At Galerie Lakaye, specializing in Haitian Art, Los Angeles
September 26-December 26, 2020
to be with them
by Rosanna Albertini
The artist scratched lines of feeling into the metal. The metal is flat like a page. It has natural colors as if earth and sky had been absorbed by the implacable stillness of the surface that doesn’t bear any resemblance to any living space. Francesca Lalanne followed her feelings during the many months of ronawave, let them work through her hands grabbing and carving the outlines of human bodies she never saw, they were numbers, massive clouds of names and addresses. She carved the memory of their presence. Giving legs to the coffins, or placing the coffin on human shoulders, without place. They move in the emptiness of a non-lieu, tableau vivants (as the artist calls them) of the dead peoples lives, or maybe after-lives, because emptiness is great, and beautiful, escapes description.
She had to cross the line of the unknown and, in so doing, gave form to an imagined flow of gentle, elegant movements for flat bodies and their flat houses, carrying other bodies with grace and silence, a dance in the void sometimes becoming one thing with the house. She freed the figures from the heaviness of memory.
“Description is revelation. It is not
The thing described, nor false facsimile.
It is an artificial thing that exists,
In its own seeming, plainly visible,
Yet not too closely the double of our lives,
Intenser than any other life could be….
WALLACE STEVENS, Description Without Place vi, in Transport to Summer, (1947)
Yet the plague is a burden on our hearts. The artist is one of us. Heaviness must be in the scene. And it is, completely out of the scene carved on metal: a piece of granite hung with a white thread seems to cut vertically each picture in the middle, and ends beyond the lower edge of each tableau. Images open a sense of balance, pain that is contained, almost hidden.
Francesca grew up Catholic in Haiti. Left the island at age 8, a very young political refugee. The more I dive into the scenes she recently carved, the more I recognize the same style of the rituals of my childhood in an Italian village. Catholic culture is a master of controlled, staged actions inducing the many to pour themselves into a common moment of grace, in which routine, fatigue, chores, despair are lifted, even only for a little while. As I opened my mouth for the communion, the mystery was so overwhelming that I had to shut down rational questions and try not to feel I could hurt Jesus with my teeth. For a seven year old, the issue was serious. Confession was an inner trial. During the ritual and after, personal feelings were not allowed to leak out. Balance and composure disclose a non-invasive sense of beauty, the art of sharing without words, giving to the body the primary role. Such a mysterious gift of life! One by one, like leaves of the same tree, each is one. If to face death without place brings back a sense of debt for the unique story we are one by one, I mentally give back to this artist a deep thanks, my mouth never opened.
You gave me the day because you could only give me what you are.
Since then, I live and die in you since you are love.
Since then, I‘m reborn from our double death.”
I D E N T I T Y D R E A M S
by Rosanna Albertini
Since birth and death are the edges of the same stretch of what we call life, I bring poetry here to fill the middle space with all the range of surprises I encounter every day as I struggle to find words to unfold the ungraspable mystery in each human, starting from myself. Artists spur me on this infinite search of meanings… We call them so, but they are just sparkles of life we dress with words as if giving them a form to share with other people. They aren’t clear when we experience them, clouds of sensations.
“The words that matter most are the ones we don’t understand.”
“How will our lives be better if we entrust ourselves to mystery, rather than to intelligibility, to understanding?” ADAM PHILLIPS
Yaron Michael Hakim paints his own face becoming a bird. I don’t want to explain that. It happened to me that a few days after I met him in his studio, still stunned by the big human birds prisoners of a canvas that is wrinkled and irregular, a piece of sail made to catch the wind and propel the boat, I started to leaf through one of my favorite books, for no particular reason. I could barely believe my eyes: “Look at his face becoming a bird, Reb Elfer said to Reb Yod. And the squirrel trying to recognize himself in that face. Look at the face becoming a branch. And the branch blooming for the face… For us too, time of transparency will come.” Oh, Jabès, how did you know what I was searching for? I let these words simmer through my life for months. Transparency of these words is beyond the words, now I can see the artist’s heart sailing the random winds of his life, in a marvel of wonder.
Two Israeli parents went from Australia to Bogotà (Colombia) to pick up a one week old boy. One of them was from Jerusalem the other from Haifa, but they grew up outside of Israel: mother in India and father in England. They met the first time in Ethiopia. Moved to Australia where they stayed for twenty years. Adopted Yaron’s sister from New Zealand. Left Sydney for a year in England then moved to Geneva, Switzerland. Yaron spent his adolescence there. At the end of an International High School he studied in the US, at the Maryland College of Art. Life was good until September 11th. He went back to Switzerland, hoping to save enough money to try New York one day. Lady life had different plans. He stayed in Geneva working in a Franciscan institution fundraising for human rights. Graduate school was in his wishful thinking. When he saw Paul McCarthy’s Parody Paradise in Munich his feet grew invisible wings: with no hesitation he landed in Los Angeles. His heart, in my fantasy, was fluttering like the wings of a humming bird.
No surprise that he dug into his DNA testing multiple times, every time finding some numeric components impossible to explain, discovering an intricate texture of geography and human lives from which he couldn’t extricate himself. He found thickness, rather than transparency. Phantoms of ancestors in a space he can’t explore, proliferating over the void of eons of time. But traces of them operate hidden in the core of each of his molecules, maybe they never rest, names are lost, they multiply, create proteins, virus, oh my god how disconcerting it is to conceive our body as a secret chemical engine definitely out of control. Every body a different mystery.
Yaron the artist paints in parrots a metamorphosis of himself almost unfolding his own personal state of nature, prehuman, reversing the evolution from the present to the past. A mythical time appears, something we conceive and spit out in words as if words were something that really was. Statistical precision (only apparently perfect) about personal DNA history kills the myth and the slow movement carrying the artist away from the present. Words, images, are only “brief little dreams.”
“Myth is the name of everything that exists and abides with speech as it’s only cause. Whatever perishes from a little more clarity is a myth.” PAUL VALERY
Yaron needs to see as if his eyes were able to detach from their sockets, and observe the impossible: the fable of sailing what we call space, for the term void is scary. The most striking bird he made is a boat shaped like the Pacific Islanders’ hand-carved boats. One of those boats that natives considered a living entity asking for respect and honor, a natural deity. The spirit of wood in unison with the hands’ desire. Yaron built it, gave her a name: Unutea, and left the seashore sailing under a pressure that was not only wind in the air, in big part coming from the unknown within him that is nothing he can visualize or think. In a word, he navigated the myth of myths, his own identity. Too bad, just a word.
“The journey is in the space between two spaces.” YARON MICHAEL HAKIM
THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2013 From Newport Beach to Dana Point on a 22-foot outrigger sailboat built by the artist: UNUTEA
The spars are constructed out of bamboo, teak and Douglas fir. The vessel is steered by oars: one of poplar, mahogany and aromatic cedar; the other made with African mahogany and teak. The waka, (main hull) and the ama (outrigger) are fiberglassed marine grade plywood. The cross beams connecting waka and ama are made of African mahogany and Douglas fir. Hawaiian elder Thomas Kalama blessed UNUTEA with tea leaves before the first journey.
But words are a precious tools. They suggest, for instance, that transparency for humans is possible. Yaron the father can look through his baby son and see the sky.
“Reb Isaac: “I listen to you, my son, and through you I see the sky.” Edmond Jabès, who else? My heart flutters reading his words.
Paul Valéry, The Outlook for Intelligence, Bollinger Series XLV, Princeton University Press 1989