Editor’s Note: The full centerfold is available in the Genesis print edition, which is stapled in the March 25, 2015, issue of U.S. 1.
America, Through Artists’ Eyes, works by contemporary New Jersey artists asked to define and depict America in the visual manner most appropriate to their own personal ideology, style, and convictions. New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton. Through June 7. www.newjerseystatemuseum.org.
#b#Land of the Free, mixed media, Leon Rainbow.#/b#
About the artist: Trenton-based Leon Rainbow creatively combines graffiti, street art, and other artistic forms into innovative projects and events. He reaches out to a wide audience, from galleries to the walls of inner cities. As Debra Miller of Da Vinci Art Alliance points out, “Despite his tribal descent, he embraces the city and its cosmopolitan population in a contemporary style.”
For as long as he can remember, he’s been drawing and creating art. Looking over the shoulder of his draftsman father, Rainbow learned how to do simple and block letters. He took this foundation and exaggerated the letters into elaborate forms and styles. By remixing the skills he inherited from his dad and elevating them into the next level, he quickly found a strong connection to hip-hop culture.
Maturing spiritually and artistically, Rainbow realizes that his art is an effective means for deeper expression. He applies fine arts composition and principles to his work and it allows him to react and educate about issues and topics around him. He uses a style that his young audience relates to and combines it with a powerful spiritual message. Rainbow believes that his approach allows him to reach a wide variety of people: “Anyone who looks at my art gets something beautiful to look at, as well as food for thought.”
Currently, Leon also serves as an executive director of Albus Cavus, a non-profit organization that utilizes the power of public art for community development and revitalization of public spaces. Annually, Leon curates two large participatory art events in New Jersey. Despite these responsibilities, he still finds time to give attention to his students in an after-school program and the numerous workshops he leads. His art constantly evolves. Leon keeps experimenting.
The artist’s statement: “Land of the Free represents the fact that in a country that is so free there are so many people locked up. The guard tower resonated with me because I live two blocks from New Jersey State Prison and drive by the towers on a daily basis. I always think about how big it is, how horrible it must be to be in there, who is in there and why? The hard edged silhouette of the watch tower is the perfect iconic image to represent the prison system. I used the classic color scheme to represent America. If you commit a crime you deserve to go to jail. But what if the system is set up for you to go to jail? What if it is profitable for you to go to jail?”
#b#US-A-Team, silkscreen on canvas, Zenna Broomer and the A-Team Artists#/b#, including Patrick Bowen, Derrick Branch, Carla Coleman, James Covington, Dolores Frails, John Hayes, Sharon Jackson, Carol Johnson, Karen Lulick, Ethel Mack, Frankie Mack, Shorty Rose, Charles Smith, and Kevin Waverly
About the artists: Founded in 2001, the A-Team Artists of Trenton is an artists’ cooperative at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). Dedicated to developing the creative and entrepreneurial talents of the men and women who use the dining and program facilities of TASK, the “price of admission” to the A-Team is a piece of artwork. Artists may join at any time and participate for as long as they like.
All A-Team members are self-taught visual artists; some are also writers and musicians. They have had group and individual art shows at area galleries and other public venues throughout New Jersey, and their work is on view year-round at TASK.
Encouraged to collaborate with artist Zenna Broomer, members of the “The A-Team” contributed ideas of what America meant to them. Some produced paintings, others the written word.
About Zenna Broomer: Born in England, Broomer is graduate of Wolverhampton University of Fine Art & Design and also studied under Professor Harry Turner (Royal London Academy), who insisted on the importance of drawing from nature and emphasized the disciplines of Cezanne. Her work has evolved slowly from realism to abstraction. A Princeton resident, she has exhibited her work in Trenton, Princeton, New York, Moscow, Florence, Italy, and the UK.
Artist’s Statement: “I selected individual pieces to create a single vision utilizing the silk screen process. Multiple screens were made and in some instances pulling apart the work to produce a coherent whole. The medium used is Winsor & Newton fine oil thinned with transparent base screened onto a birch panel. This is a print made in a single edition.
“Some of the images are predictably patriotic, others show a raw but vibrant interpretation of the artist’s fears, dreams, joy, music and dance. The result is an aspirational piece casting a mainly positive light on the artists’ lives in the gritty inner city.”
#b#Rush Hour, in New York City, 2013 watercolor on paper, Barbara G. Watts.#/b#
About the artist: Barbara Watts grew up in Forest Hills, NY. A resident of Monroe Township, she received a scholarship to the Cooper Union in New York City, and received a BFA from Pratt Institute. She attended painting workshops with many well-known artists including Irvin Greenberg, Ed Whitney, Wayne Thiebaud, John Salminen, and Carla O’Connor.
As a member of the Princeton Art Alliance, Watts has exhibited at the Prallsville Mills, Stockton; Foundation for Hellenic Culture, New York; Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA; Princeton Forestal Center; D & R Greenway Land Trust, Princeton; the Newark, Monmouth, and Princeton art museums; and Nabisco, Squibb, and Merrill Lynch corporations, among others.
Artist’s Statement: “My painting, ‘Rush Hour in New York City,’ symbolizes America to me. I spent most of my life commuting back and forth on the subway, standing on lines, rushing for trains, being shoved into cars, and standing shoulder to shoulder, back to back among the commuters. This was during my college years at Pratt Institute, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art, and Hunter College. I also commuted to jobs — in an art department ‘bull pen’ producing posters for a retail store and in a publishing company designing covers and illustrations for magazines.
“In a design sense, the tall straight lines of the buildings in Rush Hour are a contrast to curvilinear lines of the umbrellas.”