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6602: Haitian-born artist attains popularity but not solvency_ (fwd)
From: nozier <email@example.com>
Published Thursday, January 11, 2001, in the Miami Herald
Haitian-born artist attains popularity but not solvency____By NICOLE
The gloom in Joseph Wilfred Daleus' dark brown eyes does not match the
colors jumping off the walls of his art gallery in North Miami Beach.
After all, this is the same Haitian-born artist who in November earned
Choice Award for a display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North
He's the same artist who is setting the pace for an emerging breed of
artists, popular in the North Dade area. And the same artist whose work
featured in museums locally and abroad and has been written about
art history books and magazines.
The truth is, 51-year-old Joseph Wilfred Daleus is broke. He hasn't
sold a major piece of work in three months, and he often sits on the
sidewalk of his gallery painting and sculpting, hoping the colors he
splashes on canvas will lure some customers inside.
``Artists don't have a good life until they're dead,'' Daleus joked
during a recent
tour of his gallery. He's heard that his creations have been resold for
as much as $100,000. He's flattered and not bitter, he said, that his
pieces can fetch those prices. It
feeds the ego of an artist to know that his work is that valuable, he
said. But then
there is the reality. He gets no part of those sales and, try as he
might to remain
happy, his bills -- including the funds he borrowed from a friend to
open the gallery
-- are piling up. His parents had warned of this life. They saw no
possibility of wealth for an artist and urged him to become a mechanic.
And he did, studying for three years in his native country and giving
diploma as a symbol that he had respected their wishes. He then left
Haiti for the
United States in 1985 to pursue his passion. His work is bold. Bright
oranges, greens and purples, often swirling around on a sand-textured
canvas, depicting life in his native country. Farming, for example,
shows Haitians hard at work in the fields; RA RA, one of his most
popular pieces, portrays locals playing bamboo pipes and dancing in the
streets during one of Haiti's popular carnivals.
And yet Daleus shies away from painting anything that depicts the
well-documented political turmoil on the island. ``That's not my memory
of Haiti,'' he said, while bemoaning the fact that the good things about
his country are often forgotten. ``My heart is like these colors I
use,'' he said. ``Happy and hopeful.''
If there is any hint of controversy in his works, it's in those that
depict the Haitian
practice of Vodou -- the common practice for many Haitians that is
upon by the Western world. ``There are many who just choose not to try
to understand our religion,'' said Daleus. He promises to keep painting
those scenes like the ones boldly depicted in Gede Bourgeoisie of a
woman's eyes glazed over in a trance-like state as the
spirits take over her body. Luis Velez, who teaches art and creative
writing to high school students at the Museum of Contemporary Art, said
he understands the dilemma of artists like Daleus who must often make
personal sacrifices to follow their dreams.
``Being an artist is learning how you have to live within the confines
of what the
earth provides,'' Velez said. ``It [being broke] happens too often, but
it's also the
sacrifice you have to make along that path to learning the ins and outs
before you can give to the world as an artist.'' These words are of
little comfort to Daleus, as he sets up his acrylic paints and canvas
outside his gallery, still hoping that someone will walk in to not only
to browse but to buy one of his pieces. ``Art is the only thing that
comes easy for me,'' he said. ``I can't stop.''