More than 200 years ago, a massive deportation of African slaves to the coasts of the French colony of Saint Dominique created a new Pan African state. These new immigrants brought with them a set of beliefs that slowly evolved into the religion we call Vodou today. Haitians all over the world practice their religion against a Hollywood created stigma that portrays the religion as associated with black magic. Vodou is quite the opposite; it is a religion that is full of life, color, and spirit. Haitian artists and Vodou practitioners all over the world have taken it upon themselves to manifest the light from within their beliefs. Edouard Duval-Carrié is one such Haitian painter and sculptor whose family immigrated to Puerto Rico during the François Duvalier regime when he was a child.
Now a Miami resident, and a Bernice Steinbaum Gallery represented artist, Duval-Carrié nurtures the South Florida Haitian culture through his impressive pieces with an emphasis on Vodou religion. This past month, the artist graced the Miami Beach Botanical Garden with large-scale resin sculptures of the Vodou Gods/Lwas; “The Haitian cultural community is coming of age and it is important to represent that in our local venues,” says Miami Beach Botanical Garden’s Executive Director Laura Jamieson. Vodou characterizes the essence of the Haitian people; this artist’s devotion to its positive projection is truly creative and inspirational, “It has been a pleasure working with Edouard,” says Jamieson, “He has a positive outlook on life and an incredibly large vision.” Although these larger than life sculptures are somewhat of a departure from the artist’s more traditional wall mounted pieces, his figurative style is definitely not lost in translation.
The goddesses of love, Ezrulie, the god of war, Ogou, and others are protagonists in this enjoyable outdoor exhibit. The colors of the resin pieces complement the gardens’ ambiance in such a way that Jamieson calls “organic”; she speaks of the way in which the sculptures have almost become a part of the garden as she walks me through its paths on a breezy Monday afternoon. “The garden can be a showcase for beautiful and innovative art, it is not just about pretty pictures,” Jamieson explains, “We like the organic feel of the pieces and materials and art that tells a story.” The garden’s exhibit of Duval-Carrié’s Vodou Gods has had an enormously positive response from Miami locals and visitors. Jamieson recalls and event called Sleepless Night this past November in which art lovers gathered at the garden for an all-nighter: “The event was really wonderful,” she says, “with people taking pictures by the lit-up sculptures while others relaxed on the garden lawns”. The Miami Beach Botanical Garden continues its participation in the enrichment of the Miami community, as with this enlightening exhibit, through a series of monthly lectures and the continued presence of The Vodou Gods.