By Erin Kamel
The “Sight Specific: Art of Community” exhibit opened on Wednesday, Sept. 5, in the Art and Interactive Multimedia Gallery, and showcases visual art that honors members of the Trenton community. The gallery features photography, murals, collage work, video art and more.
Half of the exhibit displays the work of students who took the Community Engaged Art class in the spring of 2018. The other half highlights the work of four local artists who visited the College to collaborate with students.
“This show is a great opportunity for members of our campus to learn more about the local art scene and generate a sense of connectedness between the campus and community,” said Carolina Blatt-Gross, assistant professor of art education at the College.
For their photo project, the class collaborated with artist JR, whose international project “Inside Out” won a TED prize at a 2011 TED Conference to fund small projects all over the world.
“Inside Out” serves as a “global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art,” according to the project’s website.
The “Fabric of Trenton” profoundly features massive portraits of Trenton residents who stood in front of a textile background.
“I was super happy because my proposal was chosen for this project,” said Estefany Rodriguez, a junior art education major, who chose the quilt work concept to represent how each person comes together to make up the community.
The portraits are installed in three different locations in Trenton, one just outside of The Hummingbird Restaurant, a Jamaican eatery downtown.
For their next project, the students partnered with East Trenton Collaborative, a group of residents and organizations who work together to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood, to create a mural for a community garden in Trenton. The exhibit documents the mural project from start to completion.
Cara Giddens, a senior fine arts major, designed the mural that vibrantly illustrates community members, of various ages and backgrounds, working in a garden to represent the great diversity in the Trenton community.
Melanie Capalbo, a junior art education major, chose a rainbow honeycomb design for the back of the mural – visible from outside of the garden gate — to correlate the importance of bees to agriculture with the importance of the garden to the community.
“(East Trenton Collaborative) really wanted something colorful to uplift the street,” Rodriguez said.
Students created complementary signs that include facts about each vegetable growing in the garden. The signs are written in English on one side and Spanish on the other, so the Spanish speaking population of Trenton can also interact with the garden.
Poster sized portraits of four local artists fill the main wall of the gallery and flow into the second portion of the exhibit, which features each artist’s work.
“They’re all about their community,” Rodriguez said.
In the far corner of the gallery, a video piece that artist Bentrice Jusu worked on with local high school students is projected onto the wall.
Some of Jusu’s display features classic black and white photography that pays homage to Trenton’s Razor Sharp Barber Shop. In Trenton, like many other cities, the barbershop is recognized as more than just a spot to get a haircut — it’s a “community anchor,”according to Jusu.
Artist Tamara Torres’ collage work is a vibrant collective of colors and textures.
One element of the multilayer piece flashes words and phrases like “Revolution” and “The Final American” above the hand of a puppet master. Puppet strings control a police officer holding a gun. A television portraying a sad woman with the word “system” across her mouth is in the place of the officer’s head.
Torres’ work aims to speak to people who have been discriminated against because of their background or culture.
“She’s so deep,” Rodriguez said. “Her pieces are amazing.”
Artist Jon “Lank” Connor displayed extremely detailed stencil work that honors members of his family. Artist Andrew Wilkinson showcases his photographic talent with pixelated photos of some of the College’s art students.
“Hopefully visitors will recognize the richness of the Trenton community and find inspiration for potential future collaborations,” Blatt-Gross said.
The featured artists will return to the College on Sept. 19 for a reception and panel discussion from 5 to 7 p.m.