Haitian Artist Tackles Politics With Paint


Haiti-born artist Carlo Thertus has lived his entire life not only dreaming of art, but also bringing the pieces he imagines into reality. A majority of his works focus on humanity and politics.

Thertus’ artistic career began at age 23 when he decided to take a stand against the corrupt government in his native country.

“I grew up under a government that put fear into my head, my heart and my family,” Thertus said. “Dozens of officers would just walk into your house with heavy-duty guns.”

Growing up, Thertus merely wanted to enjoy his childhood, but he said that he and the people of Haiti were suffering. Officers would barge into homes, break up families and even dictate what people could say to each other.

At age 23, Thertus knew that it was time to leave. He moved to New York City, where he was free to express himself through painting.

With his experiences in both Haitian and U.S. politics, Thertus found that his work frequently focused on politics, a topic about which he felt strongly—so much so that he dreamed up “The End/The Beginning,” a work that both scared and inspired him.

“This painting represents my observations about the state of turmoil, particularly political turmoil, that exists in the world,”

Thertus wrote to former President Bill Clinton, to whom he sent the painting, which ended up being hung in the White House. “I felt a compelling need to express these feelings in my work, using universal political symbols to contrast the way things should be with the way they are.”

Thertus believes that politics control human life. And while he has created art that reflects the governments of specific time periods, he said that he has not and will not create a painting inspired by “Trumpy.”

“Three years ago, when he announced that he wanted to be president, I went on Facebook and posted, ‘Don’t elect Donald Trump because having him as a president is like taking poison,’” Thertus said.

Although Thertus did not formally study art, he opened Creative Space for Kids (CASK), an art school in Lynbrook, Long Island, in 1996. To this day, the site provides free after-school and weekend art classes for children and teens. Thertus said that, so far this year, four of his students have received scholarships to The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. A number of his students have received college scholarships and attended Ivy League schools.

“They always come back and thank me for the work they have done,” Thertus said.

Thertus is not only dedicated to helping children in New York. Approximately five times a year, he travels to Haiti, where he established a foundation and, for years, has worked on constructing hospitals, schools, homes and orphanages for his country.

This month, Thertus will visit Haiti to check on the progress of one of the hospitals being constructed that he said should be finishing up.

Aside from his work in Haiti and at CASK, Thertus has been working on a piece titled “Imaginary City” and hopes to finish it soon. He described how the idea came to mind.

“I was in my studio and sat down,” he said. “The wine looked at me and I looked at the wine. The wine said ‘open me.’ Then I see people running on the painting and said, ‘Painting, there’s too many people.’ The title of a work is vital because that’s where the work begins.”

Thertus encourages those who have children to inspire them to embrace their creativity and cultivate their minds.

“It is time for world leaders to consciously understand the privilege of life and as humans to do the right thing for the future of humankind,” Thertus said. “My paintings are expressing my hope and desire for all humanity to live in peace.”

Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or ahernandez@queenstribune.com

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