Born in Port-au-Prince in 1954, Philippe Dodard did his primary studies at the Petit-Séminaire Collège Saint-Martial and his secondary studies at the Cours privés Roger Anglade. At the age of 12, he obtained his first prize in drawing at the Junior Seminary of Collège St-Martial in 1966.
His parents, Georgette B and Étienne L Dodard, introduced him to painting and drawing at an early age. At the age of 15, he joined the “Poto Mitan”, a free art school directed by Jean Claude “Tiga” Garoute, Patrick Vilaire, and Wilfrid “Frido” Casimir. They were all three famous painters of the twentieth century in the Haitian artistic sector.
A brilliant start to a career
Although he began painting at a very early age, his career only really took off in 1981. Thanks to the support of Michèle Frisch (director of the MUPANAH at the time), the Marassa gallery in Pétion-Ville hosted his first major exhibition. An exhibition that takes place around the theme “Aquatism”. And since then, his success has been undeniable.
His paintings, exhibited in many museums abroad, will be the subject of aesthetic debates on the modernity of Haitian contemporary art. He immediately attracted the attention of many art critics, notably in Haiti, Brazil, France, the United States, and the Caribbean.
However, it should be remembered that he was an accountant by training. After these studies, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts (now called ENARTS), then the National School of Bordeaux, to study plastic arts. He ended up specializing in educational graphics.
On his return from Bordeaux, he was appointed head of the graphic department of the Deschamps publishing house. For 10 years, he was the artistic director of the ironwork company “Multi-ad”. This company was created in collaboration with Monique Gardère.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he studied at the Kripalu yoga center. This approach will propel him towards the learning of the being, the spiritual, and the samurai and martial arts. He was even led to the practice of Kundo. He then studied the science of Reiki (initiation to alternative medicine).
Philippe Dodard, current director of the National Superior School of Art (ENARTS), intends to fulfill the mission that this entity has given itself since its creation in the 1980s: to maintain the reputation of the Haitian culture and the influence of its art.
“…Improve the quality of training, upgrade the various departments and offer students the best opportunities to promote the development of their talents, refound the school in perdition, renovate the foundry (to become again at the service of the Haitian nation) and restore the monument of the Indian are, among others, the objectives set,” he noted in an interview with the local newspaper.
Committed artist and entrepreneur
The cultural advisor for Elisabeth D. Préval (former First Lady of the Republic of Haiti), he will install on the Place Saint-Pierre and the Champ de Mars “Plas timoun”, an art therapy center that focuses on rehabilitating street children through the arts.
As head of the ironworks site in the reconstruction project of the iron market, destroyed in the January 12 earthquake, he is saving the pride of Port-au-Prince, this historic site classified as a national heritage. This unique reconstruction was inaugurated in January 2011. “It was a rewarding experience where I had the opportunity to apply my knowledge of ironwork and design,” says Dodard.
“By partnering with Dimitry and Evelyne Craan on this restoration project, I had the pleasure of training many workers. And I am happy that the project has achieved its triple dimension: to give back, through citizen involvement, life to the city; to succeed in this challenge of human management (about 400 workers were at work) and to put in place one of the symbolic monuments of the identity of Port-au-Prince, much visited by tourists,” he added.
The “Dodard of the Year” prize is awarded each year to a personality of the artistic milieu who has distinguished himself or herself in an artistic or sporting field. The first winner, Philippe Dodard recalls, was Madeline Paillère, an art critic.
Franckétienne (painter and writer), Aubelin Jolicoeur and Nancy Roc (journalists), Lionnel Abelard (Karateka), Beethova Obas (musician), the former Haitian president Michel Martelly, Edwidge Danticat, more recently, have all been awarded.
Dodard’s work : criticism
His work sparked a debate in 2006 on the issue of Haitian art and modernism, drawing on such notables as Michel Philippe Lelebourg, Michel Frisch, Franketienne, Bob Corbett, Greg Thomas, Babacard Embou, Nkil Negou, and Legrace Benson. A large-scale exhibition of his work at the Broward Library Museum in 2006 led to the publication of the book: Dodard’s Work.
“This book demystifies Picasso and his authority in contemporary art. The contributors look at my African, Native American, and European-inspired work. This document reflects my very spiritual bent for art, my interest in voodoo.” he says. His paintings, acrylics on fabric reflect Tiga’s influence, holding the “Artistic Rotation” method (which “Potan Mitan” advocated) that goes through four stages: art, craft, technicality, and science.
“The use by an artist of sensitive media: earth, clay, ceramics, paper and all disciplines of art is a source of enrichment and can push his creative sense,” he told the newspaper.
With his captivating, deep, and rebellious style, he has made his mark on the postmodern art scene. His art has given soul to the Spring – 2012 collection (inspired by the painter’s black and white inks) of American fashion designer Donna Karan. The two will collaborate to launch a project to develop Haitian handicrafts to bring them to an international level.
In collaboration with Michèle Frish and Roger Jaar, he created the company “Jivan” for the collection of jewelry inspired by Haitian culture. In 1980, he received a Rotary International Foundation grant, which allowed him to continue his work.
Philippe Dodard has certainly accomplished more than many of his contemporaries. A proven entrepreneur, his worth is now estimated at over $102 million.
Considered an ace of Haitian painting, Philipe Dodard knew how to mark his time. He is one of the few entrepreneurs to have reached this level in the Haitian artistic field.