Haitian artist Nick Woolley is using his art to inspire hope one painting at a time. The 29 year old, who’s been painting for 10 years uses his creations to remind people that “light is everywhere” and we simply need to lean into it to truly harness its power. While his paintings are reflective of current events, he infuses deeper messages of hope, unity, expression and freedom in his art, and tops it off with rich colors that invoke Haiti’s deep culture and the Caribbean overall.
We spoke with Woolley to get his thoughts on what drives his masterpieces and what he hopes to accomplish with his work.
What’s the central theme of your most recent work?
I wouldn’t say I have only one major central theme; I have 3. The central themes of most of my recent work are light, colors and spirituality. Light can be seen as the epitome of positive energy, beauty, and growth. Through my art, I want to show to my viewers that light is everywhere; you just have to lean towards it.
Spirituality for me, without getting too much into religion, is the connection that every human being has with the higher being and with one another. It is imperative to have this spiritual connection in everything you do in life; it also creates humility because you become part of something bigger.
Like the American self-help author Napolean says, “Every negative circumstance carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
What do you hope viewers of your work come away with?
In my art my main goal is to convey that energy through the soul of people, allows them to see beauty in everything. Many of the political figures that I paint, whether people are fond of them or not — that is not the main goal — are often associated with a positive message or a message of awareness.
I decided to go bold and use vibrant colors that have certain energies that can impact people and convey a message. The colors tell the story of the beauty that exists in the Caribbean islands. For example you can look at the vibrant “tap taps” trucks in Haiti and see the story that is being shared through the colorful paintings on the vehicles.
You mention that your art has deeper messages of hope, unity and liberty. What are some sociopolitical current issues in Haiti that you’re looking to reflect in your work?
The goal of an artist is to bring hope and change in difficult situations. In the case of Haiti, there are many problems and also solutions. We just have to look at the bright side. The issues that I mostly want to convey in my art is the fight for a cleaner environment, equality, justice for all, real education and respect for all — from the simple peasant to the highest official, regardless of race.
For example there is this campaign with the Groupe d’Action Francophone pour l’Environnement (GAFE) to fight the use of styrofoam, which has become a big issue in Haiti, which I plan to use as a theme in my art to deliver a message. Although I’m not solely focused on Haiti, despite that’s where I’m currently living, I see my art and messages more in a global aspect.
I studied International Relations in college and believe nowadays we are more connected than ever before. Issues are more global, and it is a perfect time to be an artist. There are no boundaries between art, politics and social justice.
What do you believe is the artist’s role in society?
The role of an artist is to bring hope and change in every situation. Like Salvatore Dali, a Spanish surrealist says, an artist has to bring a new way to look at things and step away to see the beauty that exists in everything. The artist has to inspire, speak for the voiceless, build desire, and make the connections between the spirit realm and human beings.