The Haitian Paintings
Haiti is known as one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and it is important to understand why Haiti is so poor. Haiti did not become poor by accident, but as a result of actions of the U.S. Government. The U.S. has supported violent coups and complied in trade and lending policies that have destroyed Haiti’s civil society, crashed its economy and turned a food exporting country into a food importing country. In 1991, the U.S. the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank required that Haiti open its economy to foreign trade. Haitian tariff on rice was reduced from 35% to 3%, the lowest in the Caribbean. At the beginning of the 80s, Haiti grew the majority of its own rice. It had farmers, land and techniques to grow rice sustainably. Because of trade policies pushed by Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Haitian rice farmers were forced to compete directly with US rice farmers.
In “The Haitian Paintings”, Icart-Pierre sets out to produce a series of paintings using the Haitian earthquake of 2010 as the focus in order to deconstruct this Haitian nightmare. He looks at what happened before, during, and after the earthquake to highlight this “political terrorism” and the irony of what he calls the “policy of rice”. Icart-Pierre looks at social economical and political circumstances that caused the chaos that existed and continues to exist in Haiti today. These works of art serve as a “looking glass” or a mirror that allows us to look at ourselves, and maybe understand how Haiti arrived where it is today. There is the bitter irony of seeing giant tarp bags of rice stamped with stars and stripes and labels that say “Gift from the people of the United States”. It makes you want to scream.
In these paintings, Icart-Pierre reproduces familiar images, visual signs and words, arranging and layering them conceptually. These works are an amalgamation of Haiti’s nightmares. In them, you will find the “screaming man”, a metaphor for pain, anger and fear. Sometimes you will find words such as “kolera”, referencing the cholera epidemic; or “kadejak”, the Haitian word for “rape”, which is referencing the abuse that women are subjected to in temporary tent cities. The makeshift tents were poorly constructed out of donated tarps, ropes, and any other available materials. Icart-Pierre also uses “tarp” to paint on to create “memory” or a “history” and to convey the loss of hope and the absence of meaning that exist in Haiti today. There are obvious implications and connotations regarding materials such as tarp, the material donated and used by the tent dwellers. These works of art are also showing that chaos can be conquered. People are working, organizing and trying to rebuild. All the paintings are stamped with stencilled images of the phoenix, a mythical bird that rises from its fiery ashes and comes back to life.