Peace is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when viewing some of Fritz Ducheine's paintings at ESCAPE, his exhibition at the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) Museum in Roxbury. Ducheine's sanguinary splashes of red, ghastly skulls and swirling phantoms may seem unsettling to some, but in the midst, he weaves themes of love, harmony, non-violence, hope, and faith.
"The message has always been the same...to find unity and to find a better life," said Duchiene of his work.
Fritz Ducheine was born in Plaisance, Haiti and emigrated to the United States in 1981. As a teenager, Ducheine taught himself to create art through observing local artists. He was influenced by other Haitian artists such as Hector Hyppolite and Philomé Obin.
Before coming to the United States , Ducheine was a full-time artist in Port-au-Prince. He first lived in Dorchester before relocating to Montpilier, VT. After four years, he settled in Brockton, Mass. Duchiene has been exhibiting since 1977, for the past 28 years around New England, and is a member of the Haitian National Arts Assembly of Massachusetts.
"I was very interested in how he creates space that is indefinite, where specters can live," said director of the NCAAA Museum director, Edmund Barry Gaither. Gaither collaborated closely with Ducheine to organize the exhibition. "Each time you view [Ducheine's] work, you discover something different." The two decided on the title ESCAPE to symbolize the freedom from, and reflection on, a troubled world.
"Sometimes you have to escape to get a better view of what's behind," said Ducheine.
The exhibition features six of Duchiene's paintings, and a sculpture entitled "Sacrifice." Duchiene layers Haitian Voudou and Christian iconic and symbolic elements, frequently referring to crosses and crossroads, for example.
"As an artist you are an instrument. You can be used as a bridge to whatever is coming from the spiritual world. I might only notice the exact meaning after the painting is already finished," said Ducheine.
Two paintings, "Ground Zero" and "Horrible Days of Kosovo" recall the lingering horror and heartache of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the fall of Yugoslavia, respectively.
"The paintings are there to tell the truth...to remind people of what happened," said Ducheine. "Bloodshed is a shameful story, where people should learn and be aware...to use wisdom to avoid violence."
"Sacrifice," "Women Praying" and "Hope in a Wounded World" deal with hope, spirituality and faith, while "Legba's Manifestation" and "Judgement Day" send messages of unity and accountability.
"There has to be love, peace and unity for everybody. That's what I want for the children in Dorchester. That's what I want for the children in Haiti. That's what I want for all the children in the world," said Ducheine.
ESCAPE: Works by Fritz Ducheine is open at the NCAAA Museum from Tuesday to Sunday, 1 -5 p.m. until August 2. There will be a reception on June 28 at 3 p.m.