The Patriot, 2017
Viktor El-Saieh explores the relationships among history, leadership, and folklore in Haiti. Influenced by his early exposure to Haitian artists including Philomé Obin, André Pierre, and Seymour Etienne Bottex, El-Saieh’s paintings interpret Haiti’s rich art historical and spiritual traditions—and its turbulent revolutionary history—through large-scale historical paintings. Through his colorful, evocative works, the artist blurs fiction and reality to suggest alternative readings of historical events.
The Patriot portrays a mysteriously smiling face peeking through and framed by dense, green foliage. It is unknown who exactly is portrayed. Instead, the face appears to be a mask, an abstraction that addresses the different mythologies surrounding patriotism, as indicated by the title. The figure is not located in a specific time or place. The artist explains: “the figure’s identity in this specific work depends entirely on the viewer’s position—temporally and socio-politically.”
Viktor El-Saieh (b. 1988, Port-au-Prince, Haiti) holds a BA in international affairs from the University of Miami and studied painting at the André Pierre studio in Port-au-Prince. He has held three solo exhibitions at Central Fine Gallery, Miami Beach (2020, 2017, 2016), and has shown at the Ghetto Biennale, Port-au-Prince (2015), and David Castillo Gallery, Miami (2010), among others. El-Saieh’s work is part of the collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, and Pérez Art Museum Miami. He lives and works in Denver.