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"Make Milwaukee": Week 4.1 | MAM's Haitian Art Exhibit

Listen: As I referenced in a recent post, the early days of my art appreciation career were largely shaped by the caring guidance of MAM's wonderful docents. Whether it was the Bradley Gallery, contemporary art, Netherlandish portraiture, relics, or whatever, the artworks were brought to life through the shared imagination of myself, my classmates, and our docent. For one reason or another, some paintings got an enduring personal stamp of approval, earning a distinct place in my memory. Recently, as I was led around the Haitian exhibit, each and every painting brought me back to the first time I saw it. There was some clear story, both within the painting and without, that immediately came to mind -- this collection can certainly make an imprint on a viewer. After incomprehensible disaster struck Haiti, the Milwaukee Art Museum's collection is now the most important in the world, a fact that is at the same time tragic and humbling. Haiti is certainly geographically remote from Milwaukee, so this is an odd fact to wrap one's head around. But while the window to take advantage of such an opportunity exists, we should embrace this collection and develop a greater understanding of the Haitian culture. During the fourth week of Make Milwaukee, Sarah Patterson of True Skool suggested that we do just that, picking the Haitian collection as a stop on her tour of art in Milwaukee. And when we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum, we were remarkably lucky to borrow some time from Chief Curator, Brady Roberts, who gave us a brief but in depth tour of the exhibit. In this first piece, Brady details how such an amazing collection landed in the Milwaukee Art Museum:

The first section of the tour, Brady details how an American expatriate helped establish a community center where Haitian artists gathered and ushered in a golden period of Haitian art:

Brady discusses the painting above, Hector Hyppolite's painting of St. Francis and the Christ child, getting into how it may have been influenced and interpreted by the French:

Across from the religiously oriented works are the history paintings, a collection works documenting major events in Haitian history:

We stand in front of Philomé Obin's take on a major uprising in Haiti's history:

How oil drums left over from World War II became a major sculptural movement in Haiti:

An oil drum, something that is by most accounts trash, can turn into a phenomenal work of art:

Brady unravels racial hierarchy that hides behind the masks in a painting depicting Carnival:

Finally, Sarah Patterson reacts to Brady's tour, drawing parallels between the community at the foundation of Haitian art and the one they're building at True Skool: Of course, there's only so much depth you can grasp from recreations on a blog. Go to the exhibit and soak in this amazing collection yourself.

P r o d u c e d by: Adam Carr

Music: Selections from an ace Soul Jazz compilation entitled Voodoo Drums: Drummers Of The Societe Absolument Gunin