Painted in 2014, Henry Taylor’s Haitian Cemetery is an epic painting depicting both colorful spectacle and stirring emotion. This monumental canvas was the result of a trip that Taylor made to Port-au-Prince, the capital of the Caribbean island of Haiti in 2013, along with fellow artist Deana Lawson. Just a few years earlier in 2010, the country had suffered a catastrophic earthquake which resulted in the death of over a quarter of a million people. Depicting the Grand Cemetery, an extensive necropolis that harbors hundreds of raised tombs amid the downtown of the nation’s capital, Taylor’s painting captures the resilient spirit of a nation in the wake of tragedy.
Haitian Cemetery captures a moment of mourning, picturinga community gathered to honor the departed. Behind the backdrop of onlookers, brisk brushstrokes of pale blues and alabaster hues, divulge an damaged archway, and the artist’s own suggestion of the remaining architectural ruins in the Haitian city. Substantial passages of black are interspersed with shots of bright blue, vibrant read and almost pure whites as the family members on onlookers gather among the headstones to pay their respects to the recently departed. Haitian Cemetery adopts the painterly style of the artist’s acclaimed portraits, which are characterized by his candid use of color and the emotive spontaneity with which he paints. With careful attention paid to all walks of life, Taylor’s visual sense of empathy is full of respect and compassion, as he captures an intensely personal moment that takes place in the public arena.