A beautiful 1880s carriage house, located at 223 North Main Street in Moscow, is the site of an amazing art retreat and business, Moscow Clayworks. Owned by Frank and Susan Goryl, both local artists, it contains a gallery, artist residences, and studio spaces. There have been many artists-in-residence who’ve passed through, but one recent guest, Haitian artist Lissa Jeannot, definitely merits mention. Her friendship with the Goryls has blossomed from a mere introduction in 2010 to an exchange of art, knowledge, and camaraderie over the years since. Luckily for local appreciators of the arts, this mutually fulfilling relationship finally led to Jeannot making the long trip from Haiti to both visit her dear friends and share her unique, inspiring artwork with Northeast Pennsylvania.
Jeannot has travelled to the countries of Italy and Spain, as well as the continents of North and South America, honing her skills and teaching workshops. She explained that she was an artistic child and always “loved to play in the mud.” Once her fingers experienced the touch of clay, Jeannot expressed that she knew what she “wanted to do forever.”
Many of Jeannot’s clay works are of Voodoo gods and goddesses, but she explains that Voodoo is not at all how it is portrayed in movies. The deity figures she creates are friendly, loving, passionate, and jovial, and are meant to protect people and guide them towards happiness and prosperity, not to harm. Jeannot explained the meanings of some of her gorgeous and moving sculptures in detail to the Independent Gazette. The piece Auntie Sismick portrays love, passion, and protection. Her generous form is to help steady the land against any future earthquakes. Ezili represents the goddess of secrets and past passions. “Tout ke Sacre,” translated as “All hearts are sacred,” is written behind this work. Finally, there is Papa Legba, known in Voodoo as a jokester, and the most important god. His congenial head is supposed to hold the key for any situation.
In addition to forms, Jeannot also creates such varied items as Udu drums and jewelry.
When asked about the politics of Haiti and how it influences her work, the artist stated that she tries to stay uninvolved, but that it’s difficult, as historically agitated political affairs affect every Haitian’s day-to-day life. An additional concern of Haitians, according to Jeannot, is the constant shaking of the earth and the threat of an impending earthquake.
Although Jeannot could only stay in our area for a short time and has now returned to Haiti, you can learn more information about the artist, find out how to purchase her work, and view her pieces on Moscow Clayworks’ website www.moscowclayworks.com or on facebook.
Also notable at the gallery and currently on display are “benefit bowls,” crafted by Goryl. He created one bowl for every day of the year, featuring a distinct monthly clay and glaze. Each bowl is made from non-toxic materials and costs $15. They are also available through the website mentioned above, or by visiting the gallery. All proceeds are donated to three humanitarian projects: The Haitian Water Project, The North Pocono Cultural Society Scholarship, and Pathways to Peace.