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March 10, 2016


For Immediate Release
 
Festival International de Louisiane Exhibits Chairman
Buz Reid
 
Haiti Exhibit Curator:
Herman Mhire
 
 
Haiti: Paintings from Paradise Opens at the Acadiana Center for the Arts
Exhibit Celebrating 30th Anniversary of Festival International de Louisiane
 
(Lafayette, La.) - In September 2015 Buz Reid, Board Member and Exhibition Committee Chair of Festival International de Louisiane, introduced Herman Mhire to Yvonne and Glenn Stokes of New Iberia, Louisiana, and their extraordinary collection of Haitian paintings. Mhire proposed organizing an exhibition of selections from their collection on the occasion of Festival International’s 30th anniversary in the spring of 2016. With the moral and financial support of the Festival organization, Festival President Scott Feehan, and members of the Festival Exhibition Committee, organization of the project began.
 
In December 2015, Gerd Wuestemann, Director of the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Brian Guidry, Chief Curator, and Mary Beyt, Curator, agreed to feature the exhibition in the galleries of the AcA in March and April 2016. This was followed by the awarding of a generous grant from the Elemore Morgan, Jr. Visual Arts Endowment fund at the Community Foundation of Acadiana, supporting the publication of a full color exhibition catalog.
 
In January 2016 important supplemental loans were secured from the collections of John Allen Franciscus, Madlyn and Paul Hilliard, and Sandra and Joel Wallins, bringing the total number of paintings in the exhibition to more than 100.
 

Glenn and Yvonne Stokes Collection, Rodrigue Mervilus, “Butterflies"
 
The vibrant, celebratory paintings in this exhibition serve as a testament to the spirit, courage and perseverance of the people of Haiti, and simultaneously signify a return of the visual arts as a major component of Festival International de Louisiane.
 
The subjects of Haitian painting vary greatly: from flora and fauna to scenes of daily life in the city, domestic interiors and the marketplace, to fishing and harvesting sugar cane (Wilson Bigaud, Laurent Casimir, Michel Obin, T. Bussimus, C. V. Benoit, J. David Siede, Gerard Fortune, and Petion Savain); from animal and botanical imagery (Paul Nemours, Rodrigue Mervilus, Gesner Abelard, Sisson Blanchard, St. Pierre Toussaint), politics and government (Gervais Emmanuel Ducasse, Augustin Pierre, Jacques Cherry) and biblical themes (Bourmond Byron) to voodoo and the metaphysical (Gerard Valcin, Bernard Wah, Felix Jean, Barbara Prezeau).
 
The painting tradition in Haitian is complex, reflecting African and European influences, and expressed in a wide variety of styles from naïve / self-taught to academically trained and abstract. What is truly remarkable about Haiti is the visual feast produced by a nation of painters in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The language of this island nation lacking a written cultural tradition is art, straight to poetry, bypassing prose.
 

Glenn and Yvonne Stokes Collection, Michel Obin, “Village”
 
Perhaps what is most striking about the painting tradition in Haiti, unrefined and sacred, is its ability to rise above tragedy and evoke optimism.
 
Glenn and Yvonne Stokes are the featured collectors for the exhibit. Glenn, entomologist, horticulturalist, consultant to the World Health Organization and governments around the world, became an expert in mosquito and malaria control after receiving degrees in biology, chemistry, zoology and entomology from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, University of Nebraska, Harvard University and the University of Florida.
 
From 1970 to 1982, Glenn Stokes worked in Haiti, visiting the island nation more than 250 times, often accompanied by his wife, Yvonne. The couple became interested in the art and artists of Haiti and began to form a collection that today includes approximately 400 paintings. Their collection represents primarily the artists, collectors and art galleries they came to know during that twelve-year period.
 
Mhire served as the Director and Chief Curator to the Paul & Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum while also serving as a Professor of Art and Design at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette prior to retiring in 2005. He also served as Director for the Louisiana Association of Museums and University Art Museum. He has served on many community boards and has received many awards for his work in visual arts and the community.
 

Glenn and Yvonne Stokes Collection, Wilson Bigaud, “Noah’s Ark"

Four full color commemorative posters and the 48 page full color catalog that accompany the exhibitionare made possible by a grant from the Elemore Morgan, Jr. Visual Arts Endowment, a fund at the Community Foundation of Acadiana. The posters and the catalog will be available for purchase at the Acadiana Center for the Arts through the end of the exhibition on April 30, 2016.
 
Copy credit to the Haiti: Paintings from Paradise catalog.
 
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