What speaks to you when you look at art? Is it the medium? Is it the design? Is it shape or color or pattern? All of those elements play their part, to be sure. Still, my guess is that when you look at a piece of art, whether it’s a 17th century painting by Jan Vermeer, or a contemporary piece of glasswork by Dale Chihuly, or a piece of Haitian folk art by Jean Eugene Remy, it is the details that draw you in.
Take for example this one-of-a-kind piece. Jean Eugene has whimsically imagined this bus going to market. Unencumbered by proportion, the round bus goes bumping through the countryside, dodging low-flying birds. The youth riding on top points the way as he reclines against a box and a 3-D basket containing a chicken and various produce. The dimensional effect of the basket is achieved by cutting the contents backwards as a side piece and then bending the metal tightly behind the slitted, concave basket. A little bit more time spent in execution, but the result is good visual impact. A fine detail
Look again. Notice that all of the passengers vary somewhat. Different hats, different clothing, different fullness in the face, longer hair, shorter hair. Individual characteristics that give the riders character. Clones don’t ride the bus, people do. Details.
And the bus itself. Notice how small caps have been hand-riveted on the front end as headlights. Clever. The wheels, however, are the coup d’grace. They revisit vintage wire wheel hubcaps on Corvettes and Cadillac, 1968-1982. (Yes, I looked it up, and by-the-way, you can find them on ebay for about $1250, if you’re in the market.) Jean Eugene inventively uses spout caps and rivets and wire hooks, which are bent one at a time to create each spoke. Fifty-seven in the back and sixty-three in the front. Talk about detail!
This kind of craftsmanship is not unique to one artist alone, though Jean Eugene does raise the bar. Bicycle chain, metal tubes, coins, spikes and more have been utilized with good effect as design elements in Haitian metal sculpture across the board. Next time you look, really look. The more you see, the more you will appreciate. It’s in the details.