Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph (JBJJ) is the owner of Isidor Gallery in Croix des Bouquets Haiti. It is a very unique gallery in the area since it is the only sequin flag gallery among a sea of metal galleries. When Bee and I went to visit Croix des Bouquets, Pascale Monnin arranged for JBJJ to meet us and tour us around. It was my first time meeting him, although I was already familiar with his work, and had seen some videos about him from a few years ago (below). He was a gracious host and showed us the entire town. He introduced us to dozens of gallery owners, artists, and students of the trade. More important than the tour of Croix des Bouquets was the tour of his gallery.
There is a long tradition of making sequin flags in Haiti, but none do it better than JBJJ. His work is not inexpensive by any means, but you get what you pay for. The detail work, the quality of materials, and the expressiveness of the artist is un-matched with his work. He showed us in the back room where he had stacks of small flags mostly of veves each intricately sewn bead by bead sequin by sequin. He uses felt fabrics in the backgrounds to set off the rich colors of the sequins. Around the gallery he had major works, each a masterpiece and truly remarkable. JBJJ is more than just an artist, he is a spiritual leader in his community. He shared with us intimate details of the vodou religion and how each work of art related to individual and groups of spirits. In the back he shared with us his spiritual place where he holds ceremonies and religious parties. In several chambers in the back of his gallery he holds alters and sculptures dedicated to the spirit world. It is a peaceful place filled with positive energy. Once you have visited the religious space and return to the gallery you can, all the more feel, the dedication to the spirits in his work. You can feel love and dedication to the spirits all around. Upon returning to the gallery you can further see how the masterful works of art are more than just decoration. They are religious icons with overwhelming power visually. I feel honored and so happy to have met such a master artist, and I look forward to working with him more and more as time goes on. You can find examples of his work in two upcoming shows at the Haiti Friends Gallery in Pittsburgh, and hopefully many more.
I have to say, I really enjoyed hanging out with JBJJ, and really truly appreciate how he showed Bee and I his town. He tells me his wife lives in Miami, so I hope to return the favor for him in my town sometime real soon. I also have to give a huge shout out to my dear friend Pascale for making the introduction. Both such remarkable people I feel so honored to know.