World Stage Haiti
I had seen this documentary on PBS last year Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace and was blown away. Here was a black painter doing exactly what I wanted to do all my life paint beautiful black women with flowers and leaves. But after watching for a while longer I learned no this is new for him. This is the first time he is painting women.
But still I was in awe of his skill also loved the flatness in his work because I started painting this flat in 1997 with "Haitian Girl" but my skills are low level compared to what I was seeing in this documentary.
I remember after having dropped out of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale after 18 months due to dealing with Sickle Cell Disease and a few years later wanted to continue my education so "Haitian Girl" was one piece I did quickly to show to someone at the University of Bridgeport to get in. I got in but I was ask why does your work not have perspective? The whole horizon line, vanishing points, were not new to me. I like flatness, I called my work 'Haitian Superflat' later to remind myself that people had a perception that I was ignorant to the concept of perspective and depth. Perceptions and Perspectives both depend on who is doing the looking and what they are looking at. How much art education do I really have without a degree to show that I studied and understand what Linear Perspective is? So yeah I really wanted that college education.
Had to start over as a freshman my credits would not transfer from AIFL I was crushed and depressed. What I got from UB was a love for HTML coding and Web Design which started the foundations of Kreyol.Com. I learned nothing about art, but the work I created before entering school continued to shape my path.
I still wanted to paint and was still getting very sick with Sickle Cell had to leave school again. I became homeless stayed with some friends in the Bronx for a year and found my way back to Bridgeport. In 1999-2000 I was loving Black gator foam boards which gave birth to the "Haitian Island Spirits" series of oil pastels.
You all know how the world had changed since then. I had also gone through a lot of changes and after 10 years of living in a live and work loft space for artists I had not really grown at all as a painter. 10 Years! All spent on Sickle Cell and a love of a girl who could not care about what gave my life meaning. So many years... of just frustration and insomnia because my dreams were filled with un-painted works.
Seeing that PBS documentary woke me up. Here is a black man I can point to and say see I'm not crazy or foolish. Here is what can happen if your family prepared you and people support your art. I had to smile at discovering that someone like Kehinde Wiley was out there. A month later the man went to Haiti too. Now I was a fan. I had not been back to Haiti since 1986 which was a trip that my mother sent me on to meet my father for the first time. Seeing the World Stage Haiti video filled me with pride because my art was my connection to Haiti, no matter how far I am from home.
Depression can steal a lot from your life. But if you understand your purpose in life you can pick up the pieces and try again at living that purpose.
I took a trip to the Brooklyn Museum this week because Kehinde Wiley was speaking in Manhattan about the show that was there on the 9th floor. I had to see it and go listen to what he had to say about his journey. Museums have always been my favorite places to spend a day, you can't ever soak it all in during a day but you get to feel the awe of humanity's vast expressions over thousands of lifetimes.
I checked out Basquiat's Notebooks, so cool I have to return to the Brooklyn Museum to see these two shows again before they are gone.
So yeah, as a painter I know it is not easy to make it to the level I am seeing with the buzz around Wiley's work. They are high priced items that only the very rich can afford. But this man paid his dues and has a whole studio of helpers to drive a brand. So as a fan I had to at least get a book at his talk and catalog book signing.
There are painters in Haiti who's work are only crafts for the purpose of survival, other are only passionate about being able to create even while they starve, their art drives them forward. I may have my issues keeping me from painting at a level that is seen as worthy. But I exist and must continue to live my purpose in life. Have you found your purpose? Are you living it?
Without my art I am not really living. The World may never put your work in a museum but continue to fight and paint. You have a voice Haiti. You have a voice... Don't get discouraged, speak louder! Paint larger! Think bigger! :)