ALVA

Beyond Voodoo: Art from Haiti

March 16 – April 28

“It is hot in Haiti. We have been sitting for a couple of hours already watching the preparations for the voodoo ceremony; the “drawing” of the symbols on the ground with white and black dust, the composing of the altar with bottles and swords and flags, the milling of the participants all dressed in white. Once it starts there is drumming and bodies swirling and going into trances, faces dusted with powder, bodies strewn with popcorn and feathers from a chicken with recently wrung neck. It is only the beaded flags that are paraded around the altar that flash with color.” – Alva Greenberg

A great deal of Haitian art is imbedded with the symbols of voodoo, most specifically the beaded “flags” that originated as elements of the ceremony, but have now become independent works of art. They represent in shimmering stitched detail the deities, stories and superstitions of the religion. Beyond Voodoo: Art from Haiti is an exploration of what can be found today in the Haitian art market. It includes colorful beaded voodoo flags and paintings by the third generation of the Saint–Soleil School, works filled with fanciful renditions of flora, fauna and faces. There are also poetic depictions of Haitian life and darker, more abstract works. And there are many pieces of cut metal and sculptures.

It would have been possible to find much of this work in the galleries of Port-au-Prince. Some was purchased this way, but most came visiting the artists in the hills above the city. They were gathered from tiny roadside studios, as well as the homes of some of the artists. One tiny, dark house belonged to one of the recently deceased founders of Saint-Soleil. His son took us up the road to the site of the Saint-Soleil movement where we crawled through a locked gate to wander the now abandoned studio building and admire the three glorious wall murals still intact on the exterior walls.

We went down a dirt path to a decomposing RV, axel resting on cement blocks, to be shown work by a practically toothless old man. Within minutes the trailer held six other Haitians. Two were the artist sons of the trailer owner and the eldest negotiated the purchases. We went on to a three-story house, practically devoid of furniture, with paintings spread throughout all of the rooms and halls of the top floor, the current work of a prolific young artist. We ended in Croix des Bouquets whose dusty dirt streets ring with the pounding of hammers on metal and each is lined with small ateliers.

In looking at this work, it is important to remember that there are no art schools, as we know them, in Haiti and little formal education for much of the population. Materials are extremely hard to come by; art galleries are few and art patrons still fewer. Yet the art thrives, proving the need of the human spirit to find expression.

Richard Nesley, Match for Peace, (Haiti vs. Brazil), Acrylic on canvas, 53 ¼”x 66″

Richard Nesley, Melange Animaux, Acrylic on canvas, 32″ x 26 ½”

Jean Louis Maxan, Three Wise Men Standing, Acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 36″

 

Jean Louis Maxan, Pink Face with Candle, Acrylic on canvas, 46″ x 22 ½”

 

Richard Nesley, Bauron nan Semetye: Keeper of the Cemetery, Acrylic on canvas, 27″ x 30″

 

B. B. Harold, Propaganda Plane, Acrylic on canvas, 19 ½” x 23 ½”

Paul Dieuseul, Two Women and Birds, Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 24″

 

Mermaid Screen, Pounded Tin, 72″ x 72″

 Jeanty, Pink Sky and House, Acrylic on canvas, 20″ x 30″  

Saurel Adrien, Two Birds, Acrylic on canvas, 17 ¾” x 23 ¾”

 

Payas, Mermaid, Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 20″

 Evireau Prosper, Three Faces, Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 16″
 

Achile Adrien, Blue Angel, Acrylic on canvas, 20 ¾” x 12 ¾”

 Richard Nesley, God of War, Acrylic on canvas, 49″ x 19″

 

Evireau Prosper, Face 1, Acrylic on canvas, 11″ x 8 ½”

 Evireau Prosper, Face 2, Acrylic on canvas, 11″ x 8 ½”
 

Two Mermaids and Sun, Beaded Voodoo Flag, 26″ x 36″

 Zazi, C. D. Bois and Sireine, Beaded Voodoo Flag, 26″ x 36″
 

Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph, Marinette, Beaded Voodoo Flag, 21″ x 24″

 Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph Two Angels, Turtle and Fish,Beaded Voodoo Flag, 21″ x 24″
 

Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph, Mermaid with Blue Hair,Beaded Voodoo Flag, 21″ x 21″

 Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph, Snake-armed Woman,Beaded Voodoo Flag, 25″ x 12″
 

Noah’s Ark, Pounded tin, 23″ x 23″ x 2″