What are mortals like?
Lewinale Havette (b. 1990) is an artist whose surreal work honors the woman body while critiquing restrictive, male-dominated societal structures.
Havette mixes her personal experience and multidisciplinary abilities to create deep and colourful works. She has been exploring new horizons since last year after having a major surgery that inspired her to focus her practice on representing Black women through self-portraiture. Lewinale Havette currently has a group show in Atlanta until July 31st, with the Atlanta City Council project: Arts and Entertainment Atlanta and recently showed her work at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art fair in New York.
"We need to encourage women to do more creative work. It takes courage, and there is ample space for our stories and voices."
Photo credit: Lewinale Havette
Lewinale Havette was born in Liberia at a time of internal conflict. Between 1989 and 2003, Liberia experienced civil unrest when rebels fought the regime of then president, Samuel Doe, who took power through a military coup in 1980. This unrest caused the death of many civilians and the displacement of many Liberian families. Lewinale’s family was one of them. They lived in Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana before settling for some time in Ivory Coast, where she discovered a new culture, and learned a new language, French. Although these times were difficult, she has fond memories of discovering other cultures and encountering new people. Lewinale eventually moved to United States, settling in Atlanta where she now lives.
Havette studied graphic design with a minor in business before changing her focus to medical sales. She created art on the side, a passion that she cherished and practiced whenever time would allow. Her first job was working for an art gallery, a combination of her passion and sales skills. But she decided that she wanted to be the one making art versus selling it. She described having an unbearable feeling to create work and pour herself into each one of them.
She started by painting intercultural couples, inspired by her own relationship with her husband, Olivier, who immigrated to the US from France. As she began to study art history and view more art in museums, she realised how few Black bodies were depicted. And when they were, it was not the way in which she knows it, with curves that differ from European bodies. Today, she explores the way in which Black bodies are shown in visual art, especially Black women. Using art as a tool for self-exploration, Havette creates portraits of herself often in connection with religion or in sensual poses, breaking from the patriarchal and rigid orthodox ideas on women and what they should think or do with their bodies. In that sense, she celebrates African womanhood and finds her practice therapeutic.
West African Love Songs
Lewinale experienced a major surgery that kept her in bed for almost a year. During that time, she had vivid, monochromatic dreams which she takes great inspiration from today. Now fully recovered, Havette paints with a limited palette of blue, white, black, red, and yellow. Her works create a dreamlike atmosphere where surreal and abstract blends, seen through unnatural poses, or ghostly effects illustrated with white smoke emitting from the body. The deep blue contrasted with bright colour such as red and yellow, gives the work a unique energy and strength.
Photo credit: ArtConnect
Havette’s process is as interesting as her subject matter. She’s inspired by her own dreams and vivid visions, books and research, and other artists, particularly Kehinde Wiley. As a base for each work, Havette captures several pictures of herself in different poses and prints them. In the white space around the figures, she works with different media. Lewinale applies colours directly on the paper, filling the space using paint, inks, colour pencils and colour sticks with different techniques. This process creates a layered work, where the original photograph only appears in a few spots, or not at all. The results often surprise her.
What are mortals like?, 2022
Pencils, pastels, ink, acrylic, carbon paint, monoprint on smooth rag paper
30 (h) x 40 (w) in
If you’d like to acquire this or other works by Lewinale Havette, email email@example.com.
Watch Lewinale describe her process: