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Piecing Together a Print ‘Visual Creole’ Under the Isolation of the Maine Sky

A careful consideration of cultural lineage fills the lines of Edwige Charlot’s intrepid botanical prints.

Diana Shi

Diana Shi

Culture in Contrast. Images courtesy of the artist. 

This article originally appeared on Creators.

A series of prints reach their transparent fronds upwards and outwards, crafting a visual metaphor of an artist searching for an expression of cultural identity. While in pursuit of communicating her background and reconciling her discoveries with her craft, print artist Edwige Charlot allows her paper pieces to speak for themselves in understated tones. The artist, who lives and works in Portland, Maine, dwells mostly in the collage and printmaking space.

The artist's themes often work hand-in-hand with her heritage as part-Haitian, part-Parisian, two components of Charlot's identity that have required a struggle to understand and find a place in her self-expression. The artist's perspective merges French culture with the traditions and values of the Caribbean country.

When developing her prints, Charlot artist sketches using photocopied images, continuing to work with ink and watercolor to flesh out her 2D works. Paper is the artist's forte; her pieces are reflective of her transparently delicate style.

Interested in learning more, Creators spoke to Charlot about how she generates ideas and her favorite artistic voices:

Diaspora

New Old World

Creators: How significant are your heritage and previous homes to your work?

Edwige Charlot: My heritage and the cultures I've had to assimilate into are a large part of my studio's dialogue. They are always a part of the meditation that I consider my creative practice. The untangling [...] is part of my exploration on the press bed or in a drawing. The plant motifs act as a mechanism to work through this conversation about what parts of me have been pruned, cultivated, cut, and mended.

What sort of appeal do your particular materials have for you?

I do most of my thinking as I print, cut and reassemble. I make a thing to make a thing to make another thing. The first print is never the end, it's the beginning.

Madam E

Madam E, detail view

Altar

Homage

Can you tell me about what kind of aesthetic you feel your art abides by?

That's a hard question. [...] My work has a simplicity to it, and a directness that can be reduced to be 'primitive.' Like the tradition of Haitian painters, I use what is here to inquire about what's out there. The precision and refined quality of work are in line with the spiritual realm of work like Muslim and Shaker works.

What are some major artistic developments happening in Portland?

Our arts community is undergoing a lot of change in response to our city's gentrification. Smaller art spaces are going big, which is creating new energy and opportunities for alternative spaces to grow, more and more collectives are popping up. I am excited to see that our community isn't waiting for the opportunities now, we are making our own and letting mainstream audiences catch up when they can.

Kolekte

What are the some of the most exciting aspects of being a creative in Maine?

Maine is fairly white and isolated. For a long time, I saw this as a negativity thing. Over that last couple of years, I have looked more at all the ways that the immigrant and migration narrative have flowered here. This needs for connection also has pushed me to look to the outside of Maine. I know that my work is harder to connected to here because of the lack of diversity but I am convinced that it's even critical for the same reason. I can't fail to mention just how beautiful this place is. The ocean, the coast and the seasons are just a few miraculous things about Maine.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Right now, I'm inspired by the works of Kerry James Marshall. His latest show at the Met Breuer brought me to tears [read Creators talk with Marshall here]. Abigail DeVille, anonymous Haitian metalworkers, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, David Driskell, Sam Gilliam, and Alma Thomas.

Creator, detail view

Creator, a still of the piece's creation process

Photo: Greta Rybus

Photo: Greta Rybus

To learn more Edwige Charlot, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, as well visiting her personal website.

All year, we're highlighting 50 States of Art projects around the United States. This month, we're covering Arizona, Mississippi, Nebraska, Maine, and Virginia. To learn more, click here .

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