Friday, July 20, 2007

An older, art-related Haiti piece

Monday July 29 2002, 7:51 PM

Haitian artists find viewers and buyers online

By Michael Deibert

(Read the original here)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - In a sweltering room in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haitian painter Etzer Pierre unrolls a canvas showing computer screens separated by a rainbow ascending into a five-pointed voodoo symbol.

"It's a marriage between modernity and tradition, you might say," he says. "Elements of mystery and the world trying to co-exist together."

He might be speaking of Haitian art's forays into cyberspace.

Haiti's painters, sculptures, metal workers and sequined "voodoo" flag artisans -- famed in the Caribbean, but traditionally rather isolated -- are starting to see the power of the Internet in finding exposure and markets for their works.

Whereas Haitian art previously relied largely on word of mouth among collectors and aficionados, the Internet has allowed for more direct marketing from Haiti, a Caribbean nation of eight million which is the poorest country in the Americas.

ArtMedia Haiti, an online gallery ( based in the airy Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville, specializes in shipping works by Haitian artists to a worldwide audience.

The creation of Lori Manuel Steed -- the daughter of Haitian artist Michele Manuel-- and American expatriate Birgit Coles, ArtMedia has helped bring modern Haitian painters like Frantz Zephirin and Pascale Monin, as well as more traditional artists, to a wide audience.

One of several relatively new online windows to Haitian art, such as the Pittsburgh-based Galerie Macondo ( or MedaliaArt (, which operates out of East Setauket, Long Island, ArtMedia has met with impressive success.

"We've been online for nearly a year and the numbers of people visiting has been amazing," says Steed. "At the moment, we have 10,000 subscribers to our newsletter."

"We've shipped pretty much all over the world, but we've been especially strong in North America, Mexico and Europe," adds Coles.

A painter herself, who was initially encouraged by Haitian gallery owner and former jazz musician Issa El Saieh of Galerie Issa, Steed says Haitian artists have been quick to grasp the potential of selling online.

"Our financial relationships with the artists vary, depending on who they are and where they are in their career," she says. "But many artists have a set price for their piece and will simply ask us to put it out on the Web."


The painters seem to agree.

"The Internet is a kind of global village where anyone in different areas of the world can be in touch very fast," says painter Jhomson Vidho Lorville, a young Haitian painter who sells his art via his Web site,

"It's made a huge difference for exposing the art in terms of a country like Haiti, where communications are very poor," Lorville says.

"Young Haitian artists are trying different things, and being exposed to different influences than in the past. And whatever Internet or world market there is, I think there's a place for everyone."

Lorville's work, and that of other young artists such as Etzer Pierre and painters working out of the National School of Arts, is often characterized by exaggerated, almost caricature-like depiction of facial features and scale, reminiscent of the graffiti murals one sees in Brooklyn, New York.

In one painting, "Figi Beton," Lorville depicts a "chimere" -- Haitian slang for paid political rabble rouser -- gazing at the world from behind mirrored sunglasses, a bandanna wrapped around a huge head that takes up nearly the entire canvas. There are burning tires in the background.

Steed said such paintings belonged in a new realist movement that began with Stevenson Magloire, who was killed during Haiti' brutal military government of 1991-94, and produced work with harsh and angry imagery and colors. The work contrasted with that of painters like his mother, Louisianne St.-Fleurant, who helped found the famous "Saint-Soleil" school of lyrical, voodoo-influenced Haitian painting three decades earlier.

Haitian art, which started coming into its own in the first half of the 20th century, has developed into one of the most diverse in the Caribbean, encompassing everything from formal portraits and scenes of peasant life to images of voodoo deities and sophisticated political commentary.

There is a hope that its appearance on the Internet will help Haitian art attract the appreciation and serious critical discussion that many believe it deserves.

"I would love to see more serious art critics interested, in an academic way, in Haitian art," says Dr. Frantz Large, a Haitian ophthalmologist and member of the French-language International Association of Art Critics.

"The art of the voodoo temple, for example, has some very explosive qualities which we today consider in some ways to be ultra-modern."

"Jackson Pollock and his shamanistic splatter painting," says Large, who delivered the eulogy at Stevenson Magloire's funeral. "And the voodoo priest going into a trance creating a veve (five-pointed symbol) on the temple floor are not, after all, that far removed."

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