Arts & Affairs Features

Guy Stanley Philoche, Making Sure the Flowers Bloom

Photo courtesy of Zspopediting

Guy Stanely Philoche, a widely recognized Haitian-American artist, has firmly made his mark as an artist and continues his strides to accomplish more as a creator every day.

Having found a love for art at a young age, he chose to pursue it as a career against traditional cultural beliefs for a profession. Against the odds, he has amassed great success with museums, curators, art collectors and notable celebrities. With persistence, patience and perseverance, Philoche has opened many doors including the ones that have closed on him, where in the end, those same doors that were closed for him opened up without him even having to knock.

Philoche came to the United States from Haiti at the age of five, learning to speak English through watching cartoons and soap operas. While navigating through life, he found his place in the world through art. Raised in Connecticut but following the art capital of the world, he set his eyes on New York. With his many visits to New York as a kid, the MET and MoMA allowed Philoche to visit some of his favorite artists. Once old enough to choose where to call home, Philoche knew it was New York for him over 20 years ago and he hasn’t looked back since.

“It was definitely no choice but New York and just the energy and the vibe and inspiration, it’s all here in New York. I could walk down the street and just get inspired by seeing everyday items,” Philoche said.

Philoche has loved and embraced New York for as long as he could remember, so while many fled when COVID hit, he further grounded his roots, creating a series called “New York, I Still Love You.” About the series, he said, “At the time, everyone kept saying New York is dead, I’m leaving New York, I just had to say, no, New York is never dead. It’s an evolving, growing city.”

Philoche created classical New York images, painting them in a classic polaroid style which included the Statue of Liberty and other beloved New York things such as the Nuts 4 Nuts bag and Tiffany’s to remind people of New York’s greatness.

Not only did Philoche choose to paint portraits of New York staples, but he wanted to give back to New York by supporting as many artists as he could and telling people to buy local art. He said, “I’m not a doctor, an essential worker, but it [COVID] was still affecting my colleagues and peers, so that’s why I wanted to do it. I had the platform and the ability to go out and buy as much art as possible.” What started as a $20,000 budget grew to over $250,000 and 400 pieces of artwork that built a massive collection called the “Philoche Collection,” consisting of art from artists around the world.

Although Philoche has deep ties with New York, his Caribbean roots flow through his artwork and many paintings show a Haitian influence. “It’s in my blood, if you look at some of my pieces and some of the people I’ve painted, you know it’s definitely influenced,” Philoche said.

Philoche currently has a series of paintings called “Give Us Our Flowers,” inspired by his late friend whose funeral was met with deep regret for not boasting his accolades while he was alive. The series is to honor the black community and people. Philoche said, “I want more museums to start honoring and giving us our flowers.” Showcased are famous black individuals, including  Jackie Robinson, Virgil Abloh, James Baldwin and more. The series was shown at the LA Art Show Convention Center with the Tanya Weddemire Gallery and the Bruce Lurie Gallery.

Now, the success of Philoche of course, did not happen overnight. Around 20 years ago he sold his first painting in New York City for $3,000 which gave him the focus and motivation to keep going, a sense of belonging. A sale of $3,000 became $100,000, 20 years later. Philoche also reached the level of having celebrity buyers about 10 years ago, with clientele including George Fink, George Clooney, Uma Thurman and others. Big corporate collectors have also acquired his pieces.

Philoche is showing at Pioneer Reader Gallery and the Bruce Lurie Gallery in Los Angeles again in the near future while unveiling a new series, “Young Heroes.” “It’s fun and exciting but I still don’t feel like an established artist,” Philoche said. “I’m still chasing the dream, the goals. I still have a bright future ahead of me.” Philoche sees himself getting his work into the MoMa in the upcoming years.

For the artists who doubt themselves, Philoche advised, “I was weird and awkward in a new country. If I could do it, so could you.” Philoche had a series called “No Comment.” It was eight paintings of very high-profile women who had high profile jobs such as doctors, accountants and lawyers who felt like they couldn’t get ahead because they weren’t part of the boys club.

They were painted nude with duct tape over their mouths. Philoche said he took these paintings to every museum, curator, art collector and gallery, with all shutting him down because they found the paintings controversial. Philoche stood by his artwork and put it in storage rather than giving up on the art he believed in. With the “Me Too” movement 14 years later, what he was willing to sell for $20,000 became over $120,000. Philoche said, “That’s why I tell people you have to be patient because as artists, we’re always ahead of the curve.”

To the young, up-and-coming artists, Philoche added, “Be patient and consistent, your time will come. And never, never settle.”