Myrlande Constant’s Paintings with Beads

Myrlande Constant is a Haitian textile artist born in 1968 specializing in Vodou-themed flags. Constant was born in Port-au-Prince, where she learned the art of beading while working with her mother in a wedding dress factory. After quitting that job because her employers wouldn’t pay her, she took a severance pay of knowledge and bags filled with beads – and went on to become one of the most celebrated artists for making Drapo Vodou.

Constant started making Vodou flags in the 1990s in an entirely male environment and ultimately became the first woman in Haiti to apply the tambour technique in her work. She radically shifted her nation’s traditional religious art by using glass beads instead of sequins. Constant also prefers constructing large-scale tableaus, describing her work as "painting with beads."

Constant’s works are densely beaded flags – some as large as six by seven feet – whose inspiration largely comes from her father, a Vodou priest and Christian. Constant has also stated that she has no one to thank but the spirits and God and that the mystical feelings and aspirations she embodies come from her thoughts. Another source of motivation for Constant is Milo Rigaud's landmark book Veve, which contains symbolic drawings of spirits made on Vodou temple floors. She uses that inspiration to recall her memories of Vodou ceremonies and knowledge of the spirits to create her own design in the flags.

Her work merges contemporary culture with Haitian history and Vodou religion, with deities and Christian saints (which are part of the hybrid Vodou belief system) often immersed in magical atmospheres. She is well-known for her piece regarding the 2010 Haiti earthquake, titled Haiti madi 12 januye 2010 (Haiti Tuesday, January 12, 2010), depicting the ruins and aftermath of the natural disaster.

In 2011, Constant participated in a series of exhibitions, workshops, and lectures at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she conducted a flag-making workshop. A few years later, her work was exhibited along with André Eugène, Adler Guerrier, Pascale Monnin, and others in a group show co-curated by Herns Louis Marcelin and Kate Ramsey titled "Transformative Visions: Works by Haitian Artists from the Permanent Collection" at the University of Miami Lowe Art Museum.

In more recent years, Constant has participated in the group show, PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince at Pioneer Works, and her work was exhibited in "The Last Supper" themed Faena Art Festival in Miami.

Constant gradually expanded her international renown from collectors interested in Haiti, and three of her works appeared in the 2022 Venice Biennale. The Clark Collection has an incredible 2022 piece of Constant’s, titled “Kouzen Zaka Minis Agrikilti,” which is a colorful and detailed depiction of her talents – and one of my favorites.

Artists like Constant help pave the way for revolutionary work and incite reform in spaces that were otherwise not inclusive. Her bravery and skill have inspired artistic innovators to follow in her footsteps.

It is great to see such an amazing artist featured in the New York Times for the transformation sparked in the art world. Read more about Constant’s life, work, and legacy here.

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