Franck Étienne, born on April 12, 1936 in Ravine-Sèche, Haiti, is an author, poet, playwright, musician and painter. He has written in both French and Haitian Creole. and as a painter, he is known for his colorful abstract works, often emphasizing the colors blue and red. Although not well known in the English-speaking world, Frankétienne has star status in French and Creole speaking countries and was rumored to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. After the quake, his works gained more international attention, particularly in Canada and France. “The Trap” debuted in March 2010 at a UNESCO forum in Paris where he was named an Artist for Peace. Galleries in New York have organized shows featuring his artwork. To this day he still holds informal Sunday workshops for young artists in Haiti to talk about and critique their work. “He is not only a major Haitian writer, he is probably the major Haitian writer, forever,” said Jean Jonassaint, a Haitian literature scholar at Syracuse University
Frantz Zephirin was born in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti on December 17, 1968. By his reckoning, he is the 24th of 48 children sired by his architect father (with 19 different women). As a toddler he sat and watched his artist uncle, Antoine Obin, as he worked and by the age of 7 Frantz was filching paint in bottle caps to do his own paintings. Within a year he was selling paintings to the tourists from cruise ships docked in Le Cap. By age thirteen, lying about his age, he was selling work to galleries. Eventually he moved to Port-au-Prince and became associated with the Galerie Monnin. His style is unique among the painters of the Northern School. Entirely self-taught he describes himself as a "Historic Animalist." Unlike many Haitian painters Zephirin usually titles his paintings. He counts among his influences Leonardo da Vinci, James Darwin and the Lost Continent of Atlantis. In October 1996 he was awarded the Gold Medal in the Third Biennale of Caribbean and Central American Painting sponsored by The Museum of Modern Art of the Dominican Republic. This competition featured 144 artists from 37 countries in the region. He was one of 5 Haitians to be included in the V Biennale in Cuenca, Ecuador in 1996. Two of his paintings are featured in the wonderful show "Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou" that toured the USA in 1997 and 1998. One of his paintings illustrates the cover of The Immaculate Invasion by Bob Shacochis (New York: Viking, 1999). Zephirin lives in Port-au-Prince and Key West, where he owns a gallery. In his paintings, Zephirin will refer to, and comment upon, history, politics, Christianity, and vodou and his paintings often contain animals; He once said of himself, ”I am an eagle. I hang above it all and see what I can catch.”
Killy was born Patrick Ganthier in Haiti in 1966. He started creating sculptures with found objects in 1986 and from 1987-1990 became part of the Centre d’Art family, apprenticing with painter Franck Louissaint. The first public exhibition of his recycled sculpture work was in 1997. Through the tutelage of renowned artist Jean Claude Garoute at his “Kay Tiga” studio, Killy learned to explore diverse mediums. In 2004, the artist immigrated to Montreal where he pursued the art of engraving and lithography. Since 1997 Killy has exhibited in numerous prestigious institutions, including the Musée d’Art Haïtien, The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum, Miami, La TOHU, Montreal, and MAI (Montreal, Arts Interculturals). Due to an unfortunate accident in 2005 Killy’s ability to use his right hand became severely limited. However, he has taught himself to use his left hand to continue creating his work.
Mario Benjamin was born in 1964 in Port-au-Prince to a family of working professionals (his mother a pharmacist and his father an architect). Mario is one of Haiti’s leading contemporary artists. Using video, multi-media, painting, installation, and other mixed media, he addresses issues of identity, ethnicity and race. As an artist, he aims to challenge preconceived notions of the driving influences and interests of Haitian artists. Benjamin is self-taught but frequented museums in New York, Washington D.C., and abroad, exposing himself to international contemporary trends in art. In 1984 he participated in the Festival Arts d' Haiti and since then has represented Haiti in numerous prestigious biennials including, Johannesburg, Havana, São Paulo, and Venice in 2001. He lives and works in Haiti. Benjamin looks to disengage himself from labels which are strongly rooted in the mainstream contemporary artistic scenario. Benjamin is neither a practitioner of Voodoo, nor a Catholic (his personal beliefs lie within the Buddhist philosophy). Even though he is a self-taught artist, who began his training in Haiti, he does not consider himself - and he is not - a naïve painter, and he negates any folkloristic or labeled attitude. When asked about artists who have influenced his work, he mentions Francis Bacon, Christian Boltanski and the German Expressionists. He declares himself happy to be living in the 21st Century, in which information runs faster than ever, and geographical boundaries seem to be increasingly less relevant.
Myrlande Charles Constant is well known for her detailed and thickly sequined and beaded flags. She learned the craft from her mother, who worked in a Port-au-Prince factory making beaded wedding dresses. A group of women who were laid off from the factory took as many beads and sequin as they could as their severance package. They started making beaded flowers but this quickly evolved into the production of beaded flags, using the techniques they had learned in the factory. Prior to this, beads were only used to outline and to hold the sequin. But the factory technique enabled them to attach beads quickly so they could fill as much space with beads as fast as artists using sequin. One of the most prominent artists in this group is Myrlande Charles Constant. Myrlande lost everything during the recent earthquake except for her life and those of her children, and her passion to create
ONEL, born Lionel Paul on March 2, 1966 in Soissons la Montagne, belongs to the younger generation of the movement called “The New Saint Soleil.” At 6 years old, he was introduced to the arts in the small school run by Lucienne Fermathe Simeus, wife of Levoy Exile. This facility was supported by Tiga Art Materials and Maud Robart. In 1973 ONEL became an apprentice in the workshop of Exile Levoy, who encouraged him to develop his artistic talents. In 1989, under the leadership of Tiga and having grown up in the sphere of his aunt seamstress, ONEL began moving towards recycling textile art that expanded with the use of sawdust and gluing objects. He is the initiator of this process which was later adopted by the artists Prospero Eriveaux, Ery Stivenson, and Magloire, ONEL is one of the few artists who stand out from traditional modes of figurative Movement Saint-Soleil to provide innovative figural forms. A work of ONEL illustrates the cover of issue 205 of the magazine devoted to conjonction, New St. Sun .
Born in Ouanaminthe (Haiti) July 23, 1947, Jacques Gabriel's pseudonym Jagal lives and works in Port-au-Prince. Beginning at an early age in coloring and collage, he was introduced to drawing by photographer and artist René Vincent, then a professor at the Lycee Philippe Guerrier of Cap-Haitien from 1959 to 1962.
Simultaneously with his classical studies, the young Gabriel never missed an opportunity to develop through reading at the library and by observing the works exhibited in local art galleries including that of Professor Vincent Street and Father Obin Cité Lescot. His curiosity won him the admiration of landscape and stage designer painter Louis (Louie) Agenor. It was at this time that he received as a gift from his mother, Rose Gabriel, a box of watercolors. He created the pseudonym Jagal to sign his drawings in pencil and watercolors.
Jacques Gabriel moved permanently to Port-au-Prince in January 1967. From 1967 to 1969 he joined the Faculty of Law and Economics (eSDS) of the State University of Haiti (UEH) while conducting studies in accounting at the School of American Commerce. Admitted through the entrance examination into the Faculty of Sciences (FDS), he chose to discontinue there in order to begin studying Civil Engineering in October 1969. In the meantime with the permission of the dean at the time, Engineer Maurice Latortue, he audited courses in aesthetics and freehand drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts and the current National School of Arts (ENARTS). This strengthened his capabilities in design, as did the introductory first year three hours per week in technical drawing and design description. Perspectives to which he was also familiar from high school, the notions of light and shade, the geometric realization of forms and manipulation of various instruments, all of which will in subsequent years help Jacques Gabriel to promote himself as an artist. He took the initiative in 1972 to bring together works, drawings and ink of students of the faculty in an exhibition a week. The reception was favorable.
Jacques graduated in Civil Engineering in July 1973, despite his aptitude for drawing that predisposed him to a career in architecture. In 1975, he joined the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications (MTPTC) as Engineer of Roads Service where he rose through the ranks to the position of Chief Executive Officer (1995-2001), then Minister (September 2008 to October 2011). He earned his Master’s in Venezuela at the University of Los Andes (ULA) in Merida Transportation engineering. He married Mary Gladys Codio in 1976. They have two daughters, Alexandra and Rose Myrlande.
Sisson Blanchard was born in 1929 in Trouin, a small village in the mountains of southern Haiti. He settled in Port-au-Prince as a young man where he worked as a yardboy in the house of Joel and Ethel Kenter, good friends of American artist DeWitt Peters and owners of the Hotel Mon Reve on the Champs de Mars. In 1948, Joel Kenter gave painting materials to Sisson. Encouraged by DeWitt Peters and Jason Seley, an American sculptor who taught at the Centre d’Art, Sisson soon began selling his work there. Blanchard later moved on to the Galerie Issa. Blanchard’s paintings are original and bold, stylistically arranging fish, birds, animals, vegetables and flowers in both orderly columns or disorderly groups. Sisson died in the early 1980s and his son, Smith Blanchard, has continued in his fathers footsteps and has become quite talented in his own right.
Ronald Bazile, aka CHEBY, was born in 1980 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and grew up in the Grand Rue, heart of the capital city, where he still lives and works today although he spends an equal amount of time in Long Beach, California. Grand Rue’s southern end—a labyrinthine warren of back streets—is home to generations of wood workers who produce handicrafts, vessels, masks and figurative sculptures. In homage to his father Ronald Bazile, who died in 2007, Cheby began using his parent’s name as his artist moniker. Trained as an electrician and cobbler, Cheby turned to art when jobs became scarce, as is the tradition in the Grand Rue. He apprenticed under master sculptor Jean Herard Celeur, one of the founding members of Atis Rezistans, a geographical collective of artists whose members have been creating sculptures in the Grand Rue since the 1970s. This close-knit community is hemmed in on all sides by the makeshift car repair district, which serves as both graveyard and salvation for the city’s increasingly decrepit automobiles. For the last 15 years, Cheby has mastered wood sculpture techniques and the aesthetics of bricolage, piecing together scrap metal from the surrounding car repair shops and neighborhoods. His hybrid working methods reflect a shared African and Haitian cultural heritage, a dystopian sci-fi view of the future and the positive transformative act of assemblage. His usage of readymade components—driven by economic necessity, a creative vision and cultural continuity—include engine manifolds, TV sets, wheel hubcaps and discarded lumber, transforming the detritus of a failing economy into bold, radical sculptures. Cheby’s work has been shown in important galleries, museums and cultural institutions throughout Europe and the United States..
Georges Desarmes was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 27, 1950 and began painting in 1969 with Nehemy Jean, a well-established local artist. In the mid-seventies Desarmes joined a group of Haitian artists known as the "Novellistes" and themed the re-creation of every aspect of Haitian life, bringing a modern spirit to previously primitive painting. He also became close friends with the great Haitian impressionist Carlo Jean-Jacques and they painted side by side in the atelier at the Galerie Monnin in Petionville for the last year or so of Carlo’s life. In a single painting he loudly says what a thousand words cannot describe.
Joseph Jorélus was born in 1939 in the city of Leogane to a farmer father and hairdresser mother. He lived in the countryside until he finished primary school and moved to Pétion-ville to learn to be a pastry chef, and which now is the location of his restaurant. During the former time he had a second job as a packer at the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince and it was while there that his interest in painting was born - his first work completed at the age of 43. His free time on Saturdays and Sundays after that became devoted to painting. One day he brought his work to the Art Center where it was welcomed by Francine Murat who saw his new way of folk art painting as being different from the popular school of “storytellers.” Jorélus source of inspiration is Vodou and his staging of humanoid and animal figures plunge us into his imagination. While he is a practitioner and attends Vodou ceremonies on a regular basis, he is not an initiate, claiming that it would require him to devote all of his time to the religion. His artistic style is reminiscent of the pointillism art movement, the juxtaposing of small strokes of primary colors and complementary colors which emerged in 1874 in Europe. The artist, however, calls his technique "points-tasking", which differs by choosing bright colors in the construction of the image. Jorélus uses colors to show the joy of religion, with oil on canvas as the medium. He was awarded a gold medal in October 1996 from the 3rd Biennial of Caribbean and Central American Artists at the Museum of Modern Art of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo. He is one of the few purely self-taught painters in Haiti. In recent years Joseph Jorélus has shown his work at the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince
Starting today, you are the master of the house," Richard Antihomme said to his adolescent son, Richard Nesly, who at the age of 18 painted his first work. Nesly was born in Port au Prince, but bred in Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, described as one of the most beautiful cities in Haiti. The Ibo of Nigeria say, "he who stands tall, stands on the shoulders of his forefathers." If Nesly's father named him master of the house, he was able to stand tall because of those who came before him and who birthed the Saint Soleil style, Prospere Pierre Louis and Louisiane Saint Fleurant among others. Nesly’s style builds on the elders of Saint Soleil. Since those early days of being molded like river rocks and peeking over the shoulders of other master painters, painters who forged their way without training and through risk or estrangement, Nesly has found a style of his own. His style is the gentle melding of blues and browns on canvas. His style is bold and colorful like bright suns plunging into purple waters. His style is whimsical. His style also invokes an emotional and spiritual response as we stop to consider these lanky and lulling spirit beings. When we consider the work of Saint Soleil and Nesly's work, we must wonder who or what is being celebrated on canvas and board. Have artists like Nesly created their own Pantokrator- multi-colored and wild? In the world of Nesly and Saint Soleil, we are visually led to believe these are incarnations representing power and authority over the rivers, fields, and natural places. We are visually led to believe that these beings truly have dominion in this small corner of the world. Nesly's brush and stroke leads us on a walk on the wild side where form does not follow function; form follows imagination that is only bound by the two-dimensional canvas. Nesly continues to push at the edges of our world and continues to search for definitions of the unknown.
Sébastien Jean was born March 17, 1980 in Thomassin. An autodidact painter and sculptor who was much encouraged by his mother, he began at the age of 13 to draw and paint, mainly on bamboo. In 2004, he abandoned the practice of craft paints to challenge the artistic experience of painting on canvas. Sensitivity is his tone, and the enjoyment of carnival masks, costumes and decorations seems to have nurtured his love of fantasy. Having great energy and imagination, both free and active, Sébastien discovered a field of illustration that allows him to express his deeply felt anthropomorphic characteristics - disturbing images which encompass the most expressive resources. In a singular universe populated by monster predators, birds of prey, wandering ghosts, his is a spectral vision of a troubled world. While his sculptures are made from recycled objects, he has also painted large canvases and has developed an original technique combining carbon black color thus giving his paintings a very special chiaroscuro. Accompanied on his journey by artists and professionals from different backgrounds (fashion designers Felicia and Michael Dell, Chestnut, artist Mario Benjamin, and collectors Christian Raccurt, Reynal, and Lally), Sébastien arrived on the international scene very quickly. Exhibitions at the Foundation de Agnès Paris, 54th Venice Biennale, Global Caribbean III Haitian Cultural Center in Miami and consecutive residency stays at the City of Arts in Paris and Limoges consolidate his attainments.