You understand, no matter how democratic they become or can be, one doubts that they can develop and progress with an ever growing population staying as little isolated nations.
- You can say that, generally, people from that area have a basic history that is relatively similar. BUT, within those people that are there, there are millions of different people in the Caribbean. This is one of the major melting pots of this planet. - EDC
Stella Jones Gallery, New Orleans
March 31- April 30
by D. Eric Bookhardt, New Orleans, Louisiana
Coming in the final days of the Haitian Voudou extravaganzas at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center, Edouard Duval-Carrie's colorfully occult show at Stella Jones marked the final phase of an unusually Caribbean art season. Actually, Carrie was represented in those other shows as well, but the lyrical authenticity of his vision was most apparent in this one man Stella Jones expo.
It was an appropriate closing act because, of all the Haitian artists whose works have graced local walls of late, Carrie may be the closest in style and tone to the homegrown Louisiana aesthetic. Haiti and Louisiana were the principal places where "vodou"-or voodoo-attained currency as an autonomous cultural force, and Carrie's mythic surrealism recalls the buoyant hallucinatory mysticism of Acadian artists like Douglas Bourgeois and Francis Pavy, among others. His otherworldly images resonate a variety of related themes, and in a city where streets are named for muses and the big local holiday celebrates mythic figures like Bacchus, Iris and Endymion, Carrie's dreamlike spectacles fit right in.
Of course, some people may have been taken aback to discover that most of his subjects are Les Mysteres, the "loas" or nature spirits of the voodoo religion. And if most are merely colorful, it is also true that some can seem spooky. Baron Samedi (Baron Saturday) for instance, is a chthonic spirit, an impresario of death, procreation and the kinds of things that can give most Americans a fairly acute case of the creeps. In this sense, Baron Samedi might be a little too pagan, too occult for comfort.
Perceptions and perspectives play a role in this, however. The old Roman harvest god Saturn was also linked with sex and death, but was fondly remembered until the Dark Ages, when pious churchmen took offense at those lingering Saturnalias-carnivals descended from the ancient winter fertility festivals-and spread rumors that Saturn and Satan were one and the same. In the end, of course, Carnival survived, only it was no longer called the Saturnalia. Curiously, no one remembered to expunge Saturn's name from the calendar, where he still reigns on Saturn's day: Saturday.
Similarly, Friday is the day of Freya, the Norse goddess of love who corresponds with the voudou loa Erzulie; and Thursday is the day of Thor, the Norse thunder god, a blue-eyed cousin of the voodoo loa Ogun. From this perspective, the cultural differences are not so pronounced after all. In this vein, Carrie's colorfully personified loas are peculiar, but not unsympathetic, figures. In fact, Carrie paints them with an almost familial sense of intimacy.
Employing something of the surreal dream realism of Haitian visionary masters like Celestin Faustin, Carrie provides us with a highly personal, insider's perspective on the unseen forces that guide Caribbean life. That the voodoo loas, like the Greek, Roman, and Norse deities, lead lives not so very different from mortals can be seen in a trilogy of paintings dealing with the travail of Haitians escaping to Florida. But here it is Les Mysteres, the loas, who are crossing dangerous waters. In The Magic Calabash some luminous loas attract Coast Guard cutters to the rescue-but it is perhaps The Landing that best expresses Carrie's sense of worlds in collision as the loas Simbi, Erzulie, and Baron Samedi stand on a Florida beach looking dazed and disoriented as the bright lights and office towers of Miami light up the night sky behind them.
Of course, dangerous crossings had been endured before, on the slave ships that transported them from Africa in the first place. In fact, migration is a recurring theme in Haitian art, with its emphasis on migrations of peoples and spirits from the visible to the invisible worlds and back again. All of this is more than amply realized in the work at Stella Jones, where the family tree of the loas appears in full flower. In this series of startling portraits that are also self contained little worlds, we are confronted with the engaging forms of Erzulie, Nana Buluko, and various other Mysteres, and there can be no doubt that, for Carrie at least, the loas are not only as real as you or me, but probably even more so. A remarkable, ethereally beautiful show-a window on a magic kingdom of vivid Caribbean mysteries.
- Edouard Duval-Carrie
- Size: 31x31 Framed
- Medium: Acrylic
- Support: Canvas
- For Sale by Private Collector