In 1941, an American watercolorist named Dewitt Peters was sent to Haiti to teach English. He later established the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince. The fusion of Western painting materials and technique with landscapes of the country's natural beauty and adaptations of metal work techniques gave birth to a distinct style. Art production became an important income source in this most impoverished of nations, the predominant market found among tourists.
Gallery C in Raleigh now presents its eighth show of Haitian art. Several schools touting different outlooks and styles are on display, from the Arti Bonit (or "Beautiful Art") school, presenting an idealized Haiti for the world to see--as in Raymond Baudrey's highly stylized "Paysage II"--to the idiosyncratic Saint Soleil school, which stresses manifestation of the spiritual through art, as expressed in Tiga's painting of an enigmatic sudarium-like visage, reclaiming indigenous imagery from vodou traditions.
If you can make it through the unnecessary repetitions of the "marché" or market theme, with women picturesquely balancing baskets on their heads, you will be rewarded by Reynaud Joseph's closely observed scenes of musicians, children playing skittles in the street and friends gathering at humble abodes. Finally, there is a moment of ethereal magic in Calixte Henri's "Paysage" (above), a naive landscape where harmonies of yellow green, lilac and blue beguile.
This trip to the colorful Caribbean makes for a light, summery treat.
The Art of Haiti runs through July 5 at Gallery C, located at 3532 Wade Ave. in Ridgewood Shopping Center, between Whole Foods and Quail Ridge Books, in Raleigh. The gallery is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 828-3165 or visit www.galleryc.net. --Michele Natale