The Ties that Bind: Haiti, the United States, and the Art of Ulrick Jean-Pierre in Comparative Perspective

Dolph Simons Family Gallery, 316; The Estelle S. & Robert A. Long Ellis Foundation Gallery, 315

This exhibition reveals the deep historical connections between Haiti and the United States through the lens of contemporary Haitian art. Both the United States and Haiti were impacted by complex encounters among European colonizers, Indigenous populations, and enslaved peoples. These nations share common revolutions for independence and violent but ultimately successful attempts to abolish slavery. The ongoing migration of citizens between Haiti and the United States has led to hybrid forms of architecture, language, food, and religion. As a culmination of a multi-year collaboration supported by the Spencer’s Integrated Arts Research Initiative, The Ties that Bind marks the first time in more than a decade that a significant display of Haitian paintings has occurred at the Spencer Museum of Art, or in Kansas.

The exhibition will feature 12 paintings created by Haitian-born, New Orleans–based painter Ulrick Jean-Pierre that portray striking historic figures and narrate influential events in a monumental scale. Currently the subject of a documentary film, Jean-Pierre is not only a respected painter but also a storyteller and social commentator whose work serves to bring about political and social change, as well as critical awareness and consciousness.

Jean-Pierre’s paintings will be juxtaposed with highlights from the Spencer Museum’s collection of influential 20th-century Haitian art, most of which was generously donated by Mary Lou Vansant Hughes in 2011. These pairings can stimulate conversations about significant themes that have defined the relationship between Haiti and the United States, including migration, religion and spirituality, the fight for liberty and freedom, and women as leaders. The endurance of these themes ensures that viewers will learn about key historical moments and figures who have defined the United States, as well as issues that continue to impact residents of both nations, including race, equity, gender, immigration and refugee rights, and the freedom of religious expression.

This exhibition is supported by Jeff and Mary Weinberg, Jedel Family Foundation, as well as the Kansas Humanities Council, the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, KU Student Senate, the Hall Center for the Humanities, KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Kress Foundation Department of Art History, Student Union Activities, the KU Honors Program, the Department of History, the Department of English, the Department of African and African-American Studies, and the Department of Visual Art.

Selected images