Haitian artist Vidho Lorville's exhibit "Allegory of Color," on display at Wyndy Morehead Fine Arts, looks like a series of illustrations for a children's book.
The figures, buildings and landscapes in the acrylic paintings are softly brushed so that everything is feathery and dreamlike. His colors are glowing cotton-candy pastels and bright primary hues. His characters are cartoons, with large rubbery hands and feet and huge glowing eyes that in some cases are crossed for comic effect. There are princesses, white lions, cavorting monkeys and smiling faces in the clouds. Everything is permeated with a glittering rainbow light.
But like all fairy tale worlds, Lorville's paintings have their sinister side. Look for the bound hostages in the burning mansion, the masked soldiers, the lost souls hovering above the sugarcane fields, the nail stuck in a laborer's foot, the wanted posters, the warring specters and the skulls that can be found lying here and there. Even in the most buoyant of Lorville's works, danger is close at hand.
I'm no expert on Haitian art, but Lorville's crowded compositions and bright colors are reminiscent of traditional Haitian paintings. Some of his figures have the same simplified stylization of Haitian folk art as well.
But Lorville's subjects, such as ghost-like piles of car tires (in "The Tires: Man was Created to Survive"), a homeless man with his big toes tied together (in "The Patriots") and the Salvador Dali-esque voodoo allegory ("The Crossing") are far from typical.
Most of his paintings are quite good. A few, such as "Toy Store," "Once, Marie Laveaux Passby" and "Misericorde," are stunning.
Lorville's odd fairy-tale world, is, of course, his native Haiti (and the neighboring Dominican Republic), an island of splendor that is wracked with such persistent poverty, violence and political uncertainty that it seems to be under an evil spell. Lorville's paintings acknowledge all that, but the tone remains positive, even playful. He longs for a fairy-tale ending, and if geopolitical reality won't provide it, he'll create one of his own.