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Haitian artist spotlights social issues in work

Haitian-American artist Watson Mere’s artwork, “My Brother’s Keeper,” which depicts Dr. King covering President Trump’s mouth, went viral last month after Trump’s remarks about Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa.
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Philadelphia-based artist Watson Mere went viral last month for his artwork depicting Martin Luther King Jr. silencing President Trump. The idea for the one-year-old piece was generated during Trump’s inauguration, which came days after the holiday celebrating Dr. King. Mere said he wanted to frame an artwork surrounding the late activist, while also juxtaposing him to something.

“I wanted to do a Martin Luther King piece, however, I also wanted to highlight something current and the inauguration of Trump was also going on — and the two of them are such polar opposites with their messages,” said Mere.

The work titled “My Brother’s Keeper,” shows Dr. King covering the mouth of President Trump.

It was revisited again in January, picking up a lot of traction after Trump made derogatory comments about Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations.

Being Haitian-American himself, he both thrilled people were noticing his art and shocked by the Trump’s remarks.

“I usually don’t allow anything he says to bother me any type of way because he’s a troll but that was one I couldn’t brush off my shoulder — especially because he said it around the time people were remembering the earthquake,” said Mere. “He said it with no kind of remorse. Almost 300,000 people died and those were the comments he made around earthquake anniversary.”

He said the reaction was unexpected but rewarding when he considers what he thinks of during his productivity.

“It was a surreal moment for me,” said Mere. “A lot of people just see the finished product, but when you have this idea in your head, and you’re going through the process of creating — you’re not thinking about that.”

But he adds that seeing how well it was received has only driven him to explore more social messages in his art, and he is most proud of this work.

“I didn’t know people everywhere would like it but I’m really happy it resonated especially in these times we are in,” he said.

His creative inspirations are renowned Haitian artist Hector Hyppolite and Jean Michel Basquiat, who was of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent. He said their art inspired him as a Caribbean man to continue producing work, particularly Basquiat.

“He really inspired me to pursue art — he grew up like me, we had the same and similar culture and I look at how far I am and they opened doors,” said Mere.

Mere said his forthcoming art will take on a new direction, and he is hoping to approach work depicting the global African Diaspora.

His artwork can be seen and purchased at www.artofmere.com

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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