Daily Archives: May 25, 2014

“Influential Haitian Painter Garoute”

By Candice Russell

This is an obituary of a famous Haitian painter that I was asked to write as a special correspondent  by the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was published on December 17, 2006.


Haitian-born artist and educator Jean Claude Garoute, known to the art world as “Tiga,” died Thursday of liver cancer in a Fort Lauderdale hospice.

Before his death at age 71, four days after his birthday, Tiga hosted a steady stream of visitors to his bedside, including artists such as Patrick Gerald Wah, who traveled from New York to see him. A televised tribute aired on New York television last weekend and was seen by the ailing Tiga, friends said.

Another visitor was Levoy Exil, a painter in the Saint Soleil movement, known as the avant-garde of Haitian popular art. This movement was started by Tiga in 1982 in Soissons-la-Montagne, with five core artists: Exil, Prospere Pierre Louis, Louisiane Saint Fleurant, Dieuseul Paul, and Denis Smith. Only Exil and Smith are still alive. (As of 2014, Exil is the last survivor of the original five).

Saint Soleil paintings are characterized by explosive color, semi-abstract figures, doves as symbols of peace, and women as the source of creation. Connected to the dominant religion of Vodou, or Voodoo, as it is often spelled, Saint Soleil also connected to a larger sense of sacredness, according to the writing of Tiga, who based it on four key words — dream, possession, creation, and madness.

In visiting from his home in Thomasaint, Haiti, Exil expressed gratefulness to Tiga for giving him the freedom and education that changed his life. “My relationship with Tiga is very spiritual,” Exil said after visiting him in the hospice. “He gave me three brushes and told me to do anything I felt like doing. President (Rene) Preval has great regard for Tiga and inquired after his health. He sees him as an icon or master of Haitian art.”

Carnival in Haiti next February will be dedicated to Tiga and the Saint Soleil movement. Exil and (fellow Saint Soleil artist Denis) Smith are working on the floats for the parades in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, as well as their costumes. Tiga’s daughter Pascal Garoute will lead the parade.

French writer Andre Malraux became impressed with Saint Soleil during a 1976 visit to Haiti and wrote in the book “L’Intemporel” about the movement as “the most striking and only controllable experiment in the magic world of painting in our century.”

Haitian art collector Reynolds Rolles of Plantation said, “His Saint Soleil movement put Haitian art on the map internationally and made art lovers see differently things they never saw before.”

Tiga’s art was featured in a benefit for the ACTION Foundation, a Broward County-based nonprofit organization promoting Creole art and culture, several years ago. “The contribution of Tiga is immense, not only at the level of visual art, but at the level of culture,” said Eric Boucicaut, the foundation’s president. “He had a theory of artistic rotation, which entailed the use of many different media almost simultaneously. It worked with adults, as well as young children and the mentally challenged, who were his students.”

Susan Karten, an American clothing designer and Boca Raton resident, studied art with Tiga years ago when she lived in Haiti. “He was very intense in a quiet way,” she said. “He only let us use three colors — red, yellow, and blue — because he said from these you can make anything.”

Funeral arrangements for Tiga are pending in Haiti.