It is said that the body is a temple. The Haitian body, however, has long been viewed by non-Haitian eyes as a tool to be exploited, an object to be utilized, a surface to be abused, and tragedy to be pitied. As a non-Haitian artist creating work in a Haitian environment, my goal with “Sanctuary” is to recontextualize how the Haitian body is viewed in relationship to the spiritual and cultural histories that it incarnates. By using a variety of different kinds of Haitian bodies as my subjects, I have created a series of works that express the balance of divinity and humanity which these bodies carry into the world. These works represent a visual interrogation of how we can see more than the body when we look upon another person and experience the universal truths that connect us to one another across racial, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. These works are less about the bodies themselves, and more about the universes that the individuals in the paintings embody.
The source of this visual exploration comes from the spiritual traditions of Haiti itself which puts great emphasis on the body as a bridge to the supernatural world. Through our bodies we are able to get in contact with different levels of spiritual beings that influence the natural world and our lived realities in unseen ways. Through Haitian traditions of voudun, these spiritual forces are manifested physically through possession of the bodies that offer themselves as vehicles and vessels. Through the influence of colonial Christianity, both in Catholicism and Pentecostalism the relationship between the body and the spirit in Haiti has been reinterpreted but not erased. My work explores the balances between these spiritual realities in the contemporary lives of my Haitian peers. The sequins used in the backgrounds of my compositions are inspired by the extravagant use of sequins and beads in traditional voudun drapo or flags, that are intended to help draw bodies of practitioners into trance-like encounters with the spirits and direct possession. The poses of the subjects are derived from the study of Catholic iconography of saints and renaissance era portraiture. I have also drawn inspiration from the birds of Haiti that once found sanctuary on the island as an oasis of natural beauty where they were able to thrive. Their presence in the work serves to represent freedom, resilience, and adaptation to harsh environments. Through this marriage of different techniques and symbols, the Haitian bodies themselves emerge as representations of refuge, security, independence, and worship.
The Sanctuary Exhibit Experience
Over the summer of 2019 I will be touring the Sanctuary exhibit to different locations starting in Jacmel, Haiti, then moving to the United States at multiple locations in the Midwest. During the exhibit different experiences will be offered to not only view the work but to use it as a gateway to a more immersive sensory encounter. These events will offer the opportunity to experience the work in truly unique environments that will include live music, drumming, spoken word, dance, and lighting, scents, and tastes curated to draw visitors into a whole different world where the art can be seen like never before. The entire experience will be designed to create dialog between the visitors and the artwork itself so that they may understand the culture and people that inspired the work in ways they may never have imagined before.
Experience Sanctuary for Yourself
Even if you’re unable to attend one of the Sanctuary exhibits in person, you can still be a part of the experience by purchasing a VIP Digital Pass to Sanctuary. If you purchase the VIP Digital Pass you will receive access to:
- Preview tour videos of the exhibit at each location. You’ll get to view each installation before anyone else. At least 3 videos.
- Videos of performances that will be integrated into the live experiences. This will include full access to the June 22nd Saint Jean the Baptiste event at the Jacmel Arts Center, as well as drumming and spoken word performances from Indy Convergence in August.
- Video interview with myself talking more about the series of work and telling personal stories associated with specific works of art filmed from the Iowa exhibit.
- Limited edition exhibit catalog that will include high quality images of each work of art included in the show along with written descriptions of the concepts that inspired the work. This will be mailed to you.
By purchasing this VIP package for $50 you will be helping me have the funds available in advance to put on the events and to provide a high quality experience to the public. Since I will be traveling with the art, I need to budget accordingly to be able to pack, travel, and restretch all paintings to prepare them to be displayed. I also need to funds available to be able to provide the necessary lighting and sound for events and to compensate the performers who will be participating. By contributing now by purchasing the VIP Digital Pass you will be helping to make all of this possible and you will be gaining access to comprehensive content that no one else will get. Thank you for joining me on this journey and making the experience possible!