Helping Haiti, One Brushstroke At A Time
“I was in Haiti for my very first time,” says the designer and big-time Haiti activist Donna Karan, “and I got back to my hotel one day and saw this amazing artwork on the walls. I said, Oh my God, who did this?” As it turned out, the artist was leading contemporary Haitian artist Philippe Dodard, and he happened to be standing right behind her at that moment. (Apparently, timing really is everything.)
After that chance meeting, Dodard’s strong graphic ink wash paintings became the inspiration for Karan’s Spring 2012 graphic collection of body-hugging dresses and full skirts (of which a portion of the sales benefited the artisans of Haiti). More recently, the pair combined their artistic efforts for a new exhibition at North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), entitled The Luminous Breath of the Human Spirit. On display, there are six dresses from Karan’s Spring collection (pictured, left) and 37 works by Dodard (who now serves as the general director of the National School of Arts in Haiti). “I want to create art that awakens rather than satisfies the mundane desires of the clientele—art that embodies different answers to our human problems,” Dodard tells Style.com of his work. That is the bigger picture to this ongoing partnership between Karan and Dodard (they have collaborated on design and metal projects through initiatives of her Urban Zen foundation, and both contributed to photographer Russell James’ Nomad Two Worlds multimedia project, which has been showcased around the world and is now on display at Urban Zen)—the duo is revitalizing and rebuilding Haiti through art.
“I have always said that the answer to Haiti is in the hands of the people,” says Karan, who, since meeting Dodard, has been back to the country countless times. “It’s the artists, the most creative people, who will revive it.”
The Luminous Breath of the Human Spirit is on display through June 20 at MOCA, 770 Northeast 125th St., Miami, Fla., (305) 893-6211. To learn more about Karan and Dodard’s collaborative efforts, visit UrbanZen.org.