Ruth Erb Hoffman (American, 1902-1968), Road to Port-au-Prince, undated; oil on canvas, 38 x 50 inches (Frame: 38 x 50 inches); The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Western New York Art at the Burchfield Art Center, 1991
Ruth Erb Hoffman’s painting brings to life the early morning migration of men and women to market dressed in vibrant colors matched by tropical fruits. The Buffalo-born artist, who was a trained painter and sculptor, captures a Port-au-Prince open-air market on the island of Haiti shared by the Dominican Republic. Up and down country roads donkeys are mounted to carry wares of hand-woven cotton and pottery. Native island sounds of kompa (French and African rhythms with Spanish elements) orchestrate the chatter of Haitian Creole, spoken by women seated on the stoop bartering their trinkets. Fresh straw baskets, large and small, carried through the market share space amid the fresh fish and aromatic spices.
Can you name a few of the sights and sounds experienced during a visit to your community market? Buffalo artist Ruth Erb Hoffman enjoyed painting with bright colors that resemble the fruits and vegetables you may see in the stalls. The artist selected a tropical marketplace in the capitol city of Port-au-Prince on a Caribbean island called Haiti. Haiti shares the island with another country: the Dominican Republic. Because the island is made up of mountains, donkeys are used to transport handmade crafts to market. Kompa music rhythms of French, African and Spanish beats mix with the voices of women speaking Haitian Creole. As shoppers walk through the market, scents of strong spices and fresh fish permeate the air and fresh straw baskets, large and small, are filled and sold.
—Christine A. Parker, 2015