By Rachele Viard
The 2010 earthquake rocked Haiti to its core. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives and thousands more were left vulnerable. Philippe Dodard, a celebrated and admired figure in the Haitian art world and abroad, used the significant and tragic event to create art and encapsulate the emotions and memories born out of the earthquake.
“[At first] I could not paint because painting seemed to be a recreation to me in a period of emergency,” he said. “I was trying to help as much as I could, those who were in severe difficulties. My home in Montagne Noire was left unscathed and thus became a host house for those who were coming to help the country.”
At that moment, he was focused on what needed to be done to help the country get back on its feet. However, after an interview with a German television station about the loss of major art in museums and patrimonial places like the St. Trinity Church, his focus started to shift. During the interview, he showcased a piece titled “The Premonition” that he began one week before the earthquake. Inspiration had returned to Dodard.
Since then, the artist has painted five emotive and powerful pieces immortalizing this traumatic moment in Haitian history. The “Earthquake” collection is a reflection on the toll the catastrophe took on the land and its people. There is one painting in particular, “Rising Souls,” that Dodard believes especially captures the apocalyptic moment.
Dodard is not only an artist but also a man of action. He participated in an art therapy program to help those trying to cope with the trauma of the earthquake. Exploring tragedy through creative outlets can help people cope, he says.
“The experience of art therapy with the 3,000 children of Plas Timoun, Djenny Seneque and the children from Champ de Mars Camp revealed how the expression of art can rebuild someone’s broken soul and restore life with love and hope,” said Dodard. “Children that could not speak after the trauma, captured the attention of others by telling their dramatic story through painting, singing, dancing, and sculpting with clay.”