Haitian-born fine artist and photographer Fabiola Jean-Louis seamlessly blends magic with the mundane and reality in her art to bring unseen worlds out of hiding. In this latest installment of Haitians In America, discover what inspires this Brooklyn-based artist’s work that’s haunting, mystifying and celebratory of the Black female body.
Fabiola Jean-Louis is taking the art world by storm. In a few short years, she’s managed to have her work exhibited at the Smithsonian’s DuSable Museum of African American History and has had features on a host of sites including Blavity, BK Reader, Huffington Post and Artnet News.
Her series Rewriting History is a collection of painterly photographs that highlights the strength and fortitude of Black women, while providing subtle commentary on the spectrum of the Black identity. The series uses the juxtaposition of 18th Century imagery of White noble women, with symbols of the Black experience cleverly incorporated in each image.
For Jean-Louis, Rewriting History is about “reconnecting viewers to the past so that parallels with current events are amplified.”
How does your Haitian heritage influence your work?
I’m extremely proud of being Haitian, and I try to insert my Haitian identity wherever I can. Haiti being the first independent Black nation inspires all of my work. It pushes me to celebrate us, and constantly reminds me the Black experience is nonlinear.
What inspired your Rewriting History series?
I started thinking about the series at a time when police brutality against Black bodies seemed to be in the news almost every week. I was outraged, and desperately wanted to create a body of work that would speak on the matter. But, I didn’t want to just do that (speak on brutality and violence against people of color). There was a greater desire to interrogate how society came to a place where violence against other human beings – specifically Blacks – was not only acceptable, but justified, no matter the reason.
I began to think about what it meant to have power, and the lack there of, and how whiteness impacts life every single day. Also, there was a need to celebrate the Black female body, while showing that the leisure of even sitting for a portrait was a form of freedom — something that so many Black women do not have the luxury of because they carry the world on their shoulders.
What type of impact do you hope your work has in the Haitian community and society at large?
I hope it reminds Haitian communities that they have a voice. And, once upon a time, the Haitian voice was the loudest of all, because it was the siren of Black freedom across the globe.