FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 3, 2022
BLACK IS BLESSED: THE WORK OF LAURA JAMES
(New York, NY) The exhibit Black is Blessed: The Work of Laura James opens at The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture this week featuring a refreshing and poignantly inclusive visual journey through the Bible. Building on the ancient Ethiopian Christian style of iconography, Bronx-based artist Laura James brings familiar Gospel narratives to life by weaving scriptural themes of beatitude and redemption with visual representations of the Black American experience. The 22 paintings that comprise the collection present a visually distinct and vibrant series of religious images, offering black and other people of color an opportunity to see themselves reflected in sacred art.
With the express purpose of Diversifying the Sacred Space by delving deeply into the universality of the Catholic Church, the artist expands our visual, religious vocabulary throughout the exhibit. The painting titled Sermon for Our Ancestors depicts the crowds in Jesus’s timeless Sermon on the Mount as people enslaved and in bondage, making their way toward Christ at the center of the piece. The visual themes Laura James employs are particular to the Black American experience, but also speak to a universal experience of spiritual suffering familiar to all people in search of salvation throughout the ages. The exhibit also features a series of four paintings telling the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus after the Resurrection. The artist takes the viewer on the sacred journey from the moment Mary Magdalene is commissioned by Jesus to tell the Apostles that he has indeed Risen, to his appearance in the Upper Room where the disciples are gathered.
“I looked, and behold, a great multitude… of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Revelation 7:9
The artist Laura James reimagines the texts of the Jewish scriptures and the New Testament with an eye toward a more culturally inclusive representation of Biblical figures. The exhibit is currently open at The Sheen Center and runs through March 12, 2022. The Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 11am to 7pm; and Saturday from 12pm to 6pm. For more information, visit sheencenter.org.
The exhibit Black Blessed: The Work of Laura James is co-sponsored by The Office of Black Ministry of the Archdiocese of New York who will continue to work with The Sheen Center on projects and events highlighting Black History Month.
About the Artist
A self-taught painter and illustrator, Bronx-based Laura James has been working as an artist for almost thirty years. Painting in two styles she refers to as ‘sacred’ and ‘secular,’ James separates and combines the sacrosanct and the ordinary, and has created a diverse body of work that has appeared in hundreds of publications. In 2000, James illustrated The Book of the Gospels lectionary, published by Liturgy Training Publications; the book is used worldwide by numerous Christian denominations and her religious art is at the forefront of the movement toward a more inclusive representation of Biblical figures. James has also illustrated two children’s books, both written by Olive Senior, Anna Carries Water (2014) and Boonoonoonous Hair! (2019); both empowering young black girls. She has painted works that deal with race and class in America, and recently completed a series of paintings on Mary Magdalene, projecting her as “first proclaimer of the Resurrection” into popular culture.
About The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture
The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture (www.sheencenter.org) is a cultural arts performance venue on 18 Bleecker Street, North of Houston in downtown Manhattan, offering a vibrant mix of theater, film, music, art and talk events. A project of the Archdiocese of New York, The Sheen Center has as its mission elevating hearts and bringing people of diverse faiths and backgrounds together through artistic performances that reflect the true, the good, and the beautiful in this world. The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture is named for the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a two-time Emmy Award-winning television personality whose use of print, radio, and television to dialogue with culture inspires The Sheen Center’s mission of engaging culture through civil discourse and the arts. The Sheen Center is a state-of-the-art theater complex that includes the 270-seat off-Broadway Loreto Theater, equipped with five-camera high-definition TV and live-stream capability and a multi-track recording studio; the 80-seat off-off-Broadway Black Box Theater; four rehearsal studios; and an art gallery.