard, who took time out of his busy schedule to share the art and culture of his country. He introduced us and made it possible for us to meet all kinds of different Haitian artists, from the street artists, to the artists of the Grand Rue, Saint-Soleil Movement and Croix-de-Bouquets. Within every single one of these groups, there is a commitment to passing on the practice to young people.

Grand Rue creation outside of Andre Eugene's studio

Grand Rue creation outside of Andre Eugene’s studio

Andre Eugene, one of the Grand Rue artists, is an internationally known artist who represented Haiti at the 2011 Venice Biennale and whose work has been compared to Damien Hirst of the diamond skull fame (both who stretch, on opposite ends, what no-budget art-making means). Eugene works with found skulls, as well as other materials that are on the streets. Yes, found skulls. Human skulls, that he finds on the street. He uses these and other materials that he finds to create his sculptures.  This is the epitome of no-budget art making. But more important is the work that he lauds when you visit his studio, the work made by the children of the Grand Rue. He regularly works with them to teach them to find their way into that place of creativity, using similar techniques that he does, more because that is what they can afford–whatever they find on the street.

One of the kids making art at the Grand Rue. Photo thanks to Haiti: The Bradt Travel Guide

One of the kids making art at the Grand Rue. Photo thanks to
Haiti: The Bradt Travel Guide

 

 

What I take away from this trip as an artist and a teacher, is my responsibility to continue to share what I do, and to inspire creative expression, through my teaching.

I was reminded of an experience as a Jesuit Volunteer that continues to formulate many of  my life choices, the hunger banquet. Some of you readers may have participated in one of these at some point in your life. You draw a number at random, a one, two or three. I drew a one. Your number got you a ticket into the first, second or third world. The first world sat down to a ridiculously elegant meal, with meat and all the trimmings. The second world got bowls of rice and beans. The third world got a big pot, no bowls, plates or serving utensils. I remember not wanting to accept my lot in life, being very frustrated, wanting to somehow do something to help the others, change the system, something. On many levels, I felt very powerless–in spite of the fact that I supposedly have so many opportunities at my fingertips. This thought still comes in and out of my mind.

As I thought about that in Haiti, a conversation that comes up between me and Doug surfaced: how do we end up in our families, in our countries? Am I really lucky to have been born to middle-class parents in America? What is it that I am supposed to learn in this family/path of mine? What is my responsibility as a citizen of the Earth?

How does this relate to art? When I studied religion and art at Yale, I read Paul Tillich, and embraced his argument that art is an expression of an ultimate concern. (Read a great essay about it by him here.) The above plus all of his arguments are beginning to come together to help me define the next direction that I want/need to take as an artist, mainly asking how do I address the political in my art. And not political in the sense of work that offends or shocks, but work created with purpose. Work designed to ignite conversation and engage the viewer to action, whether that is action in their hearts, mind or in the world. So this is where I am, how do I take what I do already and engage my world in a different way. I don’t know. But I will explore this through 2013. Stay tuned.

Bon Soleil! Happy New Year! Enjoy the pics below my favorite images from Haiti.