The Triumph of Naderson Saint Pierre

Written by Jomani Danielle

It’s springtime in New York City and Washington Square Park is alive, buzzing with run of the mill tourists, busking musicians and NYU students smoking by the fountain between classes. Life goes on and by midday the crafts and artisans have set up their wire wrapped jewelry stands and smile at each passerby eager for a new customer. Somewhere in that same park the sun beats down on the back of an artist sitting on a bench with his head hung in between his knees cradled by his hands. The day is gorgeous and the sky blue and vibrant, but the artist cannot fully enjoy the moment as he sits bogged down by many thoughts and worries that crowd out his present situation.

The artist is Naderson Saint Pierre, and in this moment he is overwhelmed by his move to this fast paced city with no support and nowhere to go. Homeless and running low on his initial savings he brought to NYC, he’s got to find a way to make it. The destination is in view, all he needs is the gas to keep driving. The photo of him sitting with his head cradled in his lap was posted on his Instagram profile. A fellow artist and photographer saw this intimate moment and took the candid photo, later sending it to Naderson to remind him that times won’t always be like this. In his Instagram caption, Naderson speaks honestly about his struggles, acclimating to this bustling city in his first few months as a full-time artist with little to no external support. Although his journey was lonely, he sat alone creating in the park fueled by passion and dedication to his craft, his destination as a successful artist slowly got closer and closer.

Art by Naderson Saint Pierre

Whenever I see that photo, I think of Atlas. In Greek mythology, Atlas is a titan who with superhuman strength fought in the Titanomachy. His punishment for fighting a war he truly believed in and ending up on the losing side? He was relegated to hold the sky upon his shoulders. For eternity. It’s in that sense that I truly believe that artists are Titans. Their superpower? When the people of the world are oblivious to the current state of affairs, when society is dumbed down by the droning content and curated media, artists step in and take on the role as society’s mirror, while simultaneously living in this human experience. As a mirror they reflect back their perspective, capturing the beautiful and the not so beautiful. If an artist is focused on public reception, it can break them. Fortunately, Naderson Saint Pierre has never cared what other people think of him or his art.

“WSQ is where it all started. So many creative individuals were outside just like me trying to get by. Got harassed multiple times by the police. They stepped on my work and told me I couldn’t paint there. That’s why I started painting in the subway. I didn’t want any trouble,” Naderson said to me.

“WSQ is where it all started. So many creative individuals were outside just like me trying to get by. Got harassed multiple times by the police. They stepped on my work and told me I couldn’t paint there. That’s why I started painting in the subway. I didn’t want any trouble,” Naderson said to me.

During the time when Naderson was homeless, he used the opportunity to study New Yorkers, the way they operated mindlessly, running to work during rush hour to make revenue for corporations and businesses, walking briskly past those unhoused without regard for their existence as people. His situation provided him extra empathy and he was inspired to speak to many other unhoused people. Through his conversations with them he noticed the invisible thread that wove humanity together, and his subject matter began to materialize in front of Naderson’s eyes. He took it and began weaving together their untold stories. From those conversations he began to honor their existence by memorializing them as subjects in his paintings. Although they may have been forgotten by society, the act of humanizing them with a tangible work of art was his way of sharing their importance with the world. The beauty of this is that he knew that once they were gone, someone had to take on the responsibility to tell their stories- and who better than an artist adamant on speaking of topics of systematic oppression, classism, racism and the multiple ways we are divided in hatred through ignorance. A true mirror indeed.

“Creating live paintings in the subway or on the street will humble you. I was able to interact with a lot of INTERESTING individuals. People came up to me just to say inappropriate things. I guess that just comes with the art. Mostly I got a lot of compliments, money or constructive criticism from homeless individuals. I take everything in, the good and the bad,” he told me during our interview, in reference to his time painting in the subway.

Art by Naderson Saint Pierre

A full-time artist relying on his craft as his bread and butter, Naderson painted every night in his hotel room without the security of knowing whether he’d even have the room the next day. After spending hours upon hours in the cramped hallway of the room hunched over while painting on found objects – cardboard wood panels, whatever he could find. He would take his recycled canvases to the 86th street and Lexington subway station along the 4,5,6 line and do live paintings, alongside the fresh paintings from the previous night on display so that people could purchase the work for his daily income.

“I create portraits of homeless individuals in the subway because they too need to see art, they too have emotions and they too matter. Since they can’t go to a gallery or museum, why not bring the art to them? I saw how people looked at me when I was sleeping in the subway. I want them to feel like no matter their conditions, that they’re human too.” Naderson said.

Art by Naderson Saint Pierre

Around this time, life brought Naderson and I together through an artist talk for the group exhibition that brought him to New York City in the first place. The exhibition was titled “Basquiat Lives”, curated by our mutual friend Danero Elle. The program that night was riveting, including a discussion roused from the stage about black artists and their concern on who was collecting their art. In a time where black art was popularized during the attention of diversifying art portfolios after the country was simultaneously rocked with the epiphany of protecting black lives and black culture. The discussion spurred Naderson to speak, though as I learned he is normally a silent observer in many conversations.

Passionate about his art and his audience, he is protective of the stories that he shares through his work when highlighting black experiences. He is not confined to a specific niche of who can appreciate these pieces. He gave context to his goal of prioritizing Haitian art collectors when they have an appreciation for specific pieces that he creates, as they are often created in homage to his Haitian culture and heritage. However, Naderson has never viewed art to be divisive, and he believes he is not one to determine who can appreciate or collect his work based of preconceived notions. He believes that the impact of his work can inspire transformative thought in collectors who may not be fully informed on the deep topics that he paints about. Art is used to spark conversation surrounding controversial topics that people may not initially be inclined to speak on, or ponder about. What an honor it is for his brush to be the catalyst for these possible internal changes and shifts.

Art by Naderson Saint Pierre

After the artist talk, I had the pleasure of exchanging information with Naderson and we kept in touch until my next curation which included his piece “The Elephant In The Room.” I was so pleased to curate work from his early portfolio here in the city. Through working together, I got to know him, and it was always a serene to spend time with him in his residency spaces. In the silent moments I remember asking him how he was able to stay so positive and smile despite the uncertainty of not knowing where he would lay his head the next evening. He would smile and reply that “This is the life I chose, and this is what comes with it, to take the good and not expect any bad to come from it is foolish.” Wise beyond his years with an inner peace that comes from self-awareness and much time spent alone in introspection, Naderson has proved he was ready for this journey, not only talent wise, but his mental state proved that whatever adversity he would encounter would be met with an extreme level of grace and resolve to push through triumphant.

Another element of Naderson’s spirit that inspired me was his ability to put others before himself. Perhaps his benevolent nature poured back into him, in the serendipitous way that the universe was able to guarantee him consistent support in the form of collectors that he met while live painting in the MTA subway stations, or in the form of the curators that he met while encouraging other artists in his painting sessions in the middle of Washington Square Park.

Art by Naderson Saint Pierre

The fruits of Naderson’s labor began to ripen for harvest, and eventually he was laden with exhibition opportunities. In the past two years of being an NYC-based artist he has exhibited in over 20 shows, with shows in almost every single borough, even participating in Miami Art Basel in 2023 this past year. Naderson created a path that was uncompromised by his morals, his diligence and his work ethic that was driven by his love for life, people and most importantly his art.

Perhaps most significant to his development as an artist has been his yearlong residency in Lower Manhattan. Naderson applied through an open call for an exhibition with Art On The Ave, through which he met Barbara Anderson the founder who has become a dear supporter of his work and friend. The program provided him with studio space in Fulton Center, his first studio in Manhattan. By means of having a grounded, centralized space, Naderson was able to host curators, gallerists and collectors. As he live painted in view of the police officers (who at one time forced him out of the public subway stations for painting) in his own private space it was no wonder to see the transitional shifts in his career blossoming into a bountiful harvest. Eventually Barbara had to deliver the news to Naderson that he would need to leave Fulton Station studio, but Art of the Ave pivoted to a new location in the Westfield Mall in the Oculus. Boasting more space and a wider audience, he has stayed in the Oculus for 6 months, the longest residency of any artist in the space.

“I just want to help those around me and those who’s curious enough to look at it. I’m just being a vessel. I can only achieve that by being my true authentic self,” told me.

“I just want to help those around me and those who’s curious enough to look at it. I’m just being a vessel. I can only achieve that by being my true authentic self,” told me.

It was there he led art workshops to young children in the studio, and shared his work with an audience that was truly able to get to know the talented, diligent, and enigmatic artist, Naderson Saint Pierre. His art is punctuated by his purpose to give voice to the subjects that don’t have the words, and as a quiet spirit where his words may fall short in telling the stories, his brush never fails to keep moving, illustrating the lives that cannot be contained by language.

Be sure to see Naderson Saint Pierre’s upcoming duo exhibition, ‘Beauty in Struggle’ alongside Anthony Rodinone. The dual exhibition is curated by Rich Ramsay Studio’s and will open Thursday April 25th from 5-9pm, at 231 10th Ave, New York NY 10011.

Jomani Danielle is a visual artist, vocalist and writer born and raised in Brooklyn NYC. She acts as a documentarian seeking to preserve the authenticity of NYC culture whilst simultaneously enriching it one article, canvas or performance at a time.

Instagram@jomanidanielle

Website: jomanidanielle.com