Mitter, Siddhartha, “An Artist Who Blends Secular and Sacred (With Sequins)”, New-York Times, January 25, 2023→
Smith, Katherine, Philogene, Jerry (ed.), Myrlande Constant: The Work of Radiance, Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum, The University of Washington Press, 2022→
Gordon, Leah, Jelly-Shapiro, Joshua (ed.), Pòtoprens: The Urban Artists of Haiti, New York, Pioneer Works Press, 2021
Myrlande Constant: The Work of Radiance, Flower, Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, March 26 – July 16, 2023→
Myrlande Constant: Drapo, Fort Gansevoort, New York, January 11 – March 11, 2023→
The Milk of Dreams, Biennale de Venise, Arsenal, Venice, April 23 – September 25, 2022
Haitian textile artist.
Myrlande Constant was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and raised by her mother, Jane Constant, who worked in the textile industry. As a teenager M. Constant joined her mother beading in a foreign-owned wedding dress factory. M. Constant learned her signature beading technique, the tambour stitch, there. She identifies her mother as her most important influence.
In her early twenties, M. Constant left the wedding dress factory and began realising her own artistic visions. She opened a studio where her mother and other women from the factory assisted her. M. Constant joined an existing Haitian textile tradition, drapo Vodou (Vodou flags), that was previously dominated by men. Since then, many of her apprentices have gone on to open their own workshops and train their own apprentices. M. Constant effectively opened the artform to all genders.
M. Constant grew up practising her ancestral religion, Haitian Vodou, and it remains central to her artwork. Vodou has a non-exclusive approach to divinity: practitioners seldom see contradiction in engaging multiple faiths simultaneously. Shedraws from many sources, especially Catholicism. In depicting the lwa (Vodou spirits), she has evolved towards increasingly intricate narratives and ceremonies. Through her visual storytelling, M. Constant explores the relationship between the human and the divine in spaces both intimate and monumental. Many of her tableaus concern morality as it relates to themes of reciprocity and justice.
M. Constant’s earliest works, including Danbhalah Hwéd et Aïdah Wédo [Danbala Wèdo and Ayida Wèdo] (1990s), picture lwa in relatively simple contexts, but with a bodily dynamism that hints at the narrative potential that she would develop later. More recently, Pierre Danbalah pòt limyè oufò Voudoo [Pyè Danbala bearer of light of the Vodou temple](2017), M. Constant shows in intricate detail the mythology, the preferred offerings, and ceremonial accoutrements of Danbala and Ayida Wedo and their mystical brethren. M. Constant is also the first textile artist to explicitly reflect on historical narratives, as can be seen in such works as Anacaona (c.1995), a homage to the indigenous Taíno queen, and Haiti madi 12 janvye 2010 [Haiti, Tuesday, 12 January, 2010] (2012) memorializing the 2010 earthquake.
M. Constant’s textiles have been widely collected and exhibited. She has participated in group exhibitions such as: In Extremis: Life and Death in Contemporary Haitian Art (2011); Pòtoprens: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince; Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago (2017); Faena Foundation, Art Basel Miami (2019); and the Venice Biennale (2022). Her work belongs to public collections including: The Fowler Museum at UCLA, Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Musée Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Pérez Art Museum, American Folk Art Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago and others. In March 2023 she will be the subject of her first retrospective and the first major museum exhibition devoted to the career of a Haitian woman artist Myrlande Constant: The Work of Radianceat UCLA’s Fowler Museum. The accompanying publication will be the first major monograph devoted to a Haitian woman artist.
A biography produced as part of “The Origin of Others” research programme, in partnership with the Clark Art Institute.© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Myrlande Constant, Danbhalah Hwéd et Aïdah Wédo, early 1990’s, sequins, foam, textile, beads, 68.6 × 84 cm, Collection of Nancy Josephson, Courtesy of Nancy Josephson, © Photo: Carson Zullinger, 2021
Myrlande Constant, Saint Patrick or Pierre Danbalah pòt limyè oufò Voudoo. Yon gran poison nan cilti Voudoo. Metres Aidah Wèdo reprezantan metres Labanirne. Tout mètres Èzuli an jeneral [Pierre Danbalah, bearer of light of the Vodou temple. A big fish of Vodou culture. Mistress Ayida Wèdo representative of Mistress Labalèn [the whale]. And of all mistresses Èzili in general], 2017, sequins and beads on fabric, 188 × 167.7 cm, © Myrlande Constant, image courtesy of Central Fine, Collection of William Brandt, © Photo: Armando Vaquer, 2017
Myrlande Constant, Haiti madi 12 janvye 2010 [Haiti, Tuesday, January 12, 2010], 2012, fabric, beads, and sequins, 239 × 249 cm, Fowler Museum at UCLA
Myrlande Constant, Agoueh, 1995, 120 × 200 cm, fabric, beads and sequins, Collection Reynald Lally, Béziers
Myrlande Constant, Guédés, 1999, 152 × 195 cm, fabric, beads and sequins, Collection Reynald Lally, Béziers
Myrlande Constant, Milocan Tous Les Saints Tous Les Morts, c. 2000, sequins and beads on fabric, 42 1/2 × 56 ½ in. [106.7 × 142.24 cm], gift of Robert Brenner, © Photo: Gavin Ashworth. American Folk Art Museum/New York, NY/USA.
Myrlande Constant, Drapeau vaudou pour le Marasa Guinin, undated, thread, sequins, pearls, satin. Etats-Unis, Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, © Art Institute of Chicago, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image The Art Institute of Chicago, © Myrlande Constant
Myrlande Constant, Représentation de Bawon ou Baron Samedi, représentation du lwa (ou esprit) des morts, 2005, 150 × 125 cm, banner, fabric, beads, and sequins, © Photo: musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Claude Germain