Friday, January 22, 2010

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Haitian Art

Say the word "Haiti" and many people think: vodou, political violence, desperate poverty. All three things are imprinted on the country but they by no means solely define it.

Haiti also is where you find a storehouse of art: paintings as beautiful as the landscapes they reimagine, sculpture, vodou flag art (used to call upon spirits to ask for help), papier mache carnival masks from Jacmel (on Haiti's southern coast), steel drum and metal art, batik, and various forms of "street art". Since acquiring my first piece of Haitian art several decades ago — a one-of-a-kind marble-like stone sculpture by Pierre Riche Nicolas — I have been motivated to learn more about the artists and artisans of this island nation.

Fortunately, the resources on Haitian art are considerable. One of the most significant is the Webster University-based Bob Corbett art project, which comprises a list of more than 800 known Haitian painters. (Corbett spent many hundreds of hours compiling the list.) Another is a list of more than 5,300 pieces of Haitian artwork that has been photographed for publication in books, magazines or art-related periodicals, and exhibition and auction catalogues. Still another is the Haitian art collection at Bryant University; donated by Gladys Kinoian Lujan (Class of 1956), it numbers 19 works by 15 Haitian artists. Images of the charming and colorful work, with commentary by Lujan, may be viewed here.

The film director Jonathan Demme, who describes himself as a "fairly fanatical devotee",  has a renowned collection of Haitian art, some of which was on view last spring at New York City's French Institute Alliance Francaise as part of the World Nomads Haiti Exhibit (archived here; the 17-page event brochure is here). Demme owns some wonderful paintings, which he first began collecting in the 1980s.

Following is a selective list of other sites you might want to visit to learn more about or indulge your interest in Haitian art.

Art Works for Haiti. Sales of art benefit the village parish of Figaro.

◆ The Friends of Hopital Albert Schweitzer. This nonprofit sells Haitian art via the Web and at art shows; proceeds benefit HAS in Haiti. The gallery features some quite lovely pieces, which you may browse by artist name, style, and price ranges.

Steel Drum and Metal Art. This site features the highly decorative metal art, including wall hangings, and steel drum art, which is recognizable worldwide. Artists make the art by burning the residue in a 55-gallon oil drum, splitting open the cleaned drum, and then flattening it to create a surface on which to draw. (More information on the art-making is here.) They usually use no more than a hammer, chisel, and nail to render bible scenes; designs of birds, angels, and fish and sea life; designs of mythical figures such as mermaids; sun designs; masks or faces; scenes of rural life; and tree-of-life designs.

Haitian Art Society. This group is national and has local chapters (there is one in Washington, D.C.). Noted on its Website are tentative dates in November for the HAS conference in Haiti.

◆ American Museum of Natural History: Sacred Arts of Vodou. Here you will find information on vodou's roots, ritual practices, tools of worship, and more.

◆ Embassy of Haiti, Washington, D.C.: Visit this site for its brief history of Haitian art.

◆ Windows on Haiti. Go here and click on Paintings on the left side of the page to view representative works of 30 of Haiti's most accomplished painters.

Haiti Art Cooperative. Art is purchased at fair trade value and resold for fundraising purposes through a network of nonprofit organizations with programs in Haiti that serve the poor. Currently, the site features a number of extraordinary vodou flags or ceremonial banners made with sequins and beads and backed with satin. Haitian vodou flags represent vodou spirits in images or symbols. What may not be so well known is that because slaves in Haiti were forbidden to practice vodou, they adopted Catholic saints to represent their spirits of love, water, trees, crops, and the like.

◆ Haitian Art Club on FaceBook

◆ Vassar Haiti Project. Fifty percent of art purchases from the Vassar Haiti Project, which is described in the video clip below, are donated to the artists or artisans whom the project supports.

Hundreds of artists, artisans, and galleries associated with the project live or work in or near Port-au-Prince, one of the cities in Haiti hardest-hit by the January 12, 2010, earthquake. Little news of their fate has reached VHP, which has mounted its own relief efforts. One hundred percent of any checks mailed to the project (124 Raymond Avenue, Box 594, Poughkeepsie, New York 12604) are being donated to relief efforts. The village of Chermaitre has been a primary beneficiary of VHP's initiatives for some nine years and is the focus now of the project's relief efforts. Information about VHP's emergency assistance, what is needed, and how your donations will apply is here.

The Vassar Haiti Project's blog is here.

Vassar Haiti Project Documentary from andrew meade on Vimeo.

The Apparent Project in Haiti

As part of a small arts-based ministry called The Apparent Project, Corrigan and Shelly Clay train Haitians in fine art, sewing, and craft-making so that they can produce marketable art, clothing, jewelry, and other artisanal good that they can then sell to support themselves. The Clays live in Haiti full-time and have adopted two orphaned Haitians.

Currently, donations to The Apparent Project, a 501(3)(c) nonprofit, made via the Apparent Project site will be directed to aid the Clays' efforts to provide food, medical aid, and other assistance to Haitians in need. An informative blog providing news of conditions on the ground is here. (I thank The New Renaissance Rising for directing my attention to the Clays' art teaching in Haiti.)

Haiti's Holy Trinity Cathedral

Last week's earthquakes destroyed the beautiful windows gracing Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince; all now lies in ruin. To see how magnificent the windows were, go here. The loss is incalculable.

National Arts Index

Gary Steur, chief cultural officer for the city of Philadelphia who writes the blog Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, offers an interesting analysis of the National Arts Index 2009. The Index, comprising 76 indicators developed by the federal government and private research organizations and designed to measure the health and vitality of the arts in the United States, was announced by Americans for the Arts on January 20. The report on the Index, covering the period 1998 - 2008, is here.

Bowen McCauley Dance Appearance

The Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit Bowen McCauley Dance is appearing at a special performance tomorrow night, January 23, 8:00 p.m., at Nandua High School in Onley, Virginia. (Onley is about a three-hour drive from Washington, D.C., on Virginia's Eastern Shore.) Presented by the Arts Council of the Eastern Shore and marking BMDC's second appearance at "Winterfest", Virginia''s Eastern Shore Arts Festival, the performance will feature "Lucy's Playlist", danced to pop and rock tunes, and "Golconda", choreographed to  Ralph Vaughn William's Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. Tickets may be purchased at the door. ($20; high school or younger students, $5)

Showing Now

Below are descriptions for just two of many exhibitions now open around the Washington, D.C., area.

◆ Paintings, Sculpture, and Installations: Maggie Michaels ~ On view through February 12 at the Fine Art Gallery in George Mason University's new Art and Design building, this exhibition features Michaels's recent abstract works. Michaels is a recipient of awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Trawick Prize. The Art and Design building is on George Mason University's Fairfax, Virginia, campus.

◆ "A Deeper Reality" ~  Doris Colbert Kennedy's abstract paintings are on view at Foundry Gallery in Washington, D.C., through the end of the month. Kennedy's works are inspired by her knowledge of the concepts of theoretical physics and "intuit" movements of sub-atomic particles, waves, and strings. Kennedy calls them "energy-dances of color and motion." The exhibit runs through the end of the month.

Coming Up

◆ "Cream: WPA 2010 Art Auction Exhibition" ~ Opening January 30 and running through March 6, this Washington Project for the Arts exhibition will be on view at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C. The exhibition and auction will feature works by more than 100 local, regional, and national artists selected by top curators, including Kristen Hileman of The Baltimore Museum of Art, Carol K. Huh of the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art, N. Elizabeth Schlatter of the University of Richmond (Virginia) Museums, Mera Rubell, co-founder of the Rubell Family Collection (Miami, Florida), and Ken Ashton of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. A preview of the exhibition and a talk by all the participating curators is scheduled for February 25, 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; admission is free and open to the public but seating for the talk is limited (RSVP by February 19 to The auction will take place on March 6.

◆ "Art Night at VISArts" ~ On February 5, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., VisArts at Rockville, Rockville, Maryland, is holding its February Art After Hours event, featuring art, music, and drumming. This promises to be another wonderful evening to meet the VisArts studio artists; snack on delicious food (always a treat); observe and participate in a drumming circle to be led by Nancy Nuttle, founding director of Child's Play Music LLC, home of Music Together Montgomery (you may bring your own drums or other small percussion instruments); and do a bit of Valentine's Day shopping in advance. I plan to be there with my latest thread painting edition, "Peacock (Crimson)".

◆ Spring Arts Workshops with Judith Olivia HeartSong ~ Judith, whom I interviewed last fall (click here for the interview), is kicking off the New Year with two wonderful arts workshops: "Go Fly a Kite", in four sessions beginning February 24; and "Running with Scissors Mixed Media", for adults of all skill levels, on Mondays beginning February 1. Detailed information is available on the VisArts site or by calling Minna Philips, VisArts director of education, at 301-315-8200.

Photography Grant Competition

The National Geographic Magazine Photography Grant competition has been announced. Submissions are due March 1 and the winner will be announced June 1. Details about the grant — $30,000 for a specific project to inspire people to care about our planet — are here.

Make Your Connection via ArtsMap

Check out ArtsMap: Connecting Artists and the Community, a worldwide project of the artists Jonathan Talbot and Robin Colodzin. If you are an artist, art gallery, or museum or other arts-related organization or business, you may open an account to list your Website and provide information about your art (there are several dozen categories) or what you do. ArtsMap is an interactive map that can be used to search by medium, location, educational opportunities, type of organization, or other criteria; using user-generated clickable map markers, you can obtain detailed information about artists, their work and studios, art schools, etc.; most markers contain an image and a link to a Website or blog.

When you sign up now, your listing will be free for 12 months (the offer is time-limited, so don't delay); thereafter, a fee will be charged (to read about ArtsMap unique approach to pricing, go to the site, click on About and then click on Pricing. A popup will provide the information). I listed my Web-based company Transformational Threads and my friends in the arts have listed their sites, too. The greater the number of registrants, the more useful ArtsMap will become.


REMEMBER Haiti: Simply This for Haiti

Stand With Haiti


Louise Gallagher said...

Maureen, firstly, thank you for the links on Haiti Art -- wow! I love the vibrancy of colour, the starkness and simplicity of some of the designs. The Vassar Haiti Project video is inspiring and touching -- the girls skipping and then the painting. The whole thing is amazing.

thank you for demonstrating so gracefully the path to being a citizen of the world -- with heart and empathy, caring and trust.

Thanks my friend. You are amazing. A real WoW!

Anonymous said...

I just found you on "SheWrites" when we posted our Haiti-related blog posts back to back in the Bloggers group. This is a fascinating blog with great Haiti info! So glad I found it...

Susan Katz Miller
Check out my current post on Haiti...

Kelly Sauer said...

Maureen, I have to leave a giggle - you like museums, don't you? My husband loves them, and I just can't stand them. I'd much rather be out living life than walking around in a building looking at stuff. My attitude is incorrigible, really.

I'm amazed at this post with all the fascinating information you've included for us. It makes me glad to know you as a person - I'd be so intimidated otherwise!

Thanks for your comment at my blog this morning. I always appreciate you.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Maureen ... thanks so much for this. I had already made a donation to Haiti but really liked the idea of supporting the art of Haiti so I made a purchase of metal art from one of the sites you list. You do such great work.

Deborah Barlow said...

Maureen, This post is so full of valuable information and links. As always, you are breathtakingly thorough. Thanks so much for this.

Anonymous said...

Check out Medalia ( They have a page where all the proceeds are donated to Haitian earthquake relief.