Haitian artist paints his dreams
New World graduate has a unique palette
Asser Saint-Val’s art is as unique as his painting materials.
Most people use it to sweeten tea or coffee.
Saint-Val spreads sugar granules on his canvases to sweeten his artful creations with texture.
That is just the beginning. Saint-Val also incorporates house paint, acrylic, chalk, salt, coffee stains and lacquer into his paintings.
The 36-year-old has become one of South Florida’s rising young Haitian American artists with his creativity that extends into splashing bursts of color onto paintings as well as incorporating scientific and societal themes.
He teaches a new generation of artists at the Miami Art Museum and exhibits his art at Diaspora Vibe Gallery and other venues.
Since the massive earthquake hit Haiti in January, he has been giving part of his art proceeds to relief efforts.
He knows how hard it is to adapt to life in the United States.
Saint-Val and his family moved to South Florida when he was 14. He knew not a word of English. But his mother, Salamie Saint- Val, wanted him to have a better life in the United States. So they came.
He felt he had entered a new and somewhat hostile world. He had come to the United States in the 1980s during the scare of AIDS and when Americans were hostile to increasing numbers of Haitian immigrants seeking a better life in America.
He felt that Americans discriminated against him for coming from a different culture and that no one understood him.
So he set out to work.
He quickly learned English, practicing it nonstop at home and school. He now speaks it fluently with precise diction.
He credits his love for art giving him the extra push to do well in school and succeed.
Saint-Val also found that art could help him express the prejudice of some Americans against people of color.
“What is up with America with stereotyping?’’ he asks, puzzled.
To find his own answers he began his art series on melanin that includes his love of science. Melanin is the skin pigment or substance that gives skin its color. Darker- skinned people have more melanin than those with lighter skin.
Indeed, the names of his paintings reflect his love of science as well as his distinctive drawing style and materials. His paintings’ names, based on his research, have meaning.
They are also a way to give credit to researching scientists. In his art, Saint-Val uses the names of the scientist and a reference on where he found the scientific information that he incorporated in his art.
“I want to give tribute to those finders,” he said. “I want art to be for an educational purpose… a guide for the viewers.”
He began to study art in high school at New World School of the Arts under Linda Payne, who pushed him to work hard at his drawing. He said she helped him fulfill his dream of a career in art.
“She said I was the most talented in the school,” he said.
He went on to get a bachelor’s of fine arts.
His early work involves drawings of women in Haiti, where nude paintings are not a big deal. They express – and even pay homage – to women’s beauty. But he feels painting nudes is taboo in America.
“His palette is not the typical Haitian palette,” said Rosie Gordon-Wallace, the owner of Diaspora Vibe Gallery. “He is one of the most talented artists around and he has a wonderful way of sharing that.”
Still, he includes people in his art, whether they are dressed or not. He has fun with that. He also wants to include the world’s rich diversity of people.
So when choosing a skin color for his subject, he may use yellow instead of white or black.
To raise money to help Haiti, he sells and donates to charities the money made from his art.
Although the recession has made selling art rough, he continues to teach and inspire young people to follow their art dreams.