Author: Institute of Caribbean Studies | Date: 09 November 2018
From Painting with Toothpaste to the Airports to Palaces... Jean-Claude Legagneur shares his artistic passion.
At what age did you know you wanted to be a professional artist? How did you discover that your love for painting could be a career?
I started to paint when I was 4 years old. I would paint on anything, especially with toothpaste and pieces of fabrics that I would get from my mother who was a Fashion Designer. I did not know that the Almighty has gifted me to PAINT. I discovered the love for art in the 70's when I went to New York City and went to visit the Modern Art Museum and from that I know this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to bring something new in the art world.
Your art hangs in a variety of places, from airports to palaces. Which location is the most interesting to you and why?
I was chosen and commissioned in 2005 to paint a 65-feet mural that adorns the John F. Kennedy Airport, New York City Terminal 9, called "The Universal Party" which symbolizes Unity. Also, the airport... it's where the world passes.
Most of your art depicts figures and highlights individuals. In your own words, is there a recurring story that is displayed in your art? Or do you consider each piece a different story?
I follow my inspiration where ever it takes me. I don't anticipate what I am going to do.
What has been the most exciting part of your work and career as a professional artist?
Exhibiting my collection "Faces of Freedom" in a Major Museum in Miami "Moca Museum North Miami" for Black History Month as the chosen artist was HUGE! I was the first Haitian (in the world) to have exhibited solo in a major Museum. I waited more than 13 years because that inspiration, concept was born in 2004, I only wanted to show these special pieces (24 paintings, 10 masks, 45 drawings and an installation called "Memorial, Journey to America"), at a museum and the show was such a success, it is now a traveling show around the world.
This collection is special to me. As a philanthropist, I partnered with FEJ (Foundation Enfant Jesus) to sell giclees of the collection to help fight malnutrition in my native Haiti and the proceeds will go toward the Foundation. Success, I've known it all my life, now with my art I help others especially children who are the future of this difficult world, it's a way for me to thank the Almighty. If someone wants to help, please visit FEJ (foundationenfantjesus/facesoffreedom/Legagneur).
Note: Other honorees will include Jamaican Comedian, Oliver Samuels; Award-winning engineer and US patent author, Trinidadian, André D. Cropper, PhD; Reggae Foundation Grammy Award Winning, Inner Circle Band widely known for their song "Bad Boys"; Bahamian Founding Chairman of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, Jerry Butler; Sherry Herbert of Nevis, Vice President and Director of Events at Black Enterprise Magazine; World-renowned Haitian Artist, Jean-Claude Legagneur; and, Guyana born Engineer, Tony Harris.