Pascale Monnin, An Artist of Haitian Resurrection

Pascale Monnin, An Artist of Haitian Resurrection November 10, 2015

Over the weekend I discovered a new artist: the Swiss-Haitian painter and sculptor Pascale Monnin. Monnin’s sculptures were what struck me most. She uses raku, a technique in which glazed clay is taken from the kiln and immediately plunged into water, creating cracks across the sculpture’s surface which are then filled with smoke and soot. So her faces have turquoise veins across their delicate pale skins, and the soft curves of nose and cheek are contrasted to the forking raku lines. The faces become abstract maps whose roads are scars filled with color.

Monnin then sets these beautiful heads atop structures of thin curved iron and strings of glass beads. The iron recalls the curving veves of Vodoun; the beads give the sculptures a delicate shimmer.

When one of her sculptures, “Antoine,” fell and cracked at an exhibition, Monnin filled the wide scar with diamonds. “You have to wear scars as jewels,” she explained. “Antoine” became a piece with a winglike iron-and-bead body, which Monnin renamed “L’Ange de la Resurrection.”

I was reminded of the most memorable passage from Leah Libresco’s fantastic book Arriving at Amen. Libresco compares Confession to a technique similar to raku: kintsugi, in which the clay’s cracks are filled in with gold. The broken places of our lives are not simply healed and forgotten. Confession doesn’t just restore you to status quo ante. (After all, status quo ante you is the you right about to sin.) Instead your sins, forgiven, become reminders to you of God’s mercy and power. What is true of sin can also be true of (other forms of) suffering: Our wounds can speak His name. The transformation of our wounds into beauty by our Creator is one possible description of personal resurrection.

I can’t show you a picture of Monnin’s stuff because of permissions issues, but there are good selections here, here, and obviously here.

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