CASPER, Wyo. — The art comes from dusty Haitian streets. It's sold among the rubble; on fences, tarps and cinder block walls.
But with its vivid colors and depictions of daily life, it speaks more of determination than despair.
Jill Hendricks found the pieces during a July visit to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. As she traveled the city, she'd stop to buy art from street vendors. The Casper resident encountered desperate, hungry people struggling to survive in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that devastated the country in January.
Their work told a different story.
“There's a sense of buoyance that comes through in the art,” said Hendricks, coordinator for Wyoming Haiti Relief. “The very first piece I bought, the fields are green and lush. Women collected giant bags of food. There was optimism there.”
The art collected by Hendricks and other members of Wyoming Haiti Relief will be shown this weekend at The Corridor Gallery in downtown Casper. Proceeds from “The Art of Determination,” which opens at 7 p.m. Friday, will fund future relief work.
“Even in the context of everything that is happening ... in Haiti, we are focusing on something positive and uplifting about the future,” she said.
The show's origins date back to June, when Hendricks approached the gallery about doing a fundraiser with a mix of original Haitian art and works done by a Cheyenne woman who visited the country after the earthquake.
Zak Pullen, one of the gallery's owners, wanted a different approach, putting on a show exclusively using Haitian art. He asked Hendricks to buy as much artwork as she could on her next trip to Port-au-Prince. She'd be supporting local artists, and after she returned to Casper, the works could be sold at the gallery to raise money for additional relief projects.
“The beauty of the show is ... you are not only buying a piece of Haitian art to display at your home or office or whatever, but that money will make it directly back to Haitians,” Pullen said.
“It won't go the government. It will go to the people.”
The show will feature 20 to 30 canvases, as well as a handful of three-dimensional works. They are uniquely Haitian. Some pieces were painted on sections of clothing and tents delivered to the country as part of the relief effort.
“They can't run down to the art supply store and get pre-made canvases,” he said. “Everything is from scratch. I think that is what intrigued me the most.”
The art offers a window into Haitian life, one that is different from the scenes depicted in news reports. Using vivid colors and intricate details, they depict rural scenes and people working with one another, Pullen said. The art feels tropical, but also reflects the chaotic nature of daily life.
Pullen said he was struck by the resiliency that comes across in the work. It stems from people responding to their surroundings the only way they know how: creating art.
“I'm looking forward to seeing it on the wall because chances are most of this stuff was taken off a canvas, makeshift wall or a cinder block wall where it was bought,” he said. “And now it is in an art gallery in the United States. I think that is pretty cool. I think it would make the artist proud.”
Contact Joshua Wolfson at firstname.lastname@example.org 307-266-0582.