Barbara Prézeau Stephenson was born in 1965 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Visual artist, art historian and independent curator, she grew up surrounded by art and artists; her mother runs the Le Coin d’Art art gallery in Pétion‑Ville, one of the capital city’s suburbs. From 1983 to 1985, she studied under Rose‑Marie Desruisseau, Ludovic Booz and Franck Louissaint at the École Nationale des Arts academy. She was the dance protégé of Lavinia Williams and participated regularly in drama workshops organised by Haiti’s Institut Franćais, then under the directorship of Jean‑Pierre Bernet.

 

From 1985 to 1989, she settled in Canada, completing a double major in Visual Arts and Art History at the University of Ottawa. After obtaining her Bachelors, she enrolled in the La Sorbonne University (Paris IV campus) to read for a Masters in Art History; simultaneous with these academic engagements, she pursued studies of a more technical/vocational nature, gaining the DEA (Diplôme d'Études Approfondies) advanced diploma from the École Pratique des Hautes Études. Barbara’s research into African written languages and hieroglyphics led her to Senegal where she attended the inaugural Dakar Biennial in 1992. She returned to live and work in Dakar from 1993 to 1995.

 

Her career as a visual artist began in 1988 with the appearance of her work at the group exhibition Coup d’Éclat, at the Michel Tétreault gallery in Montreal. Subsequently, during her time in Paris, she worked with the anthropologist and art critic Délia Blanco and also enjoyed a professional partnership with the painters Edouard Duval Carrié and Jose Castillo. This period led to numerous solo and joint exhibitions, including those held at Paris’ Grand Palais museum, San Diego’s Modern Art Museum, the 1992 Seville International expo, Quebec’s La Chambre Blanche arts centre and a series of exhibits in San Francisco and Chicago (1993), Brussels, Ottawa and Vienna (1994), and Quito in 1995.

After completing an assignment documenting the Amazon-dwelling Kofan tribe of Ecuador, she returned to Haitian shores in July of 1995. Since then, she has regularly mounted solo exhibitions – including Portes (1995), Transhumance (1996) and Archétypes (1997) – at Pétion-Ville’s Bourbon-Lally; her works have also been included in this art gallery’s selections which have been showcased at a series of international expos, namely the 1998 ARCO in Madrid and New York’s Black Fine Art Show in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.

 

In 1998, Ms. Stephenson mounted the exhibit Archétypes et Exotisme at the Casa de Las Americas gallery in Havana. The following year saw Barbara participating in the Contemporary Art Symposium held in Moncton, New Brunswick, with her creation Choses recrachées par la mer. For the inaugural Multicultural Forum on Contemporary Art, she teamed up with Nasson and Lionel St-Éloi to present Sculptures urbaines. Her creations also appeared in the Haēti: Anges et démons exhibition held at the Max Fourny Museum in Paris and her piece, La Caravane, formed part of the collection assembled for the 2000 Havana Biennial.

 

In 2001, her works featured in the inaugural exhibition, Haēti – Génération 2000, of the Montreal branch of the Bourbon-Lally gallery. Ms. Stephenson, along with fellow visual artist Ronald Mevs, has also contributed to the AfricAméricA.Cultural Centre’s permanent display.

 

Since the establishment of the AfricAméricA Cultural Centre in Port-au-Prince, she has contributed to several joint exhibitions, including Noir – Blanc, Signes / Écritures and Le temps des masques. Furthermore, she has collaborated in several international projects including the VIII Anthropological Festival of Afro-American Cultures – “Haiti, a nexus of Caribbean art” (Haiti, como hilo conductor del arte caribeĖo) – held at the Hispanic Cultural Centre in Santo Domingo.

 

In 1999, she established the AfricAméricA Foundation along with co-founders Mariam Selly Kane of Senegal and Canadian Dominique Fontaine. Barbara was also responsible for the creation of the Multicultural Forum on Contemporary Art (Forum Multiculturel d’Art Contemporain).

 

Ms. Stephenson, president of the AfricAméricA Foundation, is also the agency’s co-ordinator for the Caribbean / Latin America area and director of its Cultural Centre in Port-au-Prince. She has recently become a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).

 

Barbara serves on the editorial board of the Gens de la Caraēbe webzine and is a regular contributor to the Haitian daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste. She also works as a graphics artist and illustrator for quite a few publishing houses, including the Port-au-Prince based Boutures, the Liaison press of Brussels and educational publishers Areytos.