Tessa Mars
We are here II Dieunie taking root [detail], 2016.

Tessa Mars

Tessa Mars

Tessa Mars (b. 1985, Port-au-Prince, Haiti)

Tessa Mars is a Haitian visual artist living and working in Port-au-Prince. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts at Université Rennes 2 in France in 2006. From 2006 to 2013, she worked as a cultural projects coordinator at Foundation AfricAméricA. Her work has been exhibited in Haiti, Canada, France, Italy, and the United States. In 2015, she was awarded a three-month travel grant to Alice Yard, Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago), whereupon she developed her artistic alter-ego Tessalines, a fusion of Mars’s name and Dessalines, the Haitian revolutionary leader, conveying a vibrant if unsettled mix of spiritual beliefs and national identity. Recent activities include a solo exhibition Tessalines et moi, Institut Français en Haiti (Port-au-Prince) and Caribbean Linked IV, Ateliers ’89 (Oranjestad, Aruba).

Tessa Mars Davidoff Art Initiative artist in residence at Residency Unlimited (RU), New York, USA.

September - November 2017

Artist Statement

My on-going body of work explores identity, first through the lens of language and gender and more recently by questioning geography and history. I’m interested in how Haitian history, customs and rituals inform our identity as a people and how we express it collectively and individually. The early paintings and collages focused on understanding the use of public space in Port-au-Prince as a vector of communication, how it is appropriated by the people daily and the stories of socio-political struggles and victories they tell through words, images and fashion. I also started thinking about how this identity expresses itself outside our borders and how our narratives mutate naturally or forcefully as a result of displacement. While still interested in the manifestations of this collective identity, the work now seeks to examine the building blocks that are at the root of this identity. It questions notions of patriotism, sovereignty and confront them to the reality of Haitian daily life.

I want for my residence at RU to be an opportunity for experimentation. I seek to continue my research but also to deepen my understanding of Installation and explore outside the bounds of my usual medium. I hope to sharpen my critical thinking through exchanges with a new public and establish new connections In the United States.  My proposed project aims to focus on the ways that individuals, travelling outside of their country/territory for short or long amounts of time, can sometimes re-appropriate their new surroundings, either materialistically or with their bodies. I want to create a space where every object is carefully chosen, transformed and placed following a perfect internal order/code, transforming the unfamiliar into something known.