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In Front of Thousands of Collectors, Haiti's Earthquake Spurs Miami Art Fair Projects
Visitors take photos of Bobby O' Neill's art work, "Face of Haiti," during the annual Art Basel Miami Beach international art fair in downtown Miami, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. Thousands of collectors are in Miami for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach international art fair, and for other contemporary art fairs and museum exhibits. Haitian artists and advocates hope they can gain influence and money for projects to improve the lives of more than 1.5 million people still homeless nearly a year after the earthquake, amid a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 1,900 since October. AP Photo/Alan Diaz.

By: Jennifer Kay, Associated Press

MIAMI (AP).- A young boy reaching toward a glimmer of light took shape as Haitian graffiti artist Jerry Rosembert Moise sprayed paint on the wall of an impoverished neighborhood's youth center.

It's the kind of clearly hopeful image Moise developed after a catastrophic earthquake leveled his hometown of Port-au-Prince in January.

"I used to do caricatures, but now I try to be more realistic to get more attention for helping the country," Moise said during a break from his painting Thursday night.

Moise, who gained international attention for his images after the earthquake, is among the artists taking advantage of the art fair crowds in Miami this week to highlight Haiti's ongoing struggles and raise funds for earthquake victims.

Thousands of collectors are in Miami for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach international art fair, and for other contemporary art fairs and museum exhibits.

Haitian artists and advocates hope they can gain influence and money for projects to improve the lives of more than 1.5 million people still homeless nearly a year after the earthquake, amid a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 1,900 since October.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami scheduled an exhibit of portraits of Miami's Haitian community by fashion photographer Bruce Weber specifically for the Art Basel crowds. Some of the images in "Bruce Weber: Haiti/Little Haiti" were shot in the same streets where Weber has photographed fashion magazine spreads.

The faces Weber has captured on film in Little Haiti since 2003 show the long-reaching effects of the earthquake and U.S. foreign policy.

A young girl detained for six months by U.S. immigration authorities won't smile and fixes her eyes on the ground. A plumber with an intravenous tube running from his nose spreads his scarred hands on his hospital bed to show he can still work. Women cradling small children in their laps crowd shoulder to shoulder in church pews. A young couple in wheelchairs tentatively hold hands.

The Haiti Art Expo is selling new paintings by contemporary artist Philippe Dodard, along with artwork by other Haitian artists, to benefit earthquake relief efforts. At its opening Thursday night, Haitian voodoo drumming rivaled a DJ's electronic beats in the next gallery.

Meanwhile, outside a downtown hotel, a cluster of large, colorful tents isn't just for show. In the words of Antuan, the artist who organized the Base Paint Tents project with Fundacion Manos del Sur and the Step by Step Foundation, it is a "utilitarian art installation."

The 10 heavy-duty tents will become classrooms for children living near the Port-au-Prince airport in a camp managed by Haitian soccer star Bobby Duval.

While Haiti desperately needs new housing and schools, reconstruction efforts have stalled with just a trickle of pledged international aid delivered to the Caribbean country. These tents were chosen for their mobility and ability to withstand harsh conditions for years.

"We see the reality of almost a year (since the quake) and the rubble is still there," Antuan said. "The tents are going to be there for a long time."

Duval's brother, Miami-based artist Edouard Duval Carrie, is among the 10 artists who painted the tents. Duval Carrie also organized a separate, two-part show at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, "The Global Caribbean II: Caribbean Trilogy."

Along with works by Duval Carrie, Cuban artist Jose Bedia and Dominican artist Jose Garcia Cordero, it includes new textiles commissioned from three Haitian artists after the quake. Jean Joseph Jean-Baptiste stitched Voodoo-inspired fantasies into beaded and sequined flags, while deities emerge from layers of buttons and found objects sewn together by a pair who sign their work as Kongo Laroze.

Duval Carrie said he commissioned textiles instead of paintings because textile artists will employ more earthquake survivors.

"They're like ateliers. They have 15 families working for them," Duval Carrie said.

None of the textile artists could secure a visa to travel to Miami for the exhibit's opening Friday. Ira Lowenthal of Men Nou Gallery, which represents Jean-Baptiste, blamed U.S. bureaucracy and said he planned to return to Port-au-Prince to argue on the artists' behalf.

"The U.S. should be trying to promote what's positive in Haiti, what makes Haiti special and why we should be helping Haiti," Lowenthal said.



Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

The Museum of Contemporary Art | Miami | Jerry Rosembert Moise |




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