Art outside the Box: Haitian Painter Edouard Duval Carrie Revels in Magical Realism as He Explores Such Themes as the Clash of Cultures in the Caribbean and the Melding of Religions in Voodoo

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The name "Haiti" comes from an indigenous word meaning "mountainous land," for its rugged geography that always leads to the sea. It is the birthplace of artist Edouard Duval Carrie, who through his works has created a world of Caribbean myths and a series of pictorial narrations about the spirit of his homeland.

Duval Carrie found his calling at an early age, studying at Haiti's Centre d'Art before earning an art degree at the University of Loyola in Montreal and studying at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. With this storehouse of knowledge, he moved to Miami and developed a successful career with exhibitions at museums in Latin America, France, and the United States.

Since the 1990s, Duval Carrie has had exhibitions at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Monterrey, Mexico; the Musee National des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie in Paris--whose exhibit on the influence of the French Revolution in the tropics traveled to various countries--and the Music du College St. Pierre in Port-au-Prince, among others. In the United States, he has shown at the Phoenix Art Museum, the Coral Springs Museum of Art and Lowe Art Museum in Miami, and the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, whose group exhibition Sacred Arts of Haitian Voodoo traveled to several leading museums in the United States. His works are in numerous private collections and international museums.

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Duval Carrie focuses on themes about Haiti: its history and the influence of French culture, slavery, Voodoo, and the diaspora. His paintings are mirrors that reflect the contradictions between freedom and dependence, the French and Creole cultures, the clash of races, social tensions, and immigration--mirrors that seek to capture the spirit of Haiti. His art reveals a permanent duality: the magical and the real; the idyllic and the tragic; life and death. In his aesthetic, the beautiful coexists with the terrible. At times, Surrealism emerges as part of a dreamlike, associative game and becomes one with Voodoo cosmogony. The spirits share the world of the living, and the living turn into spirits. His work also falls within the neo-Baroque style, with its feeling of exaggeration and fear of a vacuum, as well as its powerful signs and symbols, strong rhythms and vivid palette, and elaborate ritualistic ornamentation.

It's worth stepping back for a moment to remember that at the beginning of the twentieth century, Europe gained a new appreciation for African art, partly due to discoveries of artistically rich areas such as Benin and Nigeria. This look toward Africa had a considerable influence on European modern art--in Latin American art too, though in that case it was due to the African influx that began in colonial times.

Black art grew out of a legendary wisdom with popular and tribal roots--a worldview with contradictory images that are easier to understand intuitively than rationally. It evokes hidden feelings, mysterious ideas, and a secretive world driven by spiritual forces. That world arrived on the shores of the Americas through cross-culturalization and conquest. One of its manifestations is Voodoo, which fuses together aspects of various African religions and Catholicism, and was created by Africans who arrived on the island of Haiti.

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Haitian painting is tied closely to Voodoo, a spiritual and cultural phenomenon that expresses a certain psychological behavior and the artistic impulse of a people through dance, music, and visual arts. It is both religion and artistic expression; that relationship has been evident since the beginning, and is a constant in the history of Haitian art.

Artists such as Gerard Valcin, Hector Hyppolite, Prefete Duffaut, Andre Pierre, and others have depicted ceremonies and spirits called "loas." Thus, Haitian art was not inclined to incorporate Catholic themes as was the case throughout Latin America; rather, the Haitian aesthetic is inspired in the world of Voodoo. …