Born in Pétion-Ville, Haïti. Lives and works in Washington DC, USA.
“I am made of that mixture of earth, light and history that is Haïti. My roots are deep, and the colors of my country are engraved forever in my memory. “
Elizabeth Martineau’s paintings are an explosion of luminous colors, sparkling with flecks of gold. They reflect not only the vibrant personality of the artist, but also her rich and diverse background, her far-ranging life experiences, her love for Haïti, and her passion for the arts.
Martineau “breathed art” from the earliest age. Born to a poet and a clothing designer, she grew up in Port-au-Prince in the home of her uncle, the architect and sculptor Albert Mangones. Mangones was a co-founder of the Centre d’Art, where all of Haïti’s artists congregated. Among his friends and frequent guests were Charlie Chaplin, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, le Corbusier, Alexander Calder, Charles and Ray Eames. Martineau recalls that, for her birthdays, these artists would give her paintings instead of toys.
Martineau had to live abroad during her youth. She knew Botero when in Medellín, Colombia, and spent time with Lois Mailou Jones, a family friend and her godmother, while in DC.
Martineau approaches her work like a sculptor. She applies layers of paper of varying sizes and textures on a sheet of Arches paper and paints with acrylic over this support. Her subjects are delineated by a thick, black brushstroke, and brought to life with deep and bright colors. Finished with streaks of golden paint and a coat of varnish, the paintings’ rich, warm tones glimmer – with more or less intensity depending on the light – creating a feeling of intimacy. Although her themes are extremely varied, the same arresting style creates a cohesive ensemble that captures the imagination.
Looking at these artworks is like reading a book, each layer corresponding to a different chapter. The serene gaze of the sitters, waiting expectantly or posing casually; the presence of the forest priestesses, vibrant and deeply empowered; the enigma of the masks and totems, reverberating energy… our interpretation of each piece depends on our own perceptions and experiences, on our mindset. The artwork not only takes us on a trip to the Caribbean, Africa or beyond, but also on a trip within us.
A graduate of the School of Fine Arts and Textile Design of the University of Medellín, in Colombia, and of the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington DC, Martineau has exhibited in Colombia, France, Haiti and the United States. Her work is featured in numerous collections.