The Palo Alto Art Center is currently exhibiting the Paintings From Haiti collection of Dr. Ralph Greco and Dr. Irene Warpner. This series features 9 paintings that use symbols and hierarchy to depict deities in Haitian Voodoo, a deep-rooted West African belief, where the world of spirits meet the fantasies of the artist’s imagination.
Animal themes are conveyed in Jasmin Joseph’s Untitled, depicting anthropomorphic animals along with an angel and a white rabbit, which is a self-portrait. Next, Roland Blain’s Untitled acrylic on canvas is an animal figure of an anteater. Jacques Enguerrand Gourgue uses a dark, rich palette of shadowy mysticism. His Mystical Symbols, Old Voodoo, and Preparation, all acrylic on canvas, elaborate animal symbols such as snakes, rats, and pigs. Preparation also extends the ritualistic theme by depicting potions and herbs being prepared for voodoo. Ritualistic scenes are further echoed in Leve Zombi, an acrylic on canvas, by Gerard Valcin, where “veve”, or voodoo ritualistic symbols of ash, flour, and cornmeal are on the floor as worshipers circle around to invoke Vodou spirits. Mambo, by Carlos Jean Baptiste, depicts a ritual preparation by a “mambo”, a priestess who is the female counterpart of vodou (the central male figure) in a Houngan ritual. Finally, Dream, an oil on board by the Haitian Surrealist Celestin Faustin, depicts a sleeping Haitian woman dreaming of celestial beings in a hut, also echoed by Lady, an oil on board, by Emilcar Similien, which is a young Haitian woman reclining in a hammock.
Most painters working in surrealistic style depict an interaction between loas (vodou spirits) and human beings, while the “fairy-tale” scenes represent a joyous world removed from the cares of everyday life. This exhibit runs through December 12 and Museum is open until 5 pm. Art dialogues are held on most Saturdays at 2 pm.