Morel Doucet, The Artist Providing a Service to the World
"As an artist, you are political, you are disrupting the status quo, you are reinventing the wheel, and that's the beauty of it." - Morel Doucet
Morel Doucet is an Emmy nominated visual artist and writer, known well for his ceramics and illustration. He can create laden layers of collage-like compositions in a single medium. He piles on corals and florals and earthy elements, that speak deeply of his dedication to preserving the natural environment and human history.
The messages behind his works gradually confront us with imposing truths. Morel brings attention to the most pressing issues facing his generation and future generations, such as climate change, colorism, and the encroachment of Black spaces and Black bodies. He draws fuel from within his own Miami community to create impactful change. Beyond his personal artistry, Morel takes on the role of providing a service to the world. He is a leader in many facets. Not only does he translate these social causes gracefully through his works, he educates local youth, and uplifts fellow artists through his own art collection, the Doucet Collection. We are honoured to have the opportunity to interview Morel Doucet; a true inspiration with the potential to significantly influence the colour of modern art in America. Let's get started!
Community and Influence
You were born in Haiti and moved to the U.S. when you were 3 years old. Can you speak about your relationship with the Caribbean, and how your heritage shows up in your values and works?
My relationship with the Caribbean comes from a place of nostalgia and broken fragmented memories of green mountains and crystal blue waters. My parents fled Haiti in the early ’90s under duress and political trauma, leaving behind siblings, friends, and colleagues from their professions. Like them, I’ve had to learn to assimilate into American culture. Learning to let go of past traditions in order to make room for survival. My values are an accumulation of deep African spiritual hums, Christian indoctrinated principles and a rebuttal of old norms that no longer serves me.
Your work covers a range of pressing topics including Climate Change, a topic that has an impending impact on the Miami Community. How has your work been acknowledged in the community and the broader US?
While my work has received extensive press coverage from various magazines and publications, it often marginalized or excludes black and brown communities that are centered on my work and artistic practice. This erasure and marginalization come in the form of generalizing communities of color struggles in the same light with that of white affluent demographic.
Your work also centres on the vulnerability of the Black Community - spaces and bodies. You discuss the fragility of being a Black male in the US in previous interviews. What are your views on the current situation in the US, with respect to the Black Lives Matter movement and how do you see art in general, or your own work, disrupting this reality in the US that the world is currently witnessing?
America loves to celebrate and borrow from Black culture but doesn’t love to honor and respect black lives. The movement that is going on in America and throughout the rest of the world is a battle cry from 400+ years of abuse, anger, and pain. As an artist of the diaspora and living in the US, our greatest weapon is to illustrate and capture the energy of these trying times in our chosen mediums. Being an artist is an act of liberation; going against the status quo and expected cultural norms of that society.
You have also taken on an educator role at the Curriculum and Tour Coordinator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA MIAMI), and previously at the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and as well an undergraduate teaching assistant at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Can you tell us more about why you enjoy the role of an educator and what is your vision for guiding and coaching the youth?
I come from a family of oral historians, educators, and medical practitioners. Teaching and understanding the world around me is important for me. Teaching is a tool of imagination; it allows you to escape the realities of despair and uncertainty. Through education, you're ensuring a lasting legacy of traditions and culture from one generation onto the next.
On Building Your Own Practice
Ceramics, although one of the oldest mediums, is not largely represented in Contemporary art. What drew you to this medium?
I was exposed to ceramics at a very young age through my elementary school art teacher. During my college years, I came to the realization that clay as a medium holds a unique interlace position in our human history and culture. Archeologists can understand the vast majority of human history based on the ceramic pieces that are left behind across the globe. While the medium is not represented readily in popular contemporary art, ceramics transcend time, place, and culture. It’s been here since the planet’s formation, and it will continue to live in the cosmos once we no longer walk the earth.
What has been the greatest challenge with respect to building your practice and getting recognition for it? How did you overcome them?
With building my practice and receiving recognition for it, one of the most significant obstacles have been understanding people's intention and placement in my artistic journey. Everyone wants access to you as an artist, so with time, you dance a delicate balance of protecting your energy and sharing pieces of yourself.
What are you most proud of?
To date, I am most proud of completing my first anthology essay about the changing landscape of Miami. My literacy piece “Secrets that wind carries away” will debut as part of ArtChangeUS REFRAME book project. While Creative Writing is my academic minor, I’ve mostly written for the comfort of my eyes and personal diary because I’m a self-conscious writer.
The Doucet Collection
Can you tell us about the Doucet Collection? What triggered you to start this collection?
The Doucet Collection was inspired by artist Dominic Chambers’s own personal Instagram collection page. More often, when works are acquired into a collector’s home, it never is seen again in the public eye unless you visit a collector’s home. So with the Doucet Collection page, I wanted a way to celebrate the idea of artists collecting each other's work and bringing visibility to marginalized or under-represented artists of the diaspora or latinx community.
What characteristics do you look for in your collection? Do you have a strategy for collecting?
As an emerging collector, I look for work that reflects an aspect of my personal identity, cultural experience, or interactions with that artist in the form of a studio visit, lectures, and energetic, artistic journey in the world. Many rising stars characterize my growing collection in the art world; artists like Mark Fleuridor, Shenequa Brooks, and Prinston Nnanna are artists to keep an eye out for in the coming years.
We were pleased that you acquired two spectacular works from Akilah Watts from Barbados. Can you tell us more about the connection you felt with the artist and her work?
Akilah Watts' work grounds me in nostalgia. It brings me back to seeing women braiding one another hair, gossiping, and talking about womanhood. It makes me think how women in the Caribbean are the fabric of society; they bring order, compassion, and understanding.
What are your goals for the Doucet Collection?
My goal for the Doucet Collection is to create an online platform to bring visibility to African diaspora and latinx descended artists. As my artistic career continues to grow, I hope that these artists will gain more recognition for their work and contribution to the art world’s canon.
What advice would you give to New Collectors, particularly those of the Caribbean diaspora?
Collect what is familiar and dear to your heart. As a collector, you're investing in an artist’s career. Get to know the artist, understand the foundation of their work. If you choose to resell an artist's work on the secondary market, think about investing back a percent of that proceeds into the artist's pocket and career.
Outlook and Future
What's next for you? Having already a progressive stance in the art world, what do you see for yourself in the future?
I consider myself to be a lifelong learner. Like time, I see my artistic practice evolving with each phase of my personal development. Forthcoming, I would like to take a deep dive into video and filmmaking plus writing critical essays and novels.
Our platform contains a network of young, emerging talent from the Caribbean. What advice would you give them for building out their practice and making a difference in the world?
My advice to young and emerging artists stepping into the art world is to pace themselves. Think about your artistic longevity, and don’t chase instant fame. Don’t rush for gallery representation; every exhibition opportunity is not necessarily a good one. Do not create work to be part of trends; be authentic in your voice and practice.
Remarks from LES ÎLES:
There is a raw sensitivity in Morel’s art that traverses the fields of sculpture, drawings and poetry. His work with ceramics is more about the historical connection that the artform has with human evolution, than it is about beauty alone. But it still is profoundly beautiful. He successfully blends the pretty and the grotesque, carving out provocative subjects in every piece. But what has really drawn us even more closely to Doucet's work, is his commitment to community. He is passionate about education. Confessing to being an eternal learner, he uplifts fellow creators and emerging artists by collecting their works with intention. Art to him is a liberation, he says, as it gives a sense of rebellion against the status quo, particularly for Black and Brown people who continue to endure the angst of centuries. His point of view resonates strongly with us at LES ÎLES, that he insists on creating a space and a pedestal for diasporic artists. It is not only exciting to have found this kindred spirit, but that we have found it in such an exceptional creator.