Leadz Dorcé

photos by Nicholai Go
Story by Fiora MacPherson


There is a Haitian folktale about a young girl who gets lost, and saves eggs under her fingernails so that she can survive. It’s a narrative of achievement, of maturation, of a girl who finds her path and perseveres until she triumphs.

Leadz Dorcé does what she loves, but it hasn’t always been this way.

She came to Brown wanting to study medicine, and only this year stepped back to looked at her options. Only recently did she feel comfortable calling herself an artist.

Make the visual work you’d like to see but can’t find.

“There’s a difference between being envious about something and being passionate. Passion is the thing you’re doing just because you want to.”

And what Leadz was passionate about was painting – not only painting, but using art as a means for active representation. Her work challenges and occupies cultural space, presenting a reality quite different from what Leadz often sees in the work around her.

“Art has been dominated for so long by typical male portraits. So, it’s always women. Most paintings don’t show me.”

For Leadz, painting gives currency to that which has been neglected or elided. Haitian art has been a major influence on her development over the past year. She brings oral narrative and Haitian visual customs into her pieces, so that she can preserve her past both within in her own frame of mind and in the wider cultural landscape.

In particular, Haitian works often depict community scenes, with indistinguishable faces. Leadz employs this convention to challenge the traditional single-sitter portrait, upturning the hierarchy of classical Western art. The last supper becomes a busy Haitian marketplace. The Mona Lisa becomes pixelated.

Leadz's work considers firstly who is being depicted, and then in what context, to what end. "People recognise the face, but don't really see it," says Leadz. She seeks to challenge our perception of identity in portraiture - blur it, pixellate it, bring it back into focus.

From the Haitian tradition, she has also brought a frenzy of colors, adeptly consolidated to fit the marketplace scene, in which no particular individual, nor color palette, takes precedent. She has battled with this, as reviewers ask her to bring a particular color “mood” to the work. Leadz’s response? “What if I’m feeling all the moods?”

Leadz approaches art as she approaches life, with a strong head and a keen understanding of what her heart wants. As such, her work goes “beyond the obvious”. It does what it wants to do, and Leadz makes the visual art that she’d like to see, but cannot find.