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An Artist with a Practical Side

By Macollvie Jean-Francois
Haitian Times Staff

MARIETTA, GA- Essud Fungcap’s basement is split between a studio and office. In one room, his easel, color palette, paintbrushes, and various works in progress stand. On that side also is a guitar, a CD collection, and Haitian music records that he had sang on back in the 1970’s. The other side is an office-complete with desk, books, telephone that rings several times during an hour, and postcards and calendars that advertise his work.

“I’ve found a niche in the American market. They know me by now,” Fungcap said from his home outside of metro Atlanta, buried on the side of a hill that only its steeple is visible from the road. Inside the nest he shares with wife Huguette, his paintings are displayed throughout the first floor and Fungcap is at work daily- producing, promoting and publishing his art.

That’s the difference between Fungcap and typical Haitian artists: he markets himself. He is appreciated and his work sells because he attends the trade shows-where people come prepared to buy- not only the exhibits. Those who know him well say he is professional with things as little as being punctual. Instead of leaving all the work to galleries, he has representatives throughout the country, but also publishes his own work, sells directly to individuals, and negotiates prices with them.

Coupled with the popularity he had gained as a singer and his cultivation of relationships among intellectual, political and business circles, his marketing is paying off. Because his name is always out there, clients are able to contact him and he makes himself available. During a visit to his home, his phone rang several times and he could be heard talking to potential clients about which pieces they’d like. He apologized to his guest, saying, “I’m sorry about the phone, but this is a business.”
He explained that though his originals are the main source of revenue, the reproductions do well also and he sells them because they keep his name out there. Also, those who cannot afford an original could still appreciate artwork.

One of Fungcap’s Pieces

At art expos such as the Jacob Javits Convention Center’s Art Expo, which he plans to attend in 2004, he watches the onlookers’ reaction to determine which pieces would be most popular. When he returns home, he reproduces the painting most-liked.

“Technology has found a way to reproduce a piece,” he said. So he copies the originals using lithographs, and dates and signs them, and sells each at a lower price.

He also has a variety of distributors, of which the Color Circle in Boston is one. Dale Patterson, an administrative assistant there says the company represents Fungcap’s work because of the “brilliant colors that he uses” and the subject matter-“children, flowers, very innocent” topics.

“He has developed his own market in the art world,” Patterson said. “We have seen [his clientele] grow over the years.”

Fungcap uses earth tones in various hues and combinations to depict blacks in various positions and situations. In most instances, the person’s expression is the focus and a musical instrument is placed somewhere on the canvas- either around or on the person.

He painted- at first the way he was taught, then using his own ideas. During the process of discovering his art, Fungcap said he never thought that he’d be getting e-mails from the White House, asking him to stop by their functions if he’s ever in Washington, D.C. Or that his paintings would make one woman want to dance when she looked at them, he said a client told him.

Fungcap said most artists start out as realistic painters because they are trained to depict everyday life situations. After he came out of the School of Fine Arts in Port-au-Prince in the 1960ís, it takes time for one to develop her or his own style. It is even more to deal with when your teachers and friends are people like Haitian art masters Bernard SejournÈ, Philippe Dodard, Jean-RenÈ Jerome and the Wahs-Marcel, Edouard, and Bernard.

Fungcap, who refuses to tell his age, grew up in downtown Port-au-Prince, in a house on Rue du Centre where his Chinese father Pierre and Haitian mother Gerarda owned a laundry and dry cleaning business. The Fungcaps expected the six children to work in and eventually take over the business, but Essud had different ambitions.

Named Est-Sud because his father was from the east and they lived in the south of Haiti, young Fungcap was teased a lot by other children, who would call him, “Northwest,” among other combination of coordinates. The young made a combination of his own- Essud- and became known by that name.

Aside from the childhood teasing, Fungcap said he had no trouble fitting into Haitian society. Like most children of foreigners, he said, they never had any problems. His friendly, jocular manner also helped him be accepted. “I am 100 percent Haitian,” he said.

During his teenage years, Fungcap became more interested in the arts- singing, dancing, and painting than in staying at the store and doing chores. Fungcap said he would find ways to join his friends by staying at relatives’ homes so he could go to the parties with friends from school because he did not want his father to find out. His time was split between the group of painters and sculptors, and music. He would also watch bands practice and eventually got a chance to tryout for one.

He sang with the Ambassadeurs and Magnum, two popular 1970ís bands. Singing took him to many towns in Haiti and his parents would hear from other people about his son’s talent. He said he is still an Ambassador of Haitian culture, even though the group is defunct. “We pull our own eyes by not promoting our own culture,” FungCap said.

“My goal is to promote Haitian culture wherever I go.” When he moved to New York in 1981, Fungcap continued that through his painting.

After living in Elmont with his wife and three children- Faby, Sunny and Kiki, Fungcap moved to metro Atlanta in 1998. He said Atlanta reminded him of Haiti, with its rolling “hills, creeks, and also the people’s smiles,” he said. In Marietta, Fungcap founded Club Camaraderie, a social association, a couple years ago; and is the Chairman for the Atlanta region of the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians. And, of course, he says, he travels to various places to attend Haitian events. It is a central location from which he could travel quickly to get anywhere for an exhibit. He also like the idea of being around educated, influential black people in politics, business and the art world, which he has been enjoying.

“I’m using Atlanta as a base,” he said. “Atlanta is a gateway.””

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