Haitian artist showcases exhibit at the Berrie Center

Photo by Kim Bongard

Both the Kresge and Pascal Galleries of the Berrie Center are currently presenting the diverse multimedia artwork of renowned international artist Pascale Monnin. The Swiss-Haitian artist explained the influences behind her work during an Artist’s Talk at the exhibition’s opening reception on Wednesday March 28.

Monnin’s exhibition titled “The Birth of the Hummingbird and Other Marvels” continues Ramapo’s tradition of showcasing the work of exceptional Haitian artists, and fostering continuous conversation about the Haitian art that’s featured on campus.

“The Birth of the Hummingbird and Other Marvels” taps into many different emotions through an array of different mediums, from paint on smooth canvas to jagged mirrors impressed into cement.

Monnin's vibrant color palette speaks in cool blues, rich greens and lush reds among other bright hues evocative of a pleasant spring aesthetic. Sophomore visual arts major Giselle Ruiz took an in-depth approach to understanding Monnin’s work.

“This reminds me a lot of medieval art because a lot of medieval art has the halo around its head and the colors of yellows and greens and reds,” she said. “The fact that I can relate this art that looks like other art, I think that’s really cool.”

Beyond their illuminating color schemes, the paintings also pose introspective questions about nearly all stages of life, ranging from the early days of childhood to the complexities of adulthood. During the exhibition's opening reception, Monnin explained why the agile hummingbird is so viscerally symbolic in her work.

In spite of their small appearance, hummingbirds have remarkable mechanics capable of propelling their bodies at nearly 200 flaps per second. When creating her work, Monnin discovered the hummingbird was the idyllic symbol to represent adults and children alike, who are similarly small in size yet so powerful in their abilities.

“I have spoken extensively to her about some of her work and I think they are beautiful, especially the way she portrays the hummingbird,” said senior graduate student Nurudeen Musah. “It’s actually for me, it represents life, the idea of life, human beings being delicate, but within us we have strengths and capacity to do a lot of things.”

Only footsteps away, the Pascal Gallery further amplifies the “Other Marvels” part of the exhibition, with more graphic portraiture work and larger spinning mobiles. One corner of the room is flagged with loud political campaign posters, referencing the large cast of political candidates that campaigned in Haiti’s recent election.

Among other rotating mobiles made of beads and feathers, concrete heads with facial features of fragmented mirrors and glass are suspended from the ceiling, each spinning at their own pace shooting specks of white light all across the room.The scattered light revolving around the dim room feels like a scene from Yayoi Kusama’s immersive Infinity Mirror Room exhibition. 

Following Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Monnin collected shards of mirrors and glass that were left behind to assemble these tridimensional portraits. Aptly titled "Fragmented," these lifelike concrete heads portray the complexity of human nature and each person's fragmented individuality. 

Pascale Monnin's artwork will be on display until April 20 in the Kresge and Pascal Galleries, both located on the second floor of the Berrie Center. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Wednesday from 1 to 7 p.m.