Facing Family History

As the second semester began in January, the Middlesex community again found new artwork to consider in the Ishibashi Gallery. This time, the exhibition – Rocky Cotard: Know Your History – features eight works: six large-scale portraits depicting members of the artist’s family and two paintings that locate the portraits within the broader context of Haitian history.

Mr. Cotard’s project confronts Haitian history directly, focusing specifically on the Duvalier regime and its aftermath.  After learning that one of his family members, Rosalie Adolphe Bosquet, had tortured Haitian civilians on behalf of Duvalier and was connected to the deaths of 170 people, he felt compelled to explore his family’s relationship to a woman whose actions were “disdainful” to the rest of the family. A large portrait depicting Rosalie Adolphe Bosquet serves as the centerpiece of the exhibition, but her likeness is flanked by five other women in the artist’s family: his grandmother, mother, and three sisters.

In his statement about the project, Mr. Cotard details, “The juxtaposition of my immediate family along with Rosalie serves to acknowledge the reality of my lineage. It is unreal to imagine that my experience today is not at all shaped by her influence. Growing up in Haiti, I remember the tranquility that existed in my town, and I always felt an undertone of privilege within my life that came at the cost of some. Within this work, I am leading the process in developing a conversation on privilege in connection to the past, a conversation that is sorely lacking in many places today.”

Born in Mirebalais, Haiti, Mr. Cotard was raised in Boston.  He received his B.F.A. from Lesley University and previously exhibited his work at Simmons University.  He is also a published illustrator and has worked on various mural and public-art projects in the Boston area.

Speaking at the official opening of Know Your History – his first solo exhibition – Mr. Cotard recommended that everyone delve into their own family history. “But history is not always written down,” he stressed to the Middlesex students present, “so talk to your grandparents.”