Essay about Haitian Artist Albott Bonhomme

                            By Fred Thomas / August 2011

Bonhomme’s paintings, which always portray lush rain forests reminiscent of an archetypal lost paradise deeply engrained in our collective psyche, inhabited by colorful parrots and other winged denizens, epitomize some sort of perfection within the primitive genre. If his inspiration is drawn from the naïve pool, his pictorial outputs suggest, however, nothing remotely disjointed let alone irrational.

One of the most salient characteristics of Bonhomme’ art pieces is the neatness of the composition along with the harmony that permeates the whole picture. The colors are applied in such a way that his style reminds the old masters in their way of applying layers upon layers to achieve the wanted finish.

In spite of his aloofness and non-adherence to artistic schools, he persists in conveying via his oeuvre a message of hope even when common sense tends to advise otherwise. It is probably this inflexible optimism that allows the country to survive for so long

His palette accordingly reveals a predominance of green, sometimes blue, accentuated by a few warm colors such as orange, red, violet, whose amalgam gives to the whole an aura of otherworldliness where only depiction of Adam and Eve, the muses, ancestors, nature spirits, are missing.

The above mentioned green overtone as well as the mixture of other subdue tones imbues Bonhomme’s creative outputs with a feeling of peace which invite the onlookers to give in and let themselves immerse in that blissful universe where shapes and hue becomes subtle intoxicating songs whose poignant melodies envelop their submissive preys and penetrate their languorous souls until perfect interconnection is achieved.
Bonhomme’s originality stems from his persistence in depicting primeval lush forest with minimal variation. His skills, however, are so consummate that they never tire the beholders who see in each of them a part of this preserved wonderful flora of the world whose mere existence is endangered by the incessant encroachment of a careless dominant civilization.

It goes without saying that Bonhomme remains a classic in his genre because of his exceptional craftsmanship and his enduring commitment to aesthetic pursuit. Each painting stands as a reminder of what Haiti used to be before colonization or before the overt consequences of its tumultuous history characterized by after-effects of over three hundred years of slavery, abuses in the hand of other more or less powerful countries, a series of incompetents governments, natural disasters along with irresponsible behaviors on the part of the majority of its citizens as far as acceptance of their cultural background, belief systems, and life style are concerned.

It has been argued that Bonhomme’s artwork is better appreciated in Europe and Asia, particularly in Japan, as opposed to an almost total indifference in the United States. But, in my opinion, it is maybe only because he is better represented in Asia than in the Americas and even in his own country. I personally do not remember any solo exhibitions, retrospectives of his works being organized anywhere in the Western Hemisphere or any catalog (resonne or not), monographs let alone a biographical book dedicated to him being published in spite of his being a renown, experienced, prolific and talented artist. Maybe, one must be wondering, all this achievement does not suffice to warrant such honor.