Frost art exhibit paints a picture of Haitian culture

Asser Saint-Val, b. 1974 IMBUNDANCE, I have allowed you to perform your task

Mariana Riano and Angela Alvarez | Contributing Writers

The Frost Art Museum is home to one of the largest collections of Haitian paintings in the United States, with work from the 1980s to now. 

One of the newer exhibitions, “Everything, Earth, and Sky” is part of ongoing efforts to study and digitalize art by Haitian and Haitian-American artists, along with Frost’s digital Haitian art exhibitions and a student-curated online collection. 

This exhibit represents Frost’s dedication to honoring Haiti’s rich history and culture, as well as giving young Haitian-American artists a platform to share their experiences living in South Florida. 

The exhibit showcases a variety of Haitian heritage artists, including Gerard Fortuné, Alexandre Gregoire, Maxan Jean-Louis, Eddy Myrthil, Fritzner Obner, Vanessa Charlot, Mark Delmont, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Mark Fleuridor, Madjeen Isaac, Abigail Lucien, and Asser Saint-Val. Displayed alongside them are works by local youth artists.

As in its name, “Everything, Earth, and Sky” features a variety of interpretations of space. The exhibit’s themes are as broad as the name implies, from daily life in Haiti’s schools, plazas, and governmental structures to its natural landscape. Others highlight Haiti’s rich and diverse iconography.

“I was interested in expanding narratives of art history,” said Amy Galpin, the chief curator of the Frost Museum. “I’m particularly excited to borrow work from contemporary Haitian artists working in the US and show their work in conversation with the works in our collection.” 

Each artist filters these through a different lens: day-to-day life, politics, diaspora, and vodou lore. 

Scale and proportion are also played with regularly: Mark Delmont’s That Mountain in Belladere ends just shy of the exhibition hall’s ceiling. 

Mark Delmont, That Mountain in Belladere, digital art printed on cloth | PantherNOW Staff

Yvens Léger, Haitian, Tap Tap la joie, papier mâché, glue and paint, 1984, gift of Ms. Francis F. Switt, FIU 92.6.27 | PantherNOW Staff

Papier-mâché images of the iconic Tap Taps crawl up the opposite wall. A typical scene in Port-au-Prince, Tap Tap la joie shows people going about their everyday lives. As the title suggests, the profusion of agricultural products on the bus represents a good day for the farmers.

The complex color palette of vivid red, green, and yellow creates the impression of a typical day. The dark blue tint is repeated in vodou-style paintings and shows the role of vodou imagery in the lives of the Haitian people.

On the theme of space, co-secretary of the Haitian Student Union D’Jovens Palmy described how the exhibit’s theme is central to life in Haiti. “Pretty much every space in Haiti is an extension of your backyard, and we make a lot of use of the spaces we have to work with,” he said. 

Palmy highlighted one of Jean Jacques’s Untitled paintings as an image of growing up in Haiti. 

Jean Jacques, Untitled, oil on canvas. FIU 94.10.24 | Frost Art Museum Archives

“Students you go to school with, they’re not just your classmates. You grow up in the same neighborhood with them, you go to the same churches… your lives intertwine with theirs,” said Palmy. 

“The same people you go everywhere with are the same people you see again, so from time to time, you reconnect with them.”

Palmy says though the collection is thorough, he noted the absence of culinary and musical aspects of Haitian culture.

The digital collection Fenèt sou Ayiti/Fenêtre sur Haïti/Window on Haiti, which includes works featured in “Everything Earth and Sky,” is also available on the Frost website. Curated by the school’s official French language and culture groups, Le Cercle Francais and Pi Delta Phi, FIU students researched pieces from the Frost’s Haitian art vault and authored their own informational placards. 

Fenèt sou Ayiti is available here.

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