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28450: Hermantin ( News)'Haitian art could be dying,' an expert laments (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Sun, Jun. 11, 2006


'Haitian art could be dying,' an expert laments
A multi-talented art collector who lives in Plantation keeps his connection with Haiti strong, despite the distance.
Special to The Miami Herald

Haitian-born photographer, art collector and violinist Reynolds Rolles hasn't been to his island country since 1992. But in many ways, Rolles, who lives in Plantation, underscores his connection with Haiti with the paintings on the walls of his home and the Haitian music he seeks out at local festivals and clubs.

''This is what I grew up with and what I enjoy,'' said Rolles, who was born in St. Marc, where his accountant father was the mayor. ``Haiti is different than anywhere else. Most Haitian people should cherish what they have and do their best to preserve the culture. I grew up with an artistic family. When I came to the U.S. in 1968, I studied art history, but I wasn't interested in European art. I wanted to specialize in Haitian or Latin American art. But at that time, there were no books or courses to guide me.''

A friendship with writer Michel-Philippe Lerebours led to a deepening appreciation of Haitian art. Eventually, they collaborated on a set of books, Haiti and Its Painters of 1804 to 1980: Sufferings and Hopes of People, published in French in 1989. The two-volume project, in which Rolles' photography appeared, was a labor of love.

''I took 5,000 slides that we whittled down to 249 for the books,'' he said. ``I would like to translate it into English and print the images in color.''

With a 25-year career at Condé Nast Publications in New York City, Rolles has done stints as art production assistant, photographer and graphic designer for Vogue magazine. His own personal collection of photos, framed for his music room, show a master's touch in handling the chiaroscuro of light and dark in strong shadows and shafts of sunlight.

His favorite subjects include revealing personality portraits and dynamic street scenes, including roller skaters in mid-zoom.

''If I had a choice, I'd like to play in an orchestra, be a photographer like I was, and have an art gallery,'' said Rolles, although he keeps a hand in all three pursuits, despite a full-time job as sales coordinator at a Sherwin-Williams paint store in Fort Lauderdale.

Rolles played the violin as a child ''as a fun thing,'' he said, rather than oriented toward a career.

''There was no orchestra in Haiti,'' Rolles said. ``I feel sorry that I didn't know I could continue with the violin when I came to New York. Then other things in life came up. I still play with a quartet here.''

His daughter, Tahnee, is an event coordinator.

''She'd like me to work with her as a photographer,'' he said. ``I'd like to go back to freelancing for writers, painters and magazines covering cultural events.''

Selling art from home keeps Rolles connected to the Haitian expatriate artists he befriended over the years in New York, including Luckner Lazard, Dominique Volcy and Rafael Denis, among many others. He fears the young generation of painters in Haiti are so poor that they have to care more about daily survival than creative expression.

''Haitian art could be dying,'' Rolles said. ``LaFortune Felix could be the last primitive artist as art moves toward copying what came before and the decorative.''

To see the art Rolles has for sale, call him at 954-581-3521.