History of Haitian painting the topic at next HASS Hour

The history of Haitian painting and sculpture created by intuitive or self-taught artists is the topic of the next HASS Hour, a series presented by the former College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Utah State University. The featured speaker is Maria de Jesus Cordero, an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Languages, Philosophy and Speech Communication at USU. She speaks Thursday, July 15, at Hamilton’s Steak and Seafood. While the college of HASS no longer exists, its popular series continues in September with a new name. The focus remains the same — the monthly activity highlights faculty discussing timely topics in a causal atmosphere. When it continues, the series will feature faculty from the university’s two new colleges — the Caine College of the Arts and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Faculty members discuss a variety of topics from their areas of expertise, presented in what is called the “TimePiece.” July’s HASS Hour features Cordero who presents “Art on the Haitian/Dominican Border: A Journey to Rio Limpio and Batey Libertad.” The presentation includes an overview of Cordero’s trip to the area as well as earlier research for an article. In the summer of 2009, Cordero was part of an educational expedition sponsored by the U.S. non-profit organization LiveLearning. She traveled to Rio Limpio (“Clearn River”) and Batey Libertad in the Dominican Republic near the border with Haiti. Earlier, she had completed an article on the feminist, Vodou-inspired work of the renowned Haitian-American painter Hersza Barjon. “I read everything I could find on the history of Haitian painting and sculpture within which the intuitive or self-taught artists, such as Hector Hyppolite [1894-1949], Robert Saint-Brice [1893-1973] and Georges Liautaud [1899-1991] hold a prominent place,” Cordero said. “While I knew intellectually that there was a strong tradition of intuitive artistic expression in Haiti, I was nonetheless stunned by the art that I encountered in the most unexpected places on my trip to the Haitian/Dominican border.” Cordero said in the Western world, the culture has been conditioned to associate art with the upper classes and with a museum or gallery system. “My trip helped me to internalize the fact that artistic expression is not a luxury but a basic need of the human spirit,” she said. “It is an important outlet for the disenfranchised who often utilize it to achieve a freedom that is denied them in other spheres.” Cordero said through the examples she encountered, she saw how art is used on the Haitian/Dominican border to cement community ties across generations and to compensate for human losses suffered as a result of migration and death. Cordero joined the faculty at USU in 1998 and was named an associate professor in 2004. Her academic credentials include a bachelor’s in English and Spanish, with honors, and minors in comparative literature, theology and women’s studies. She graduated summa cum laude. She earned a master’s in comparative literature from New York University in 1980 and a second master’s in 1992 from Princeton University in romance languages and literature. Her doctorate was earned in 1998 at Princeton in romance languages and literature. HASS Hour is open to everyone and begins at 5:15 p.m. with a social gathering. The TimePiece begins at approximately 6 p.m. HASS Hour is held at Hamilton’s Steak and Seafood, 2427 N. Main St., Logan. A buffet with appetizers, desserts and soft drinks, iced tea or coffee is offered. Cost is $6.95 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and is billed on an individual basis. Guests can also order from the menu, and a cash bar is available. For planning purposes, please RSVP to Natalie Archibald Smoot in the HASS Office, 435-797-2796, or email, natalie.archibald@usu.edu. HASS Hour takes a break in August but returns in September.

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