The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is connecting visitors to Haiti through one of their newer exhibits, the “Art of Haiti: Loas, History, and Memory.” The exhibit, which will run through May 20, features works by many different Haitian artists, including Edouard Duval-Carrié, Tessa Mars, and Ralph Allen.
The exhibit has been created in collaboration with the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; it will challenge commonly held ideas about the country as a site of exotic strangeness within the Americas and offer new ways of understanding Haitian art, according to the FAC gallery guide. It is curated by Dr. Anthony Bogues, professor of humanities and critical theory and Africana studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University.
The exhibition features works of art in a variety of media, such as oil on canvas paintings, mixed media on canvas, and plexiglas in artist’s frame collages. According to the FAC Gallery Guide, the exhibit “highlights how religion, history, and memory intertwine to create a sophisticated contemporary Haitian aesthetic.”
In Bogues’ written introduction of this exhibit, he explained how the traditions of Haitian art are founded in the country’s historic connection to European colonialism and slavery.
“Art in the African Diaspora presents a visual language that portrays marginal histories and forgotten stories,” Bogues wrote. “Haitian art demonstrates the ways in which those who were formerly slaves—and were therefore marked as non-human—constructed their humanness.”
He continued by explaining that, when enslaved Africans were brought to Saint-Domingue, they brought with them the Vodou religion, which explained the nature of human beings, life, and death. The citizens of Saint-Domingue later overthrew the French and established an independent republic. Their culture, religion, and history is remembered and shown to the world through their art.
“I appreciate the ways in which Dr. Bogues connected historical themes—particularly the 1791 Haitian Revolution, which is poorly understood in the United States—with Haitian spiritual life, both in the past and present,” said Jessica Hunter-Larsen, FAC Director of Academic Engagement.
Along one wall in this exhibition are several mixed media collages encased in plexiglass, created by internationally known artist Edouard Duval-Carrié. His work has been shown in Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the U.S., and in 2016, his work was recognized and awarded by the French government.
Comprising most of the collages in this exhibit, the series titled “Memory Windows,” was created in 2017. This specific work has nine panels, with eight of them surrounding one large panel. It features many different objects that symbolize aspects of Haitian life, from animals to people. The collages are mainly purple, with yellow and orange accents around the panels.
“Using a rich symbolic visual language, he comments on the importance of the past in Haitian contemporary society, and addresses issues such as migration, or slavery, and reverberations into the present,” the FAC press release stated.
Duval-Carrié’s work is also accompanied by art from Ralph Allen. Allen’s piece is a large acrylic mural on canvas, titled “La Sirène.” The piece was created in 2017 specifically for this exhibit. His work spans many different mediums, such as painting, drawing, and murals, and he often creates works of public art. “La Sirène” has a blue background with many different shades and shapes. The central image is half of a human face, with the back of a woman’s head and torso appearing above and behind it. The face is looking towards the viewer, while the figure is facing towards the blue and brown shapes in front of it, and away from the viewer. His work is considered to be heavily influenced by the 20th century politics of the Duvalier Era.
“We have had a very positive response to the exhibition,” Hunter-Larsen said. “We hope that this exhibition has presented our audiences with a needed corrective to the typical one-dimensional perspective [of Haiti] by sharing artworks that are sophitisticated, beautiful, and culturally significant.”