Monthly Archives: March 2010

South Florida Exhibition by Wonderful Haitian Artist

When ever the remarkable Miami resident Haitian-American/global artist Edouard Duval-Carrie has a solo exhibition, it is cause for celebration. Always evolving, taking his culture and recent events into perspective, the artist works as a painter, sculptor and scholar. Currently, he has a one-man show on view at the MIA Galleries (MIA is short for Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, where the show is located) in the Central Terminal Gallery in Concourse E, just past the security checkpoint. On view through May 15, “Memoire Sans Histoire” is free and open to the public.

In the oversized keeper postcard invitation to the show, Duval-Carrie writes beautifully about the latest body blow to Haiti — the terrible earthquake of two months ago. He writes: “What astounds me is the resilience of the people. We know that we live a precarious life and as such we know that adversity is the rule. Rather than succumb to despair and anguish, we keep a brave face and more often than not we would rather sing, or as in my case, paint!

“I personally believe that most artists are, in one way or another, reflections of their immediate surroundings. The confrontations of the routine of daily life are bound to affect and influence their personal visions of the world. This general tendency simplifies my answers to inquiries concerning the relative importance of popular culture in the context of the contemporary art world. But with the advent of a rapid globalization and the proliferation of information at all levels, this permits everyone, and particularly artists, not only to take their ideas from a global well, but to react and ultimately act when information is close to their field of interest. The drama of the earthquake aftermath in Haiti is a case in point when it comes to me as an artist.”

The exhibition includes images of an ocean voyage and a conquering hero on horseback, perhaps a revolutionary hero or Saint Jacques Majeur, often portrayed on Vodou flags like this. The palette is more somber than the artist has used in recent years, perhaps reflecting a more contemplative view. In any case, please visit the exhibition and judge for yourself

–Candice Russell

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Superb Painter Passes Away

It is with great regret that news comes of the passing of Haitian painter Wilson Bigaud. He died on March 22, 2010 at 2 a.m., according to an email I received. His death follows the destruction of a major work by Bigaud, who was one of several contributors to the Biblical murals of Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. The church and its visual legacy dating back to the 1940s crumbled during the January 12 earthquake, which also decimated Le Centre d’Art, the personal collection of Georges Nader’s home/museum totaling many thousands of paintings, and who knows how many irreplaceable paintings and other artworks in galleries, offices, museums and private homes throughout the nation’s capital, suburbs and beyond.

Bigaud’s rise to fame began at the behest of the magnificent painter Hector Hyppolite, who brought him to Le Centre d’Art in 1946. A titan in the first generation of Haitian artists, Bigaud warranted a full chapter in Selden Rodman’s seminal book “Where Art is Joy: The First Forty Years of Haitian Art.” Rodman conceived the idea of the Biblical murals at the cathedral and oversaw their execution. Bigaud painted “The Marriage Feast at Cana” during which Christ turns water into wine at a country wedding, when he was only twenty years old. Sadly, vandals ruined the original mural before it was almost finished, so the artist had to begin again on this special creation.

Some people, including Rodman believed that Bigaud’s nervous breakdowns, which occurred between 1957 and 1961, had a deleterious effect on his art, meaning that he never painted as well after these episodes. I disagree. His paintings continued to be popular with collectors for decades afterward with no marked toll on his evocative artwork, including scenes of family and leisure as well as Vodou personages.

In the recent exhibition “Allegories of Haitian Life from the Jonathan Demme Collection” at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, Florida and accompanying book, which I co-authored with Axelle Liautaud, there were five paintings by Bigaud, an indication of his place in Haitian art. They included the peaceful “Beach Scene” (c. 1949), the riotously energetic “Carnival Costumes” (1954), and “Zombie” (c. 1965), of a person without a soul or a will being led from the graveyard. Bigaud returned to this last theme again and again in his artwork. In my personal collection is a painting of this same theme by the renowned artist, who is included in every published overview of the history of Haitian art. With soft colors reflecting the dead of night, the scene of a kind of resurrection takes place in a rural landscape. It is one of my favorite paintings.

The loss of Bigaud is enough to make one wonder who will future generations of scholars and art collectors be talking about in Haitian art 100 years from now. Will others reach the heights achieved by this remarkable man?

–Candice Russell

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Trees for Haiti Can Help All Haitians

Miami Herald writer Andres Oppenheimer had a superb idea when, shortly after the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, he encouraged people around the world to donate money to plant trees in Haiti as part of a massive re-forestation effort. Responding to his call, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations launched “A tree for a child in Haiti campaign.” Its campaign states: “your donation pays for an avocado, mango or other fruit tree seedling, its planting, a small amount of fertilizer and watering and weeding for the first year.” This sounds good and worth getting behind.

Why this is important is explained by Oppenheimer in the newspaper: “Reforestation has long been one of the main reasons behind Haiti’s chronic poverty. For more than a century, people have cut down about 98 per cent of Haiti’s trees to use as firewood or charcoal for cooking. That has left the ground almost useless for agriculture. It also dried up water supplies.

“At the same time deforestation causes devastating floods. When it storms in Haiti’s mountains, the water flows down into nearby villages with nothing to absorb it or stop it. Thousands die.”

Oppenheimer’s suggestion is that Haitians living in other countries each donate $5 for the coast of one tree, much like Jewish people in other countries have done to help Israel with their money paying for the planting of 240 million trees! This savvy journalist also suggests that cruise ship passengers to Labadie, Haiti get on board with a “One Tree Per Tourist” campaign that will aid the cause. No one can argue with the wisdom of his thoughts and the necessity for taking action in light of so much suffering. To follow through, the website to visit is

–Candice Russell

The Death of an Important Person

It is with regret that news must be reported about the passing of a great lady, Francine Murat, the long-time director of Le Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As the standard bearer for this seminal institution within Haitian art for several decades, Murat was instrumental in the careers of an untold number of artists. Since the building itself was destroyed in the January 12th earthquake and with no one at the reins, one cannot help but wonder who will resurrect Le Centre d’Art and shepherd its development in decades to come.

The death of Murat was expressed beautifully in a letter by Fritz Racine, President of the Haitian Art Society, hereby quoted in toto: “Adieu Francine: The Haitian Art Society in Washington, D.C. is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Francine Murat, Director of the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince. Francine died on February 25, 2010, six weeks following the collapse of the Centre d’Art building during the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti on January 12.

“Francine has been associated with the Centre d’Art since its opening in 1944, first as administrative assistant to the founder DeWitt Peters, then as its director for over forty years until her death. Her extended professional service has earned her public recognition as an authority on Haitian art. Francine Murat has carried out with grace, competence and perseverance — and often under trying circumstances — the remarkable tradition of this unique and longest living art institution of Haiti.

“The Haitian Art Society salutes the departure of this icon of Haitian art. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.”

My own memories of Murat are lovely. I recall her quiet presence overseeing Le Centre d’Art. She was a tall, thin woman of elegance, with her head wrapped in a colorful scarf. If you knew enough to ask about the special stash of paintings locked in a closet on the second floor, she would accommodate an avid art collector’s request and leave the person alone to pick through the treasures for purchase. She also allowed visitors into the room housing the center’s permanent collection of Haitian art. I remember the poignancy of paintings by Jasmin Joseph, whose allegorical paintings of anthropomorphic animals told stories about Haitian life.

Murat kindly accommodated an odd request I made of her by telephone, after my then-husband and I had taken a wonderful art-buying trip to Haiti one year. After returning home, I developed the many photos I had taken and marveled at a particular painting we had found at Le Centre d’Art. It was a large canvas by Lionel Saint Eloi of a Vodou ceremony, with musicians, prayer, celebration and sacrifice going on in different quadrants of the painting. How had we passed it by? I found the phone number of Le Centre d’Art, Murat set a price, and the transaction was in process. Soon, the painting was mailed to us, to our eternal delight.

Rendered in muted colors, with a hand-painted statement on the back of the canvas about how the artist made a commitment to the integrity of his profession, the painting was (and is) a dazzler. Not surprisingly, it was chosen by director George Bolge of the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Boca Raton, Florida, for an exhibition of Haitian paintings in 2004. It is one of my favorite paintings.

Haiti and Haitian art collectors everywhere will miss Francine Murat and her benevolence to all who cherish Haitian art.

–Candice Russell

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Helping Haiti

Life remains hard for the survivors of the earthquake on January 12th. My friend Mr. Lange Rosner reports that art business can be transacted, though the streets are hard to drive. Still to be discovered is how many of Haiti’s most famous artists in all media are alive and uninjured.

I am often asked about legitimate organizations in need of donations. One of the best is the University of Miami Haiti Project. A recent ad taken in the Miami Herald by this worthy group reads: “As the first medical team on the ground, UM Miller School of Medicine physicians and staff treated more than 250 critically injured patients within forty-eight hours of arriving in Haiti. Since January 13th, nearly 300 UM doctors, nurses and other personnel have served in Haiti, where we opened a 240-bed tent hospital with operating rooms and advanced technologies. Our staff has transferred dozens of the most critically injured to the United States for care.”

The University of Miami campus in Coral Gables, Florida is holding fund raising campaigns for essential items needed in Haiti. Donations can be mailed to the UM Global Institute and mailed to: UM Global Institute, P.O. Box 248073, Coral Gables, Florida 33124.

–Candice Russell