Eddy Martelly

 

Immigrant
acrylic on canvas, 58”w x 108”h, 1985


My feelings about this painting change over the years. When
I made it, I thought it was about the city, the hustle and the
bustle—and the mystery of roads ahead and tracks below.
In retrospect, it’s more about the shock of coming from Haiti
at age 11, due to the Tonton Macoute. In Haiti, I had lived in
full Port-au-Prince but it was still like the countryside with a
village feeling;
there it was a black out every night because there were no
or so very few lights. And then all of a sudden I was in a
place where there were lights everywhere and the city came
alive at night. When we came to New York, it was in the
middle of the night; I arrived on a Friday and was in school
on Monday. I didn’t speak English, only a few words. It was
a crazy transition and I was very naïve. One thing I really
remember was that when I arrived I wasn’t aware of skin
color at all. In Haiti, I was aware of economic prejudice but
not skin or racial prejudice. When the civil rights movement
came along, I didn’t feel any racial identity at all until then.
And it took me a long time to accept my Haitian heritage. But
I see a lot of Haiti in this painting-- the colors and the culture.