Gabriel Bien-Aime (Haitian, born 1951)
Untitled (Eve and snake), late 20th century
Repurposed base metal sculpture
Signed to the base
Gabriel Bien-Aime was born and raised in the village of Croix-de-Bouquets, the birthplace of Haitian metal art. Starting his career as an auto-mechanic, Bien-Aime apprenticed with Janvier Louis-Juste. He has since become one of the leading Haitian metal artists and is noted for his use of relief and for his three-dimensional compositions. His work can be found in the permanent collections of several institutions including Musée National d’Art Moderne de Paris, Milwaukee Art Museum, Figge Art Museum, Waterloo Museum, and Le Centre d’Art.
Haitian metal art is crafted by hand using recycled steel shipping drums. The drums are first burned removing any residual paint or residue, then flattened creating rectangular sheets of metal. The artist then crafts their work by hand, cutting, punching, hammering, and shaping the metal into the desired forms. The imagery is often inspired by Haitian Vodou (voodoo) practices and beliefs, as well as featuring nature and animal motifs. The art of Haitian Vodou combines elements from its West African roots with the iconography of Catholicism and with modern heroes and traditions. For instance, the loa (Vodou divinity) Erzulie Freda is often portrayed similarly to the Virgin Mary as “Our Lady of Sorrows” and the loa Ogoun shares traits with St. James.
The artwork was first developed in the village of Croix-de-Bouquets in the 1950s by blacksmith Georges Liautaud. Known as the “father” of the craft, he began by making crosses for the local cemetery using recycled metal from steel drums. He was encouraged to expand into sculpture by DeWitt Peters and Antonio Joseph, artists and founders of Le Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince. His figural works gained local and international acclaim, and in time Haitian artists began to travel to Croix-des-Bouquets to apprentice with Liautaud and to set up their own workshops.
- tarnish, rust, and accretions throughout; edge wear and creases to the metal.