Bethel, Chantal

Chantal Bethel (born 1951, Port Au Prince, Haiti ) works from a place of deep emotion to craft her paintings. Drawing upon the landscapes and folklore of her heritage and home, Bethel moves viewers through her signature application of color—so fearlessly saturated that even gold shines through black—to find beauty and resilience, sometimes even in the darkest and most difficult of places.  

Despite her accomplishments in art today, Bethel calls art her “midlife renaissance”, having serendipitously found joy in painting in her adult life.  Bethel spent the early part of her life in Haiti during some tumultuous times before moving to Belgium to live with her mother. She discovered her knack for business management at the College of The Bahamas when she visited her father in The Bahamas and consequently, in 1971, settled there.

Though she enjoyed working in finance, Bethel could not shake the feeling that there was something missing in her life. It was not until as a Girl Guides counselor she picked up a paintbrush to produce a painting of a conch for her students to study that she discovered her love and hidden talent: painting.  

After dipping her toes into the world of art through a first exhibition of landscapes and seascapes, Bethel decided to pursue the craft more seriously, taking summer workshops in Belgium, the United States, and Canada in the early 1990's and working under such international master artists as Selina Trieff.  

It was at this time that some of her teachers became her most important mentors. In particular, Jeannie Dobie, author of Making Color Sing, formed Chantal’s relationship to color, which remains a central element to her process. Antonius Roberts, seeing her potential, also pushed and encouraged the artist's practice, ultimately helping her muster the courage to pursue art studies in painting and drawing at the Haliburton School of the Arts in Canada.

Since 2005, Bethel has pushed her painting practice into sculptural territory—in 2006 she started The Royal Collection, a series of figures carved out of the crown shaft of the Royal Palm tree.  In 2012, her solo exhibition Poto Mitan: An Appeal for Prayer for the Healing of Haiti at The D’Aguilar Art Foundation offered a central painted sculptural piece as well as several assembled paintings, while her most recent exhibition at Hillside House, In The Spirit, used crackle medium to bring a sculptural surface to her paintings.

Bethel believes that art is a powerful tool for healing and learning; in 2001, she was honored by the Miami Children’s Hospital for her support of art therapy through the “All Things Bright and Beautiful” children’s workshop, and in 2008 the Bureau of Women’s Affairs honored the artist for her outstanding work and contribution in the realm of fine arts.  

In addition, Bethel believes art is a powerful force in culture and history. To that end, she co-founded the Grand Bahama Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to research and tell the story of Grand Bahama Island’s heritage through meaningful art projects that celebrate past, present and future.  

Bethel has exhibited widely in The Bahamas—including at the Central Bank of The Bahamas, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, the D’Aguilar Art Foundation, and the Freeport Art Center—as well as internationally in the United States and Canada.  Her work can be found in many galleries, private and corporate collections around the world, as well as published in, A Time, A Season - A Visual Tribute to Oprah Winfrey (2011) by Janelle Dowell and in Yinna, Vol. 3 (2012).