Patrick Noze describes himself as a third-generation artist whose primary objective is to revolutionize the world of Haitian art with his contribution to Haitian culture in the art world.
He does oil portraits. He paints scenes from history and historical figures remembered or forgotten. For instance, among Noze’s collection of paintings is a work depicting Catherine Flon, the seamstress who sewed the Haitian flag in the early 1800s, and another of an unidentified signer of Haiti’s first Declaration of Independence.
Q & A
Being that you are a painter and a sculptor, do you have a preference for either?
Each capacity has its uniqueness. It’s like God not having preference among humanity. We are all his children and He loves us in His own unique way. It is the same for my work. Each ability has its own [cause for] admiration. That renders it a love undivided.
Did you always see yourself as a painter and sculptor?
From the age of five. [It was] a tradition from my grandfather—Andre Dimanche—a sculptor and painter. The passing of the oil paint box. My father Robert Noze—[who] was a sculptor responsible for the sculpture that was at the Haitian airport lobby—passed on the tradition to me by presenting me with the box. The same day I painted a painting entitled “Rara”, a celebration of Good Friday I was not allowed to go to. Since I was forbidden to go, I painted the scene. The painting was sold the next day for $50. However, prior to being five years old, I was being trained by my uncle Albert Charles, a well-known lawyer in Jeremie, to follow my mother’s side of the family tradition of being a lawyer.
You have to use your hand a lot, when sculpting and painting. What do you do when you get finger cramps?
I never get finger cramps. And if I did, I would not know it because I am in a trance of inspiration.
A trance of inspiration…can you elaborate?
When painting, I am transported to a different level of thinking. My surroundings become a blur. It is like being in a trance. When a person comes out of a trance, they forget everything—even pain they may have suffered. In my case, art is my escape from pain, sadness, madness, my personal mental therapy, my life and my identity.
How long does it take you to finish a painting?
It all depends on how much the painting means to me. If I am inspired. It could take eight hours or until I stop. Technically, I can complete a painting in thirty minutes when I am doing speed paintings.
So, your dad sold your first painting to a tourist. Is it safe to say that from the beginning you had approval of your parents?
As a third generation artist, I had my father’s full support. However, my mother’s side of the family started giving my choice importance after I graduated from Pratt Institute School of Art—where they had assumed I was studying law.
Have you ever tried to impress a girl—or perhaps just show her affection, or your intentions—with a painting, or even a sculpture?
That is the main way an artist impresses a woman, and it is the expectation of the ladies—especially if she is your significant other.
According to a book by the historian Elizabeth Abbott, in 1963 or 1964, there was a big-time massacre in the city of Jeremie, the city where you were born in. Now, you were born in 1962, so you were born a year after that whole thing happened. Not sure how much you might know about your hometown, but from what you may have been told as a kid, or from what you may have been told ever since, do you think the town was affected artistically by this?
The art of Jeremie was not touched by the massacre. Jeremie is called the “[City] of Poets”. The massacre was significant in eliminating racism and discrimination between the mulattoes and the dark-colored Haitians. The city has a sense of tranquility and allows one to experiment with his or her inner self. So instead of killing, we express our love through paint on canvas. We have since become lovers—not fighters.
The massacre itself eliminated the color discrimination in the town, or was it community dialogue, discussions, and self-reflection and a call of unity following the massacre?
This massacre happened in 1964. Notice I try to play it off. Because it is not a subject matter we Jeremians like talking about. It does not have any connection to the poetic and artistic nature of the city of Jeremie. It is an episode lots of people were affected by. When one examines the names of the more then twenty-seven people massacred, they are names that ring a bell because being a small town everybody knows everybody. The neighbors raised each other’s children. The level of discrimination was of class as opposed to color. I am from both sides of the coin and know one could be the blackest person in the the world, if you are from a well-to-do family and are educated, you are accepted in high society and there will never be mention of your color, but [of] your status in the community.
It is true in Jeremie there existed this level of race discrimination. However, the massacre was more targeted towards a particular group. Whether this solved the racial separation in Jeremie—it is hard to determine.
I can say the artistic minds that came from the soil of Jeremie is due to the intellectual minds of that [place]. When one looks at the great writers, artists: Vilaire, Etienne, Hypolite, Dimanche. All are from the Isle of Poets—Jeremie.
I know some people who do hair, who can do their own hair, even without a mirror. Are you able to paint yourself, or sculpt yourself…by yourself?
That is the first thing an artist learn I could draw my self in thirty seconds.
Have you ever created a sculpture or a painting that you grew so attached to, that you vowed to yourself that you wouldn’t let go of it for all the silver, gold, copper in the world?
Yes I have three such paintings: “Combat de Vertières”, “The Refugees”, “Daniel in The Lion’s Den.”
You attended the School of Visual Arts in New York. What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned there?
It was more discovering my style and who I was meant to be in terms of style in the art world. There I was called the moodist, because I am able to capture time, movements and moods. The most valuable is to have a signature—a style that is recognizable as you–without having to say this is a Patrick Noze because of the signature. Just like looking at the Mona Lisa you already know whose work it is. Leonardo.
A Patrick Noze painting, “Word to the Wise”.
History is a big theme in your paintings. What do you think is the most inspirational period of Haitian history for a painter?
The period no one wants to talk about. not even Haitians. Our heritage is rich. However some of us are ashamed to say we are Haitian. Because of a lack of knowledge of the great things Haitians ave accomplished in the past. So the most important and inspirational period is the post- revolutionary and slightly after. Because Haitians were proud to be Haitians and the world respected us for it. Haitians would never deny their nationality. Nor would any Haitian ever wear their pants below their belts. But now, we have changed and a good majority of Haitians do not know their heritage. That motivates me to paint more of our history and fight for the preservation of Haitian culture [and] heritage. By creating sculptures that could be cast in bronze—paintings that when one clicks on Google, you can see a painting of proportional qualities. Proper usage of vanishing points, respected and recognized as a work of art representing Haiti, by a Haitian artist. Namely Patrick Noze.
Your attendance at the School of Visual Arts and your taking classes at the Brooklyn Museum—do you feel that taking those two educational initiatives helped you as an artist?
Somewhat, because what I practiced there was already something I knew how to do. But it kept me challenged. I can say I learned something because I can make references to past learning. So to better answer the question I will quote one of professors: “Patrick, you can do what you want because you are too advanced for the class”. I continued following class curriculum—except I would finish too fast—because art to me is second nature. Not an obligation or a conditioned habit. But a love affair. A gift from God.
Do you think that it’s an absolute must for a painter to be formally trained either through long-term or short-term programs and seminars?
It is always good to be trained in all that we do as artists. Because knowing the theories of art always places one at an advantage. The more I can describe the Mona Lisa smile in artistic lingo, the more validity my own art work will have. Although we have a number of artists who are self-taught, when [making comparisons]—the artist who can dissect an artwork because of his or her training—is impressive. It shows that the artist cares enough to have invested in his or her work. When one compares the Haitian artist at the sides of the streets, they are called tube painters. Because they have no idea what they are creating, because they do it by chance. That is how the art world perceives them although not necessarily true. I could go on and on. So yes, an artist needs to invest in the theories of art and be educated to be more marketable. Not as a commercial artist, but a fine artist.
“Poto Mitan”, a painting that captures Noze’s overall style.
You have a painting called “Poto Mitan”. Where did you draw the inspiration for it?
Haitian Women, represent the center of the Haitian household where everything that takes place she either sweet talk her husband at night little things. Like: “Timoun yo pa gen rad pou yal lekòl” The children don’t have clothes to go to school. She is the negotiator of the Haitian family. Ask any Haitian boy turned doctor, lawyer, “How did you become a doctor or a lawyer?”, “My mother was a [vendor].” Or, “My mother worked hard. My mother supported me.” [When said person is asked] “Where is your Father?” [The answer is] Manman ki regle tout bagay [my mom took care of everything].
There’s this other one called “The Refugees” that also caught my eye.
In 1986 was the era of the Haitian refugees after the ousting of Duvalier. This painting is the story of one of the men on the boat with the missing leg, Jean Claude. He told me the story of the journey to cross over. I was inspired and painted the story. This painting represents the historical paintings I spoke about, that some of us Haitians wants to forget. However, it is a good tool for a Haitian child to look at. so they know how some families came to America and learn to value that so they can be vigilant and keep their eyes in that book and use that as a tool to become that doctor, lawyer. To make Haitian mothers and fathers proud.
Since we are discussing inspiration, do you ever get those moments, where you’re sitting in front of your easel and you’re holding your brush or other painting materials, but you have no inspiration whatsoever?
When that happens know that I have died. It’s like give Michael Jackson a microphone and nothing comes out of his mouth.
What message do you have for those who want to be professional painters? And sculptors too, of course.
Art is a commitment. They should be persistent, patient, accept criticism. Make sure—most importantly—that is what you want. Because art is a love affair, if you are not in it to suffer, you are not ready. There are times when several months will pass you will not sell one painting. But when your time comes for buyers to buy, you have no place to keep money.
You can visit Patrick Noze’s website’s HERE.