Suffer for your art?
Leroy Campbell, featured artist at the 26th annual Art in the Atrium exhibition, doesn’t buy it.
“Listen, when I say I’ve never starved, I’ve never believed in the starving artist concept. I always thought it was over-rated,” he said, to great laughter, at Friday’s packed opening night in Morristown.
Campbell, a native of Charleston, S.C., is celebrating his 25th year as an artist. His history-infused paintings, with colors so vivid they grab your eyeballs and don’t let go, are among the highlights of a show that celebrates African American art and artists.
Expressing thanks, Campbell observed: “When you are given a gift from the gift-giver,if you are respectful and honest and true to that gift, every time you do something to give a little back… the gift-giver will prosper you.”
Presented in conjunction with Morris Arts, the show fills four floors of the Morris County Administration Building at 10 Court St.
The theme is Lift Every Voice. It’s vibrant, it’s joyous, it’s inspiring…and you can experience it through March 21, 2018, for free, during weekday business hours.
Art in the Atrium 2018. Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin
Family figures prominently in Campbell’s works because, he explained, “it takes a whole lot of people to make one person whole.
“So you should never forget where you come from,” he said. “Never forget who you are. And while you’re on this journey, don’t forget to take a little piece to give to somebody else.
“And not only people you know. Not people you’re close to, not people you trust. But try to reach out to somebody you may never have known,” said Campbell, who related giving his in the rain to a man “who needed it more than me.”
Leroy Campbell. Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin
MORE SCENES FROM ART IN THE ATRIUM
Sometimes it’s okay to zone out during your electives.
“I didn’t know I could draw until 2012, when I was bored in my college classes,” said Kara S. Rice.
She thinks it was Introduction to Music. That’s not a reflection on Delaware State University. Rice just discovered a hidden passion, and it didn’t happen to be Mozart.
“I drew cartoons. And it escalated,” said the Washington DC native, whose resin-coated acrylic mosaics are worth a close look.
Mashell Black, who has a master’s of fine arts from the Mason Gross School at Rutgers, said he was drawn to Rice’s creations by their craftsmanship.
“I want to see the materials and the colors before the story behind it. I’m interested in the texture, the glaze, the colors… and then finding the story behind it,” said Black, who hopes to showcase his own works at Art in the Atrium in the future.
“I’ve been painting houses for 10 years,” he said. “Got to pay those bills. Time to get back into art.”
Kara S. Rice. Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin
Stories are everywhere at Art in the Atrium–even in the artists’ names.
Ron E.A. Powell’s initials are R.E.A.P., and that’s no accident. His parents are from Jamaica, and a farming tradition. They wanted to remind him that you reap what you sow, he said.
The Irvington artist, who also works as an engraver for Tiffany & Co., is making his first appearance at Art in the Atrium.
“I love the crowd here, and the energy, all the different cultures coming together,” said Powell, 41.
He knew art was his calling at an early age.
“I always had it in me,” Powell said. “When everyone was running around and playing, I was inside drawing.”
Ron E.A. Powell. Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin
Favorite moment at the opening:
Wide-eyed kids asking artist Stephen B. Ellis to sign their exhibition checklist page.
Mentoring is an important piece of this show. Ellis, who teaches art at Newark’s Central High School, graduated from Maplewood’s Columbia High School, where he was taught by Onnie Strother — whose work also is featured at Art in the Atrium.
Barry Devone of the Eta Pi chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity brought boys from the Sojourner Truth Middle School in East Orange, as part of the chapter’s Ernest Everett Just mentoring program.
“For them, this is their first art show,” said Devone, of Montclair. “It’s good for them to know there are many options out there for them in society, other than going to the movies. Art is a way to spend time with friends and family.”
One of the program’s staunch supporters, he said, is Charles Craig— the attorney who started Art in the Atrium with his wife, Viki Craig.
“We’re trying to keep it fresh,” said Charles Craig, whose daughters, Lauren and Simone Craig, help run the annual show. In fact, he said, next year’s probable theme is Hip, Young and Fresh.
Yet after more than a quarter century, Art in the Atrium hasn’t grown old for him.
Taking the art in, Charles Craig said, “is like opening a Christmas present. You don’t know what you’re going to see. Some things are better than others. But it’s all expression. It’s all good.”
Stephen B. Ellis. Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin