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25496: Wharram - news - Waterloo center brings out reclusive Haitian's paintings (fwd)
From Bruce Wharram <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Published June 26, 2005
PHOTOS SPECIAL THE REGISTER
"Animals in the Landscape," by Odilon Pierre
WHAT: "Odilon Pierre: Artis d'Ayiti" includes paintings and carvings by the
Haitian artist from the collection of Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme.
Also on view is a companion exhibit of Frank Polyak's photos of Haiti,
"Island of Spirits."
WHERE: Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial St., Waterloo
CONTACT: (319) 291-4490,
Waterloo center brings out reclusive Haitian's paintings
By AMANDA PIERRE
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
In the mid-1980s, when film director Jonathan Demme was likely taking in
ideas for "Silence of the Lambs," he stumbled across an unusual stall in the
Iron Market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Amid the lively chaos of the market, this stall was quiet - boarded up and
screened in. Demme later wrote that "it offered unusual half-glimpses of
stacks and walls filled with dust-coated canvases and wood carvings."
Some of the paintings had faces that stared out with confrontational eyes;
others, with flora and fauna, had a Rousseau-like naivete; and still others
were a mix of striking abstract patterns and earthy colors.
These works are now at the Waterloo Center for the Arts in an exhibit called
"Odilon Pierre: Atis d'Ayiti." They've been dusted off but not prettied up
for museum viewing. Most lack frames and are still tacked to boards,
allowing the paintings to maintain a bit of mystery in their patina
Pierre (no relation to the writer) was a reclusive painter who rarely manned
his stall. It was kept locked for most of 30 years. He said in a 1995
interview, three years before his death: "Everything is internal. . . . I
try not to be too noticeable. I stay calm, unnoticed."
Other market vendors called him crazy because he didn't want to sell his art
for reasonable prices. But Demme wanted it, so he tracked down the man and
bought several works.
"Devotees at Souvenance," Gonaive, Haiti, by Frank Polyak
The works are nestled neatly in the Waterloo Center for the Arts' large
collection of Haitian works, the biggest in the nation, according to curator
"A lot of Haitian art falls into religious subject matter. Pierre's work is
intensely personal, sweet, quite different from a lot of Haitian art,"
Visitors can see examples of other Haitian art also on view in the museum,
as part of an exhibit of portraits, for example.
In an exhibit directly related to Pierre's, Canadian photographer Frank
Polyak documented Haiti's people on his visits to the country starting in
"Some of these beliefs and ceremonies have not changed in a millennia,"
"The intense desire to feel connected to a higher power, a force or creator,
is amazingly powerful in the Haitian people."
Polyak captured images of women, men and children caught up in religious
fervor. Descriptive placards accompanying the pieces educate viewers on the
vodoun religion Haitians practice, an oft-misunderstood melding of African
god worship, Catholicism and, sometimes, popular culture.
Copyright © 2004, The Des Moines Register.