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Frito Bastien

Vivant Resident Artist: Frito Bastien

Frito Bastien has been fascinated by drawing and has devoted every spare moment to this passion as a young boy. Born in 1954 in Jacmel, a coastal town on Haiti’s southern peninsula, Mr. Bastien began working on canvas at thirteen, when the well-known Haitian painter Célestin Faustin took him under his wing. The Bastien family moved to Port-au-Prince in 1969, where the young artist continued his schooling and learned the crafts of cabinet making and carpentry.

In late 1991, Mr. Bastien’s political activities made him a target of Haiti’s dreaded paramilitary forces, the tontons-mâcoute. When two of his colleagues were assassinated, he was forced into hiding, then into exile. Only months after his arrival in Philadelphia did Mr. Bastien learn that his wife and children had survived and were living in Port-au-Prince.

In Philadelphia, he began to paint again. Mr. Bastien’s development as a painter, his artistic style, and the thematic content of his luminous paintings are all part of an artistic tradition that has flourished in Haiti since the 1940s. Célestin Faustin provided him with minimal technical training; his main role was to encourage and support Mr. Bastien in developing his innate talents.

Mr. Bastien’s paintings have an unmistakable Haitian stamp. He paints mostly from his imagination and his memory of the life and mountainous landscapes of rural Haiti. Much of his work illustrates in remarkable detail the customs and rituals of his homeland. His subject matter and clear, brilliant colors reflect a regional style characteristic of the south of Haiti. Although many of his paintings evoke joyful memories of his homeland, several include details that subtly introduce an element of violence, evil, or danger into an apparently idyllic scene. This, too, was a strategy traditionally employed by Haitian artists, who could not safely voice opposition to a repressive regime. Popular singers and painters often used such forms of coding to express themselves on political matters. 

Mr. Bastien’s work has been represented in the Philadelphia Folklore Project, in a Samuel Fleisher Art Memorial Challenge exhibition, and at Moore College of Art, the Art Alliance, City Hall, and currently at Vivant Art Collection. He has received grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and The Pew Fellowships.

Frito Bastien

1973 - Red Carpet 

1974 - Monin Gallery

1974 - Nades Gallery

1975 - Jerusalem Gallery

1976 - Gallery Jacmel

1977 - National Gallery

1978 - Cap Haiti Gallery

1994 - City Hall

1995 - Cheltenham Mall

1995 - Mid Atlantic Bank

1996 - Philadelphia Folklore Project

1998 - The Society for Contemporary Crafts

1998 - Fleisher Art Memorial’s Dene M. Louchhem Galleries

1998 - Philadelphia Museum of Art

1998 - Philadelphia Art Alliance

1999 - Taller Puertorriqueno

2000 - PEW Fellowships in the Arts

2001 - Levy Gallery

2006 - City Hall

2008 - Mural Arts Program and Nathan Cummings Foundation

2008 - Vivant Art Collection