Haitian Oil Drum Sculptures & how they are made
Even today old metal drums, once used for transporting oil and other petro-chemical products, are brought by cart or on top of a taxi to the artists' workshops.
To prepare a drum, the artist first removes the ends which are used for smaller sculptures. A vertical slit is then cut along the length of the cylinder. Next the drum is stuffed with straw and paper, and set on fire to burn off any remaining paint and chemical residue. When the drum cools down it is ready to be flattened into the shape from which a sculpture can be created.
The whole sheet of metal is then hammered to make it easier to cut. Any excess charred oil, paint or rust is rubbed off before the artist chalks in his design. Then the design is cut out with a hammer and chisel. The finished piece is signed by the artist and coated with a film of varnish.
Each piece has significance or tells a story that, more often than not, is strongly influenced by Vodou, the religion developed in Haiti by slaves first brought from Africa in the sixteenth century. Many of the sculptures are representations of mermaids, snakes, dragons, angels, devils, and other beasts.
Some consider these metal relief sculptures the most innovative works since Alexander Calder's Mobiles. They grace such prestigious institutions as the Museums of Modern Art in Paris and New York.