Mango Tango Art Gallery on Raphune Hill (Rt. 38) opens the “The Haitian Spirit Show,” featuring the wealth of creativity of the island. View metal sculpture, paintings, and textile art from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday, June 24. The soulful music of Dennis Frett and Ras Abu will add to the celebration.
Haitian metal sculptures represent the ultimate in recycling. They are made from discarded steel drums, used to ship oil. Without any electric tools, simply using chisel and hammer, the sculptor expresses himself in an art form unique to Haiti. Steel drum art calls for complex work of the artist. The texture is essential to give life to the sculpture. Characteristics include areas that are either concave or convex to create depth, intricate patterns made by hammering in “bumps” of different heights to create texture, and chiseled lines to define characteristics of the object.
The sculptors’ ingenuity and quality of imagination, combined with refined metal working techniques have captured the attention of collectors worldwide. As 55-gallon plastic drums replace steel ones, these works of art will gain more value. Traditional sculptors do not paint the wall art sculptures. Modern ones paint in exuberant colors.
The paintings on canvas and hard board vary in theme and size. When one considers the pitiful state that has plagued Haiti since Papa Doc, the abject poverty, the political upheavals and the natural disasters, artists continue to celebrate life. Gallery owner Jane Coombes notes that “it’s as if visual art helps transcend reality. The paintings seem to lift the spirit of the artist and the viewer. Haitian art is joyful.’
All the floral, island life, portraits, spiritual and jungle paintings were purchased under the guidance of Caroll Sirhakis who specialized in Haitian art for over 40 years. Included are Saint Soliel paintings, recognized internationally by art critic and art historian Andre Malraux.
Concerning the textile art on view, Coombes says that she is reluctant to say voodoo flags.
“I find this confusing. Our clients travel to Egypt and bring back paintings of Egyptian gods to frame for their offices and homes. They travel to Mexico and purchase bark art with Aztec gods to frame. Mango Tango has framed Buddhas bought on vacation trips for many Christian homes.
However, the term voodoo seems to have derogatory connotations. Voodoo loas or spirits traveled through the involuntary African diaspora of slavery from Benin, Nigeria and Togo to Haiti, where their essence is still revered.
The religious origins of Voodoo Flags, used in ceremonies to please the loas, are sometimes overshadowed by their popularity as works of art by collectors. The flags, made from satin, silk, cotton, cloth or burlap and embroidered with pearls, beads and sequins of radiantly iridescent colors are sought out today for their aesthetics.
The colorful embroidery, the complexity of the decorative patterns, and the sheer inventiveness of the depiction of the various loas to whom the flags are dedicated are simply captivating.
Music, libation and appetizers will be available in the parking lot, with a treasure trove of Haitian creativity awaiting viewers in the gallery.
The show continues for one month. For more information, view the show at the gallery’s website: www.mangotangoart.com or call 340-777-3060.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to say that the show will open on June 24, not July 24.