Young and talented Haitian artist Annick Duvivier describes herself as having a passion for life and a deep dedication to the arts. In a constant search for beauty, the artist is open to new ideas, along with opportunities to express herself and share her vision of the world.
I met Annick during my most recent trip to Port-au-Prince and was mesmerized by her work on display at Festival Arts Haiti. I purchased the fabulous nude paintings “Entre deux amis inséparables” and “Le problème.”
MJ: How did you become an artist?
ANNICK: During my teenage years, in order to keep me active in the summer, my parents enrolled me in different classes, from piano and ballet, to tennis and swimming. I didn’t like any of them. “You have to pick something and stick to it,” they said. That’s when my father suggested drawing lessons with one of his friends, the revered Ralph Allen.
After one session or two, Ralph Allen said that I didn’t need drawing lessons; my technique was, in fact, far more advanced than that of my veteran classmates. He recommended that I move on to painting immediately.
And that was that. It’s been a love story ever since.
Tell us about your art education.
I studied in the heart of La Romana, in the Dominican Republic, at the Altos de Chavón. It’s an artist’s paradise, a retreat from the world, with everything you need for inspiration: the biggest “art library” of the Caribbean and a stunning natural environment. I liked that everything was on site (teachers, residencies…) and that it was very intense. I responded with enthusiasm to the load of work given each week in Spanish, the third language I had to learn. At Altos de Chavón, you barely have time to sleep—god only knows how much I love my bed!—and yet I would often wake up before my alarm went off, with a big smile. I was so excited [laughs]. The experience was too short, as it only lasted two years.
What are some of your influences?
I have many influences, but very specific things that I appreciate from different artists.
A few names that come to mind from our pool of Haitian artists: Rachel Castera for the themes she embraces and the harmony of her palette, Rody Sannon for his very clean technique, Rachel Scott for the expressions of her brushstrokes, and Galland Semerand for his detail work.
Among the world-renowned artists: Gustav Klimt (my favorite artist) for his style and his use of gold leaf, Picasso for his technique and liberty, and Lucian Freud for his use of real skin tones and the positioning of his nude subjects.
What inspires you?
I am very connected to my environment and anything inspires me, from the color or shape of a leaf, to actual works of art. I just came back from a very instructive trip to NY and I’ve visited museum and galleries housing world-renowned pieces. It felt wonderful to actually see up close the textures and real colors. I was also happily surprised to realize that, in comparison, the art of my country is also of high quality.
What mediums do you work from?
I mostly use acrylics on canvas, newspaper collage, oil pastel, charcoal, and pencils. I also utilize digital programs, such as Photoshop, for my illustrations.
What are your favorite pieces of work that you have done and why?
One of my favorite pieces is the big painting “Mimi” I did in 2009. I’ve learned so much with this piece. It took me six weeks of sweat, frustration and tears to create it. I was struggling with both the size and the background, and I searched and changed and repainted over a dozen times until I got it right.
I am very happy with the results. I feel that I’ve accomplished something grand and that feels great.
The other one I love is a self-portrait I did in art school. I see and feel myself in it. In the painting, I have short hair and look older but nevertheless myself. It has a nice lighting game that transfers a lot of emotion.
What would you say is the most important lesson you have learned in your life as an artist, and how do you apply it to your art?
The most important lesson that I’ve learned is that you are never done learning. It doesn’t matter where you are from or how good you are, there’s always room for improvement and growth.
Also, lessons can come from surprising people. I once had this man show me how to paint miniature trees; he’d never attended art school, and yet he was a really good painter.
I’ve learned to stay simple and not allow my success to give me a big head.
Dealing with an often closed minded society who frowns over certain subjects and styles. (Of course there are exceptions). Painting nudes in Haiti, for example, is almost like breaking the law; you get judged and criticized because of the theme; many people don’t take the time to consider the beauty of the work itself.
Have people value my work. I work at the Festival Arts Haiti gallery. Visitors every day that they like this or that, not knowing I am the artist. When someone falls in love with my work, it’s very encouraging.
Tell us about the artistic community in Haiti
We have a very sophisticated artistic community. Almost everybody is an artist in Haiti—a painter, a musician, a singer, or a writer. How can an illiterate country have so many writers? This year, at “Livres en Folie,” the annual book fair, 135 authors were signing new titles. Recently, I was very pleased to visit the Pen Club’s first residency home, set to receive eight writers.
I wish to see more collaboration among artists. They are well informed but don’t really get along, which is a shame because we have so much to share and learn from one another.
What are your other hobbies/activities?
I work full time at the Festival Arts gallery where I paint everyday and plan exhibits throughout the year. I also teach painting and drawing to kids and adults. I am a freelance illustrator and take writing classes with renowned author Gary Victor on Saturdays…
Annick is now preparing a “Marine group exhibition” with three other artists for the beginning of October at the Festival Arts gallery, in Haiti. She’s creating boats, ocean views, seashells… and more, from various sizes, 4” x 6” to 40” x 60”. She’s very excited about it.
Festival Arts is located at 43, rue Magny, in Pétion-Ville. The owner can be contacted by email at Festivalartshaiti@yahoo.fr or by phone at 509-3716-0018.
You can visit Annick’s blog here.