Tessa Mars One month after being known in that island

Tessa Mars (b. 1985) is a visual artist who lives and works in her native Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She completed her bachelor’s degree in visual arts at Université Rennes II Haute Bretagne, in France, in 2006, and then served as cultural projects coordinator at Fondation AfricAméricA, a Port-au-Prince organization dedicated to supporting contemporary Haitian artists. Since 2013 she has been solely focused on making art. In 2017, she was a Davidoff Art Initiative awardee. Her work has been exhibited in Haiti, Canada, France, Italy, and the United States; and is part of the permanent collection of the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul, Haiti.

ON VIEW: A Vison of Peace, Harmony and Good Intelligence I, 2020

ON VIEW: A Vison of Peace, Harmony and Good Intelligence II, 2020

Some experts from Brian Fee’s interview with Tessa Mars.

Q: In many of your paintings and installations, you explore the notion of carrying your homeland with you, wherever you go. How did you come to this theme, and do you see it as being particular to the Caribbean context?

A: I am deeply invested in understanding the “Caribbean.” For me, the Caribbean is, before everything else, a gathering—a place where a certain human experience of the world is assembled. This experience is shaped by historical events near and far in time, as well as by the consequences of these events on the people and on the land. Despite the many differences in matters of language and specific narratives of self-liberation, I believe we can all identify the patterns that pertain to a Caribbean way of being in the world, whether that being is happening inside or outside the geographical limits of the region. This identification determines that space as home.

Q: Tessalines, your long-running fictional alter ego, is the determined, defiant, and certainly heroic gender-bent fictional version of Haitis national hero, Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Is her defiance your form of protest? Or, to put it another way, what does revolution mean to you?

A: When I think of revolution, I think of change, but specifically change in how you perceive yourself after a change in how you position yourself. A revolution can take many shapes and forms. For me, it’s bound up in violence and sacrifice, even when those are quiet and not obviously physical.

With Tessalines I was answering a call in myself for a change in how I see myself and how others see me. I wanted to manifest a certain ease and freedom and power. Through Tessalines I tell stories first to myself, then re-invent and retell them. These are stories of real-life experiences with real voices—often female voices—that are silenced and unheard.


To explore the other artists on view, click here.
To view the exhibtion One month after being known on that island, click here.

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