During our conversation
about his art, one thing Vidho Lorville said placed everything
else I heard and saw into context.
"When my parent were alive, I was upper middle class" the 31-year-old Haitian artist said. He continued with an incomplete sentence. "After they died..."
At 19,Lorville plummeted from the upper ranks of Haitian society to live in a seedy apartment among the country's poorer citizens. He earned what livelihood he could by selling his work. This was a defining experience for Lorville, who ultimately went on to study at the National school of Art in Haiti.
The bright island colors,
religious symbols, references to the glorious revolt against French
rule and untutored techniques mark the paintings of Haiti as clearly
as tall mountains and winding roads mark the country's terrain.
And Lorville, who has been working in the Crescent City for the past few months, echoes many of these themes and approaches in his work.
But there's in a somber tone to Lorville's work that distinguishes it as his own.
The backdrop of the painting "The Patriots" is Haiti's National
Palace, a symbol as well known to Haitians as the White House is to Americans.
But lying in the street in front of the Palace are a shoeless, shirtless dead man, his wife and his child. In places of guard towers, there are vertical coffins. In place of guards, there are skeletons.
The painting was inspired by the story of a starving man who walked to the National Palace and died in front of it.
"I thought it was a patriotic act," Lorville said with a sarcastic laugh.
BEHIND THE FACADE
a series of mixed media pieces, Lorville illustrates the political
and economic hardships of Haitian workers who harvest sugar cane
in the fields of the Dominican Republic.
This is the sort of history Lorville's work focuses on.
"It is historic, but not historic like Georges Washington or Toussaint
L'ouverture", he said. "It's historic because the artist is the witness to his period, his every day life. He has this capacity to make the unusual usual and the usual unusual."
The brilliant colors that dominate paintings in much of the Caribbean are present in each of the painting in this exhibition. But Lorville subdues them with gray, giving to them a distinctly somber twist.
"The purple expresses a kind of melancholy, and the red expresses a kind of vivacity. The green is athletic", Lorville said. "I think I'm somewhere between."
Even in the "The Carnival", a depiction of Haitian Mardi Gras, there's a note of seriousness that is at the heart of Lorville's vision of Haiti in which much lurks behind the happy-go-lucky facade.
"The faces are the key", he said. "There is something worried or sad in
Lolas Eric Elie