Monday, November 20, 2017

FOR THE CULTURE

November 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Highlights

Painter Kiki Toussaint on how she found her artistic vision.

Artist KiKi Toussaint

Kiki Toussaint is a Haitian-American artist with an interesting origin story on her life as a painter. A native of New York, Toussaint grew up in New York with parents who insisted on honoring their culture.

“When I was young and living with my parents, I never really thought I was in the United States until I walked out our front door,” she said. “Everything in our home at the time — music, food art on the walls — was Haitian. [Then] my parents moved from New York back to Haiti when I was 11, and that’s where I lived out the rest of my childhood.”

Fluent in both French and Haitian Creole, Toussaint had always worked with crafts before discovering her talents as a painter. It wasn’t until a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010 that Toussaint uncovered the artist within.

“It’s an interesting story, how I began to paint — and it’s one that was birthed out of sorrow,” she said. “I remember watching CNN, and hearing about the horrible earthquake in Haiti — my home.

KiKI Toussaint sells two paintings to Michael Baisden

I was so devastated that I couldn’t get a flight out of Las Vegas to go back there to make sure my father was okay. They were only allowing medical technicians and doctors into Haiti at the time, and all I could do is watch CNN to see if I could see my dad walking in the background of camera shots. In the back of my mind I knew that my dad, a Vietnam Veteran, would be okay — and it wasn’t until two weeks later that we learned he had died in the earthquake. It was really tough. So, I starting drawing the Haitian flag over and over and eventually painted images of Haiti that reminding me of home. I never considered myself a painter and had never really painted until then. I think it was the gift my dad gave to me when he passed.”

As a self-taught painter, Toussaint is captivated by images of women whose physical features help tell the story of their lives.

“I noticed a photo of a Haitian lady  on Facebook one day, and I found it to be very interesting,” she said. “I gave it a shot and started to recreate her in a painting. I initially thought it would be simple because Haitian art is so primitive. But it wasn’t — and I had to keep at it until I got it right. I just kept enhancing it until the painting came to life and looked professional. That is when I knew I had something and indeed mastered the art of painting.”

Toussaint’s art is now available at the Bottle Art Gallery in Tivoli Village — and will soon be available at galleries inside the Venetian and Aria hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.

When asked what would be her advice to others who desire to paint professionally she said, “The best thing I can suggest to others who want to paint is to draw what you see — not what you expect to see. Everyone understands that an eye is like an oval shape and a circle on the inside. We think that we should draw a circle inside and make an oval around it. Well, don’t do that — because then you are sourcing the image instead of copying what you see. For example, I painted an older white woman from Havana, Cuba with a cigar. She is actually a real person in Cuba who makes money by taking photos with tourists. I found her fascinating and hope to have her same uniqueness when I grow old. She is so eclectic and I love her cockiness.”

For more information, go to: www.KiKi-Toussaint.com or email at KikiTous@gmail.com.

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