Franklin, Kesnel (1945/8–78?)


11. Jeune fille avec pipe
c1972 (20x14)

   In the 1960s Kesnel Franklin, a sometime student of Petion Savain, painted one of the murals that adorn what was then the François Duvalier International Airport. Papa Doc's name has since been removed, and 'PAP' is now Port-au-Prince Toussaint Louverture International Airport, named for the greatest hero of the Haitian Revolution — but the last I knew the murals were still there.
   This portrait is just marvelous: though the young woman is a smoker, her face exudes innocence and curiosity, to say nothing of her beauty.

   Sadly, I never found another work by Franklin in any Port–au–Prince gallery. (Sadder still, I never met the model.) In recent years, however, I have discovered pieces by Franklin in two virtual galleries: www.douglasyaney.com and www.haitianpainting.com. The former dates the artist's death at 1978; the latter's biographical sketch reports that Franklin 'died a violent death in Haiti during the mid–70s.'
   This is the only work I have that was executed on cardboard — a material Haitian artists often used, because it was all they could afford, before their art won significant international recognition.

     Gérard [Gérard Fortuné] (1933?–   )


166. Noah's Ark_
c1999 (24x30)



167. Rocking Chair
c1999 (30x24)

   Another vodou priest (or oungan), Gérard began painting in the early 1960s. He had previously made his living as a pastry chef, at least part of the time at the fabled Olofsson Hotel,H originally the home of a president of Haïti, later an American military hospital, and finally the most fashionable of seedy hostels.
   Anyway … the former pastry chef is now among the most acclaimed of living Haitian naïfs — yet another 'new Hyppolite,' of course.
   I don't see much similarity between the work of the two artists; but Gérard is nonetheless a superb self-taught.
   (Baseball fans will recognize Mariage du bourgeois as the wedding of former Chicago Cubs' slugger Sammy Sosa, though it may not have been painted from life.)
   Signing his works only with his given name, Gérard has been featured in several books and magazine articles.


     192. Gaguerre (Cock Fight)
            c1999 (30x40)


169. The Last Supper
c1999 (20x24)



170. 'Mariage du bourgeois'
c1999 (32x24)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HThe Olofsson was originally a private mansion built  for Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, who served as president for three months just before the 1915 American invasion.
     During the 19-year occupation that followed,
the Olofsson served as a military hospital. The U S Army added a block of concrete rooms, separate from the main building, which look today — from the outside — like part of a seedy motel.

    In the 1940s the Olofsson became a hotel, in which guise it appears prominently in Graham Greene's anti–Duvalier novel The Comedians.  Al Seitz, the hotel's longtime owner, named various suites and rooms for the celebrities who'd slept in them. I've stayed in those christened for Anne Bancroft and Mick Jagger — Bancroft's, in the

 

main building, is nicer — and also in a detached cottaqe that is the hotel's most spacious accommodation.
    Pillaged after Jean
–Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier's 1986 ouster, the Olofsson was revived in the late 1980s. A favorite of foreign journalists in the '90s — as in years earlier — the Olofsson appears prominently once more in Bob Shacochis's The Immaculate Invasion, a superb account of the second U S incursion (1994), and in other books reporting on the chaos that has descended on Haïti the past three decades. 
    Today the Olofsson is owned by Richard A Morse, whose popular band, RAM, performs at the hotel on Thursday nights.
 

 

 

           

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