Ulrick Jean-Pierre is an important Haitian-American artist, storyteller, and social commentator whose work serves to bring about political and social change, as well as critical awareness and consciousness. He sees his work as a testament to the struggle for freedom and independence that Haiti has come to symbolize. His work interprets and illustrate the essential elements of the culture of his native land as well as the characters who helped to shape its society and religion. Jean Pierre’s list of exhibitions range from 1975 to the present.
Born in 1955 in Roseaux, Haiti, Jean-Pierre began drawing at age 4 and painting by the time he was 16. He received his foundational training from Haitian masters at the Foyer des Arts Plastiques in Port-au-Prince, where he wasinfluenced by artists such as Louverture Poisson, Rosemarie Desruisseaux, René and Lavorancy Exumé, Enguerrand Gourgue, and Archibald Lochard. In 1977, shortly after graduating from the Foyer, he was invited to the United States by the newly-formed Haitian Cultural Society and Drexel University in Philadelphia, where his newest collection of work appeared in a solo exhibition. He continued his artistic training at the University of the Arts (formerly known as the Philadelphia College of Arts), where he began exploring historical archives as sources of artistic inspiration. In 1994, Jean-Pierre moved to New Orleans, where he continued to create large-format paintings that tackle diverse topics and subject matter. However, all are united by a similar aesthetic and common emphasis on historic figures and events. He became quickly fascinated by the deep deep connections between Haiti and New Orleans. He has stated that living in New Orleans has made him feel as if he never left Haiti.In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed Jean-Pierre’s studio and many of his paintings, prompting him to open a second studio in Atlanta, Georgia. He now splits his time between the two cities.
Much of Jean-Pierre's oeuvre falls into one of his major series: the Social Life Series, the Vèvè Series (still life composition of Afro-Haitian religious artifacts), the Surrealist Series, the Historical Series, and the Portrait Series. Through these, Jean-Pierre has revealed his multidimensional qualities as a painter. Jean-Pierre is best known for his impressive collection of Haitian historical paintings, many of which were created in Philadelphia and New Orleans. His portrait of former President Jimmy Carter hangs in the Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia. He was chosen to paint the portrait of Reverend Sarah Potter Smith for the permanent collection of the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia, where he has also had several exhibitions.
A recipient of many prestigious awards, including first prize in the 2001 competition, “A Tribute to ‘Satchmo’: Louis Armstrong Centennial art Exhibit,” Jean-Pierre is also the subject of numerous articles and a documentary film entitled "Ulrick" being produced by Teaspoon and Pound Media. His work has also been featured in various scholarly publications such as Revolutionary Freedom: A History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haitiedited by Cécile Accilien, Jessica Adams, and Elmide Méléance; Hegel, Haiti and Universal Historyby Susan Buck-Morss; and Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490by Edwidge Danticat, author of the University of Kansas' 2018 KU Common Book. His biography is also featured in Oxford University Press’s Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro–Latin American Biography.
Jean-Pierre has been commissioned to create works by the Haitian government for the Haitian Embassy at The Organization of The American States Building in Washington, DC. Other commissions include formal portraits of many prominent Louisiana figures, such as the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Chief of Justice Bennet J. Johnson for the Museum of The Supreme Court in New Orleans; the Liberty Bank president Mr. Alden McDonald and its Chairman Dr. Norman Francis (former president of Xavier University); and the formal portrait of New Orleans’ Henriette Delille for the Sisters of The Holy Family. In fall of 2011, his commissioned painting entitled The Life of St. Katherine Drexelwas unveiled and is on display at the Church of St. Katherine Drexel in New Orleans.
Jean-Pierre’s work has been shown in national and international venues. In the United States he has exhibited at the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, the Meadows Museum of Art, Le Musée du Free People of Color, the Contemporary Arts Center, Barrister’s Gallery, Bergen Gallery, Gallier Hall, Dillard University, and Tulane University among others. In May 2014, the State Department (through the U.S. Embassy in Haiti) organized an exhibit at the National Museum of Haiti (Musée du Panthéon National) that featured 11 of Jean-Pierre's works that highlight Haiti’s connection to the United States especially Louisiana.
Haiti is a small country, roughly about the size of Maryland. However, its historical and cultural significance is an enormous inspiring treasure for me. As a legitimate son of this rich history and culture, through the sensitive lenses of my perception, I view Haiti's declaration in 1804 as the restoration of humanity's dignity. The magnitude of Haiti's contribution to world history and socio-economic development of the Americas and Europe is often forgotten. Haiti was France's most important colony economically from around 1697 to 1789. As a result of the Haitian revolution, in 1803, Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States because the French could not afford to keep Louisiana after they lost Haiti. This deal doubled the land size of the U.S. These types of historical and cultural connections between Haiti and Louisiana, and particularly between Haiti and New Orleans, have contributed to my inspiration as an artist based in New Orleans. In 1804, when Haiti proclaimed itself as a new nation, it sculpted her place in history as a giant monument as well as a symbol of universal freedom. Today, the natural beauty of the hinterlands contrasts sharply with stark poverty of some of its people. It is a country that constantly struggles to maintain her freedom and dignity. Its rich cultural heritage begets a variety of artistic expressions. Haiti presents a sense of charm, warmth, and fascination. It speaks directly to my creative consciousness and reminds me of my sacred responsibility. My mission is to enlighten the youth and school children with the hope that they would love Haiti, their mother, and pass the torch to future generations. It is my belief that the historical painting series will show Haiti's contribution to world history and bring about awareness not only to Haitians but to everyone about Haiti's place as the first black republic and first nation to break off from the chains of slavery starting with the maroons and continuing with leaders such as Toussaint Louverture, Marie-Jeanne Lamrtinierre, Boukman and Dessalines to name a few. My paintings are also dedicated to the people around the world who love Haiti and those countless souls who are working to make a difference in Haiti. I remain hopeful that my paintings will invoke the spirit of pride and incarnate patriotism to rebuild our nation. For the past two decades, I have dedicated my efforts to researching and crystallizing Haiti's history on canvas. One of my objectives is to interpret and document the essential elements of my culture's native land, its history and the characters who have helped shape its society and religion. I see my work as a testament to the struggle for freedom and independence that Haiti comes to symbolize.
"Through my artistic creativity, I speak to the love - the love of a land I'll forever cherish. Through my heart, I speak joy - a joy everlasting of a great people of world history. And through my heart, soul and hands I present a lasting image of Haiti for the world to see..." - Ulrick Jean-Pierre