Haitian-American painter Sophia Domeville is starting to make waves in the art world. Last year the abstract impressionist (who earned a B.F.A. from the College of New Rochelle) held her first solo exhibition, “Soliloquy of Chaos.” Right now Domeville is one of thirty artists selected to exhibit along side Janet Taylor Pickett for Art in the Atrium's “Generation Next”. (The exhibit closes on March 8th.) In addition to her painting, Domeville is also busy with non-profit work, specifically a mentorship program. She spoke to Global Voices about her artistic career, her community work, and her future plans.
Global Voices: What inspired you to become an artist in the first place?
Sophia Domeville: I started painting when I was 5 years old. First it started with my obsession of drawing on ALL of the walls within my home. In kindergarten, I was introduced to water colors and remember creating my first art work. I specifically remembered mixing colors just to get the right shade of green for the leaves on my tree, adding orange to the yellow of the sun and a dash of white to the sky.
I didn’t realize it was something I loved until my freshman year in high school. While all of the other students were drawing geometric, I was experimenting with contrasting shades [and] adding depth to my shapes. I personally didn’t think anything of it but my art teacher noticed. She suggested I switch my major from English to Art. Funny thing, at first writing was my passion; I created short stories since elementary school but would bind my own handmade books with ribbon and draw an elaborate illustration as the book cover. I took Advanced Art for the next 3 years in high school.
This truly became my passion when I entered my first year within The College of New Rochelle, School of Arts & Science. Being away from my dad, having the room to just be myself without any restrictions, being advised by one of the best art departments I know and just creat[ing] into wee hours of the morning, helped carve out my craft immensely. I actually still remember drawing on 6ft by 6ft parchment within the halls of [the] dorm, feverishly creating the images that were in my head. The title of my piece was, “Black Skin, White Mask”…at 18 I was discussing racism, sexism and the masks we as a people wore on a daily basis just to survive within this world.
GV: Who/what were your early influences as an artist?
SD: My influences have always been my Haitian Culture, music, my family and how I view the world as a young woman.
GV: In what way(s) has your artistic vision evolved?
SD: I have been drawing, painting and creating from the time I learned how to read and write. My vision evolved from understanding [how] the world around us affects our point of view as human beings, researching the topics of Nature in connection with the human body, breaking down the image on the societal views of Black Women, discovering Love for the first time, to using my Art as a tool that can help cultivate the world around me.
GV: Talk about your exhibition “Soliloquy of Chaos.”
SD: My Soliloquy of Chaos was my first exhibition after 8 years of not creating.
Soliloquy discussed my experience at age 28 when I finally decided to pursue my passion back into the Arts, discovering myself, falling in love for the first time, losing my home, the fear of not having financial stability and understanding my purpose as an Artist.
GV: And what about the “Generation Next” exhibit?
SD: Generation Next is a huge annual event held by Art in the Atrium a nonprofit volunteer’s arts organization that exhibits African American fine art throughout Northern New Jersey. This year I was selected to be one of thirty artists exhibiting alongside featured artist, Janet Taylor Pickett for Art in the Atrium, Inc.’s 21st anniversary exhibit.
GV: What are your work habits/techniques? When and how do you usually paint?
SD: My work habits and techniques are quite unusual. I paint when I am inspired, emotional, in love, curious or angry. There is no set formula or structure to my art because it really is quite organic and never forced. I prefer painting between the hours of midnight to 4:00 AM ever since I was in college and that nocturnal habit [is] with me years later.
GV: How connected are you to the artistic community in the Caribbean? How does the Caribbean influence your work?
SD: I am now slowly becoming connected to the Artists within the Caribbean community as I connect more to my Haitian Culture and traveling outside of the Tri-State Area. I learned [that] the Caribbean [has] a lot of influence within my work through the usage of colors, shapes and techniques.
GV: Would you care to speak about the non-profit projects you are involved in?
SD: Halls That Inspire (HTI) [is] a nonprofit organization that uses art as a means to encourage and uplift youth. Using a ‘hands-on’ approach, this four-week intensive program teaches youth leadership development, along with the art techniques needed to beautify the halls of their schools and other facilities. By using positive messages that reflect academic excellence, self-pride, and anti-bullying as a focal point, youth are better able to resonate with who they are, and how they are connected to their communities and schools.
I am the current Vice President and will step down to transition as their new Executive Director this summer, overseeing all art projects, working with numerous schools throughout the country and implementing our new programs.
My passion [for] giving back to the community granted me an opportunity to become [a] mentor/teaching artist and one of the founding members of herDIVASpot, a non-profit entity that promotes the value and self-development of school aged young ladies.
To continue my connection with Haiti, I also oversee an Art program through Art Day Celebration, a program which cultivates and empowers impoverished and underprivileged children through the arts in Haiti, where last summer I had the opportunity to teach 150 children from three different orphanages about the power of art.
GV: How has new media impacted your career as an artist as well as
your non-profit work?
SD: New media has a HUGE impact within my career as an artist and non profit work. The age of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and more can be quite overwhelming as an upcoming Artist who is doing pretty much the majority of the work alone. So it calls for alot of assistance from friends, scheduling and [most] importantly, self reflection. I try not to get too sucked into the world of social media but it has helped greatly with pushing my work to a much broader audience.
GV: Are there any contemporary artists whose work has made a great impression on you?
SD: Kara Walker has always made a HUGE impression on my work since I discovered her at age 18. I am fascinated by her usage of silhouettes, drawings, playing on shadows and bringing the taboo topics on slavery to the forefront. She has also remained relevant and fresh for a number of years while showcasing her work in major museums. I hope to one day do the same and possibly meet her in understanding her view as a Female Artist.
GV: What is your vision for your future? In what new directions do you want to go with your art?
SD: My plans? To somehow create an opportunity to live and teach in South Africa or Ghana for 6 months to a year. I will continue [to] push myself as an artist, travel outside of the country to showcase my work, take on photography, printmaking, experiment on raw materials such as leather, cloth, rope and more. I am looking to deconstruct my usage of canvas and push the envelope on the idea of female identity with my new exhibition titled, ‘The Diary of a So-Called Woman’.
In the end, I will continue my work as a philanthropist, work with various schools both domestic and international, by introducing the importance of Art back into the schools and changing every community I encounter.