Cat Footwear works every day to empower builders, makers and creators to turn challenge into enduring greatness. That includes artists like Miami-based Morel Doucet, who we caught up with to get his unique take on creativity and how he is using his artwork to alter the perspective and attention of the world.
Morel is a widely acclaimed multidisciplinary artist and arts educator that hails from Haiti. Using a variety of mediums, including ceramics, illustrations, and prints, his work examines the realities of climate-gentrification, migration, and displacement within Black diaspora communities. His work catalogs a powerful record of the Black experience through environmental decay at the intersection of economic inequity, the commodification of industry, personal labor, and race.
Morel has exhibited extensively in prestigious national and international institutions, and has been featured and reviewed in numerous publications, such as Vogue Mexico, Oxford University Press, Hyperallergic, and Hypebeast. He has also won an Emmy nomination for his work around climate change and rising seawater in Miami, FL.
We were lucky enough that Morel carved out some of his time to chat with us. So we asked him to answer some questions to get his visionary perspective on the art he brings to the world, where he’s coming from and where he hopes to go.
How would you define your art and work?
I consider many of my artworks to be double-edged swords; they entice and lure the viewer with beauty on one end while reminding them of their complicity in the destruction of our shared environment on the other. Climate change is without question the single most crucial issue facing Miami residents today.
My ongoing body of work, Water grieves in the six shades of death, examines the realities of climate-gentrification, migration, and displacement within South Florida’s Black diaspora. The title is rooted in magical realism, juxtaposing Water as a body containing historical trauma, cultural dissonance, and active memory.
Within the past two years of my artistic exploration, I’ve been exploring Little Haiti, Overtown Miami, Allapattah, and Liberty City to gather various flora and fauna from these communities to create ecological drawings in the forms of abstract portraiture of the residents that live in these districts. When I explore each neighborhood, I see they are, in some way, sacred to the people who live there. The land harbors their cultural history, legacies, and shared nostalgia.
Within the last decade, developers have been aggressively gentrifying these neighborhoods for elevation and land value, which causes the displacement due to rising rents and property tax. As a result, these communities are changing rapidly. I want to explore the theme of climate gentrification in South Florida. In the event, these Black bodies cease to exist with the threat of climate gentrification, the land we inhabit still holds our cultural memories and genetics. Tropical foliage and front yard gardens are like gatekeepers of time – they anchor the dreams and hopes of the people.
What’s been your biggest challenge as an artist?
As I transition into a post-Covid art world, the greatest challenge I’ve encountered has been burn out and tokenization. In the canon of what’s going on across the country, institutions and corporate brands mustn’t tokenize artists of color to fulfill their equitable missions. While I fully support artists of color being paid for their work, I also caution them to understand the value and worth that they bring to the table.
What advice would you give a young artist or someone just starting out in the creative industry?
My advice to young and emerging artists stepping into the art world is to pace themselves. Think about your artistic longevity, and don’t chase instant fame. Don’t rush for gallery representation; every exhibition opportunity is not necessarily a good one. Do not create work to be part of trends; be authentic in your voice and practice.
What inspires you to create?
The changing landscape around me inspires me and the work that I produce. Such an example comes from my neighborhood of Little Haiti in Miami, FL; the warm bowl of Dominican Sancho lingers in the air nightly. The roosters crow and roam the streets into the apex of the morning hour, and Haitian music beat the ground like caffeinated hammers. The streets are buzzing with various street vendors, and the house are brightly painted in tropical Caribbean flavors.
I come from a family of oral historians, educators, and medical practitioners. At a very young age, the idea of being a cultural bearer of history was instilled in me. Being Haitian-American, I come from a rich legacy of black excellence and pioneers. My inspiration comes from watching my parents work hard toward their American dream despite the various obstacles they’ve had to overcome.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, I am working on a few projects that will debut into the virtual AR Space this fall in Miami; then, eventually, I would like to explore the NFT cannon and enterprise in the art market.
How do you feel you “Do More” and what does that mean to you?
As artists, it’s our responsibility to reflect on the times we live in, whether good, bad, or ugly. I feel like Cat Footwear’s brand message “Do More” mirrors the idea of our collective responsibility to better the world around us.