I am in Haiti.January 4, 2013
The Responsibility of the ArtistJanuary 9, 2013
We spend our days in Haiti being shuttled from one location to another by our amazing driver Joel. Jess Jean-Charles, one of the students on our trip is Haitian American, fluent in Creole and French, so she acts as our translator, she tells him where we need to go, and he gets us there. We are being very safe, doing our best to follow the State Department guidelines. (Minus staying out of the red and yellow zones, don’t tell!)
- Stay with your group.
- Do not leave your hotel on foot, always go with your driver and your group.
- Do not wear flashy jewelry when going certain places, keep smart phones/cameras hidden.
- When getting in and out of the van, be quick. Locate where you are entering your destination first, get ready and then go. Apparently this is one of the more dangerous situations—where people get attacked the most. We still struggle with an efficient way of getting 10 people in and out of a mini-bus quickly.
- Be street smart. Never let your guard down.
Each place we’ve visited, we’ve been with Haitian superstars. I do not say that lightly. As a result, we’ve been able to visit and meet people that had we done this on our own, its doubtful we would have EVER found them. It has made for a very special trip. Thursday and Friday artist and director of the L’Ecole National D’Arts, Philippe Dodard, guided us, Saturday, the musician BelO was with us.
Friday, we went to Soisson-La-Montagne, an area in Peitionville high in the hills. The Saint Soleil, or Saint Sun school of art was founded here and second and third generation artists still create here. Saint Soleil celebrated its 40th anniversary December 2012, which allowed us to see a spectacular exhibition of all the great Saint Soleil painters at MUPANUH on our first day. Prospere PIERRE-LOUIS might be one of my new favorite artists. Although Leroy Exil, the only first generation Saint Soleil artist still alive is a close second.
We visited the studios of a half-dozen second and third generation Saint Soleil painters. Saint Soleil means Saint Sun. The style sort of mixes elements of Paul Klee, Australian Aboriginals and the graphic arts. Little dots are featured in some way in every single work. These little dots represent words, almost like little prayers to the vodou gods. In some paintings, the vodou pantheon becomes the conceptual center point, in others it is purely the sun and pattern.
At the first studio we visited, I was so overwhelmed and in love with one particular painting that I failed to take any pictures. BUT, because of Philippe Dodard, I was able to get in touch with the artist and he just delivered the painting to me!!! I am thrilled beyond belief.
Thankfully I was able to recover by the third or fourth studio, and actually took some pics of my favorite pieces. This artist, Onel, my friend Karen Arp-Sandel would l.o.v.e. His studio consists of a pile of scraps of fabric that he cuts carefully and collages on to nearly anything he can find creating high end canvases as well as more commercial pieces that are extremely affordable. I refuse to keep my obsession with dots and circles quiet any longer. They emerge in my work from time to time, but now, I will let them come in more and more and more.
About half-way through our visit, we stopped at the cemetery where all the Saint Soleil painters will be/are buried. Some of the walls are covered in murals by my friend Leroy. While in the center point, a monument still in progress, Philippe told us a bit more about the Saint Soleil school and the importance of wishing anyone we meet in the school a Bon Soleil while looking meaningfully into their eyes. This simple wish embodies love, safety, goodness, health and happiness. And not only did we wish it to everyone we met, it was wished to us as well.
I am inspired—maybe this will cure my restlessness. I already was late to a group meeting because I got lost in my painting/making. I can only wish for more of this.