Magda Magloire’s bearing is proud, her voice fierce, and her opinions certain. Her imposing presence is easily explained: she comes from a major Haitian art dynasty. Her mother, Louisiane Saint Fleurant, was one of the forces behind the gorgeous Saint Soleil movement of 1970s Haitian primitive painting. Her late brother Stivenson was more of a Surrealist painter, while her brother Ramphis currently paints in a combination of both styles.
The roots of Magda’s style lie in her mother’s famous work. The two women share similarly geometric depictions of people, houses and plants, rendered in tropical colors. But Magda and her mother are different, too. Magda’s clean and definite forms are rendered in a fluid and complex layering of colored lines, bright over dark, subtle over bold. The interplay of tones lends motion to the almost-but-not-quite two-dimensionality of primitive painting. It makes simplified forms resonate with intricacy. Magda’s paintings demand a moment of the viewer’s time because they can’t exactly be perceived at a glance.
Where does her artistic inventiveness come from? “I have spirits telling me what to do: 21 nations of spirits come from my mother, and 21 more from my father. They help me paint as if I am painting with the sun.”
Her life in Petionville is not simple. She keeps the bones of her beloved mother and brother in her bedroom because their graves at the beautiful old town cemetery were bulldozed to make room for a bus station in the middle of the night. To be perfectly accurate, they were bulldozed for no reason, because the site sits, months later, like an untreated wound: townspeople stopped the project with their outrage, at least for the moment.
But in her paintings, life is idyllic, perfect, filled with light and joy. Flowers bloom. Children play. Women walk to market. “I have the most beautiful village in the universe is in my head, and when I paint I try to show you how it looks.”
For more information on Magda Magloire, see www.mennoushaiti.com.