Morel Doucet Harnesses the Political Power of Art

Morel Doucet at his studio in the Bakehouse Art Complex.
Morel Doucet at his studio in the Bakehouse Art Complex. Photo by Pedro Wazzan/Courtesy of Morel Doucet
On any given day, you can find Morel Doucet in his studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood. In fact, the artist spends so much time in his studio that he has a stationary exercise bike in the back of the room. Adorning the available wall space are framed pieces from fellow artists that Doucet admires, along with his own paintings and prints.

A multidisciplinary artist himself, Doucet says his first love is ceramics. Pieces in various stages of progress line one table, and placed in the adjacent rack are works awaiting shipment to their new homes. A bust of Nefertiti painted in black and embellished with delicate golden flowers stares out from the middle shelf.

The space itself is intimate, but it’s home. Doucet has been a Bakehouse resident for more than two and a half years. He recalls waiting patiently — and not so patiently — for a studio to become available.

“I spent a whole year begging the director to try and get a space at the Bakehouse,” Doucet says with a laugh. “I remember on my fourth visit to the director’s office, I witnessed the literal exchange of the keys as a spot opened up.”

Doucet was born in Haiti but moved to Miami with his family when he was a toddler. He remembers his early years in school in Miami Gardens, where the language barrier was a deterrent to his studies. As the Creole-speaking Doucet was adjusting to classes in English, not all his teachers were as encouraging or as patient as his art teacher.

He recalls that his third-grade teacher at Lakeview Elementary, Ms. Goldman, saw his potential and cultivated it.

As he retells the stories of his youth, Doucet gets up and begins searching through the contents of a large plastic bin. He emerges with a weathered black binder. Inside are dozens of certificates and letters of participation dating from his elementary-school days through high school. “Greatness as Class Artist,” one document reads. “Artist of the Year,” reads another.
click to enlarge The Brown Menagerie, 2015 - PHOTO BY DAVID GARY LLOYD/COURTESY OF MOREL DOUCET
The Brown Menagerie, 2015
Photo by David Gary Lloyd/Courtesy of Morel Doucet
“This is a product of being a child of immigrants," he says, proudly holding up the binder. "Your parents want you to do better, and so you’re expected to operate at a level of excellence while in school.”

A visual learner, Doucet tries to teach young students the lessons he has gleaned and the methods that worked for him as a kid. He’s currently curriculum and tour coordinator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, where his duties include coming up with lesson plans that are shared online and available to anyone — students, teachers, homeschooling parents.

“When I create coursework, I put to use the tools I learned that helped me understand my surroundings,” he says.

Although Doucet is based in Miami, he’s represented by Galerie Myrtis in Baltimore, where he'll have a solo exhibition later this year. But you don’t have to go to Maryland to get up-close with Doucet’s work.

This spring, he's working with fellow Haitian artist Stephen Arboite to offer two unique experiences. The two are collaborating on pieces to be featured as part of Oolite Art’s group show, “Diverse Networks,” which runs April 21 through July 4.

Additionally, the pair is coming together for an outdoor public art piece at North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The collaborative work will be on display in the museum’s plaza April 30 through June 27, coinciding with Haitian Heritage Month.
click to enlarge From the series "Night Garden: In Moonlight the Stars Chatter." - PHOTO BY DAVID GARY LLOYD/COURTESY OF MOREL DOUCET
From the series "Night Garden: In Moonlight the Stars Chatter."
Photo by David Gary Lloyd/Courtesy of Morel Doucet
“We have a similar aesthetic and process,” Doucet says of working with Arboite.

Doucet has been busy for a while now. He recently finished a project with Arteza Art Supplies and installed a multilayer piece at the Nespresso flagship store on Lincoln Road. The piece, titled Paradise, includes an installation inside the store and a takeover of the coffee shop’s storefront windows.

"Twenty-twenty-one has probably been the best year in my artistic career,” he says.

He's not kidding. The 30-year-old artist was selected to be featured in the prestigious Venice Biennale international art exhibition next year in Italy. He intends to go dark for the summer to work on his solo show for the fall.

“And then I go dark again and reappear in early 2022 for my show in Venice,” he adds.

Italy won’t be the first time the young artist was invited to a distinguished locale. The moment he knew he was on the right path as an artist, he says, was when he was invited to speak at a panel on environmentalism and art at Yale University in 2018. He shared the stage with activist Elizabeth Yeampierre, curator LaTanya Autry, and podcaster Tagan Engel.

The poster for the event still hangs on his studio wall.
click to enlarge From the series "White Noise." - PHOTO BY DAVID GARY LLOYD/COURTESY OF MOREL DOUCET
From the series "White Noise."
Photo by David Gary Lloyd/Courtesy of Morel Doucet
A lot of Doucet’s work deals with climate change and bringing awareness to sea-level rise, as well as the plights of communities of color.

“As an artist, the work I make is very political [at times],” Doucet says. “Art is a very powerful weapon, so it has a certain energy.”

As an example, he cites a series titled "White Noise," which has garnered him a solo show, a regional Emmy nomination, and has been acquired by private collectors and for public art installations. The piece is a critique on climate change, particularly development in Miami Beach. When he started working on the series in 2014, Doucet says, he couldn’t find any support, so he funded it himself.

“I believed in what I was making,” he says. “My model as an artist is simply to create to serve, create to experience, and create to dream.”

"Diverse Networks." Wednesday, April 21, through Sunday, July 4, at Oolite Arts, 924 Lincoln Rd., 2nd Floor, Miami Beach; 305-674-8278;
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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.