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Caribbean Expressions Art, Life & Culture

Exhibition was held in University of Central Florida Art Gallery between September 5th - September 27th 2013

Example Picture

Curator's Statement

This Exhibition features art from the William L. Bryant Collection, the Richard H. Shoemaker Collection, the Latin American Collection and the General Library Collection all on loan from UCF Special Collections as well as works from the private collection of renowned artist, Edouard Duval Carrié.

A majority of the works in the exhibition are from the William L. Bryant Collection. His foundation began exploring the sites in Florida and the West Indies; by the late 50's he began collecting Caribbean art during his visits to Haiti and Jamaica. It was in Haiti that he purchased his first painting, The Hat Seller, which is included in this exhibition. Bryant donated his collection to the Florida Technological University (what is now UCF) in the 1970's. It is thanks to his collecting practices that these works are now on view.

The pieces included in the show have been selected for their cultural context and grouped thematically; interpretative labels have been provided for life, landscapes, religious practice and ritual. Although the islands of Jamaica and Wilfredo Lam respectively, a great majority of works are of Haitian provenance. After the earthquake of 2010, many works by Haitian artists were lost and this exhibition is a rare opportunity to see the works of Wilson Bigaud, Préfète Duffaut, and Prospere Pierre-Louis.

The show has been curated to showcase the transnational and multicultural elements of Caribbean culture. These artworks reflect the culture that produced them, their intended use and audience. The recent exhibitions Global Caribbean and Caribbean: Art at the Crossroads of the World have opened discussions regarding the place of Caribbean art in the art historical canon and the contemporary art world. Caribbean Expressions: Art, Life & Life and Culture seeks to add to that discussion. The accompanying lecture series and study area compliment the goal of producing an audience-centered exhibition that engages the visitor while being inclusive and diverse.

Curator: Ilenia Colón Mendoza, Ph.D.

The Haitian Market Scene as painted by Wilson Biguad

The Haitian Market Scene by Wilson Biguad

Biguad's market painting is typical of rural life in Haiti. In this scene, we see women buying and selling various goods at the village market. The woman in the lower left corner is arranging plantains for sale. Her potential buyer, dressed in a pink ensemble with clean white pumps, may be from a wealthier area or a tourist. Bananas and plantains are a common crop in Haiti, along with grains, coffee, and sugar. The women of the village carry these crops to market in large baskets, often on their heads.

Markets, like this one, are characteristics of rural Haiti, where women barter for goods in the hot Caribbean sun. The marketplace is a female-driven environment. Women of poorer classes often share in the financial run of the household by selling goods at the market. For many years, Haitian women have typically been undereducated, a changing trend as more of these women use their savings to send their children to college.

Rastafari Religion by Everald Brown

Rastafari Religion by Everald Brown

In this painting we see several elements of the Rastafari movement. You may have already spotted the green, gold, and red stripes surrounding the central lion figure and adoning the clothes of the dancers and musicians. These colors, traditional of the Rastafari, are taken from the flag of Ethiopia. The crowned lion, known as the Lion of Judah, is also adapted from teh Ethiopian flag. Rastafarians believe Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, personified as teh lion, to have been the second coming of Jesus Crist, son of the Christian god whom they call Jah. Selassie's pre-coronation name, Ras Tafari, is the origin of the religion's name.

Rastafarian religion holds that Ethiopia is the birthplace of humanity and the location of Zion, the Rastafari paradise. The mountains landscape featured in this painting is a depiction of the topography of Jamaica as well as a reference to the promised land of Zion.

In the lower right of the painting, you will notice an apple tree. The Otaheite apple, a fruit cultivated in Jamaica, is an iconic reference to Rastafari. the apple tree symbolizes humanity's holy unity with nature ,a central tenet of the Rastafari religion. The red apples, yellow buds, and green leaves once agian make up the Rastafarian tricolor.

Vodou in the Landscapes of Préfète Duffaut

Mountain Lake Village by Prefete Duffaut

In this landscape painting by renowned Haitian artist Préfète Duffaut, we see various incarnations of the motif of the spiraling tower. The colorful, mountainous landscapes of this paintings reflect the natural topography of Duffault's home in Jacmel, on the southern coast of Haiti. However, the tall, spindly towers have another interpretation: as the crossroads between the heavenly and earthly realms. Vodou is a native Haitian religion that descended from indegenous African religions in combination with Roman Catholicism and other influences. Duffault's paintings have a visionary quality: presenting an earthly landscape with mystical elements.

Of the three paintings in this exhibition, Mountain Lake Village, is the most Vodou-influenced of the three. While the others are more conventional landscape-style paintings, the spiral hill at the center of Mountain Lake Village is a clear reference to the coexisting realms of heaven and earth at the core of Vodou belief. Believers maintain that at death, a moral person will move on to a heaven-like domain, while the immoral are doomed to remain on Earth as bodiless spirits. At the top of the mountain stands a spirit, or loa, who is an ever-present guiding force. The loa depicted may be Ayizan Velekete, identified by her white dress. She is among the most significant spirits in Vodou, the protectress of African Vodou rituals in Haiti. The snakelike road that travels up the mountain represents Damballah, the loa of life.

The Saint Soliel School by Prospère Pierre-Louis

The Saint Soliel School by Prospère Pierre-Louis

Prospère Pierre-Louis was born in village outside of Jacmel, Haiti. He was the son of a houngan, a Vodou priest. As a child he aided his father in preparing Vodou rituals. As a young man, Pierre-Louis moved to Port-au-Prince where he worked odd jobs until meeting the artist Maud Robard. Robard and the artist Tiga had the revolutionary idea of creating Haiti's first artists' village. In the mountains, above Port-au-Prince, in the small town of Soissons-la-Montagne, the two arranged to hav art supplies given to untrained villages.

A group of artists including Pierre-Louis, Dieuseul Paul, Louisianne Saint-Fleurant, Denis Smith, and Levoy Exil emerged from the village, becoming known as the Saint-Soliel school. This group became one of the most important influences on Haitian painting in the 20th century. When French art theorist André Malraux visited Haiti in 1975, he declared Saint-Soliel "the most arresting and teh only controllable experience of magic painting in our century" (Poupeye, V. Caribbean Art, 89). This Western affirmation of native Haitian art created an international interest in teh style of the school, though it also perpetuated the idea of haiti as a land of ritual magic and naive painters. Paintings from the Saint-Soliel school typically feature thick black outlines, bright psychedelic colors, and two-dimensional compositions. Pierre-Louis was the major artist to emerge from the school.

The Rhythmic Landscape of Jamaica

The Rhythmic Landscape of Jamaica

Mallica "Kapo Reynolds was a Jamaican painter who was born in the hilly region of St. Catherine, outside of Kingston. A Zionist Revival preacher, as well as a painter and sculptor, Kapo believed that his divine calling was to create art. He saw art and faith as integral parts of nature, and the power of expression as divine. He received no formal training, but rather was known as an "intuitive" painter. Edward Seaga, former prime minister of Jamaica, wrote, "The best intuitive art has the ability to animate us because it makes us see things as if we were looking at them for the first time. Between the artist and the medium three seem to be no inhibitions and the imagination is set free [...]. Kapo's work is of this order" (Howard J.D., Kingston: A Cultural and Literary History, 202). The freshness with which them true masterpieces of the intuitive genre.

Kapo's landscape paintings are perhaps his best-known subjects. Here we see the lush tropical environment of his native St. Catherine. Notice how the rhythmically placed homes echo the sound of drumming and how the trees sem to sway in the breeze.

Cultures Come Together in Lam's Work

Untitled by Lam Wilfredo

Wilfredo Lam was born to bring worlds together. Born in Cuba to a Chinese father and African-Spanish mother, from the very start, Lam was set apart by his multiculturalism. He was raised in Afro-Cuban villages, where he was influenced by the Spanish Catholic and Santeria traditions fo the townspeople. Lam's godmother was a celebrated Santeria priestess, and through her teaching, he learned much about African spiritual practices. Lam claimed his encouragement came from his godmother: "who felt sure that I possessed the magical strength that she recognized within herself" (Lewis, S. Carribbean Visions, 118).

At age 21, Lam moved to Madrid to further his artistic training. He was accepted into the circle of Pablo Picasso and André Breton. Lam returned to Havana in 1941. While in Cuba, Lam took newfound interest in his Afro-Cuban heritage. He noted the continued struggle of blacks and during this time Lam's style evolved to new depths, encompassing further references to his Afro-Cuban upbringing.

Stylistically, Lam's work blends the artistic traditions of Africa, Cuba, and the European styles of Surrealism and Cubism. Polymorphic figures- hybrids of human, animal, and plant life- are frequent subjects of his work. These figures may have their genesis in the pantheistic nature of some Afro-Caribbean religions. The faces of Lam's figures often resemble African masks.

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