Castera Bazile

Haiti 1923-1965
Hell (Altar Piece) 2002.0015

In 1944, Castera Bazile was working as a servant for DeWitt Peters, the founder of the Centre d'Art. Taken with what he saw, Bazile began to paint in 1945. He was one of the few artists to paint murals in the Saint Trinité Episcopal Cathedral in Port-au-Prince in 1950-51. Bazile won both acclaim and international awards for his works. He stopped painting in 1962 and died three years later from tuberculosis. Although Bazile was known as a devout Catholic, he was also familiar with vodou, and often addressed both in his religious paintings. Here the artist conflates the Christian devil and hell with Ogou, the god of war and metal, one of the vodou lwa (spirits). Ogou is a deity of fire and his sacred color is red. He is associated with St. Michael and St. George. These saints are shown slaying a winged demon or dragon in popular Catholic chromolithographs found throughout Haiti. In Bazile's painting, men and women are led down a winding path where they will be plunged into a pit of fire, also filled with such winged demons and dragons. The devil watches from above. Surrounding him are pots filled with offerings, Ogou's sword, painted drums, and an ason (sacred rattle), all associated with vodou. Triptychs (literally three folds) have been used for altarpieces since medieval times. This painting may have been part of a triptych, which would account for its unusual shape. Bazile commonly created color contrasts, such as with the bright orange, red fire against the muted blues and browns of the background in this work.




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