God and Goddesses engaging exhibiton

Laura James with a recent painting artist entitled “Yemaya” who is the Goddess of the ocean.
Photo by Tequila Minsky
Laura James with a recent painting artist entitled “Yemaya” who is the Goddess of the ocean.

Self-taught artist and illustrator for almost 20 years, Brooklyn born and bred, now Bronx resident Laura James of Antiguan heritage, is having a show of paintings and objects, rich in images, texture and feeling, entitled “God and Goddesses” in the Corridor Gallery of the Interchurch Center in Manhattan.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 6, 2012. The Interchurch Center Corridor Gallery is open Mon-Fri 9-5, closed weekends, 475 Riverside Drive at 120th St.

Ms. James’ works are religious and secular in nature, painted in vivid colors, engaging patterns, sometimes adding text, sometimes using surreal imagery in what she calls “art for the people.” She paints women, families and scenes of everyday life.

Having rendered paintings in the Ethiopian Christian Art style, over the years, the artist has developed her own style. She is known for her illustration in the “Book of the Gospels” lectionary published in 2000. Her religious art is at the forefront of the movement toward a more inclusive representation of biblical figures.

Her repertoire now also includes other sacred traditions from Buddhism to Yoruba, to ancient Egyptian and Islamic themes.

The artist was brought up in a denomination called “Brethren” that had no art, was very solemn, and to the artist seemed “anti-African.” Jesus was depicted as blond and blue-eyed and other biblical characters were ochre. In the 90s, she found herself drawn to the culture in Ethiopia, a Christian country since the 4th century, and to her an authentic African Christianity. The book, “Ethiopian Magic Scrolls,” which she saw in a Brooklyn botanica window, grabbed her attention with the simple and detailed renderings and the bright colors of red, green and gold. This was her inspiration, which segued into her painting bible stories. Then, “I painted a series of Ethiopian saints, hoping to introduce Ethiopian history to people who might not have known about it otherwise,“ she explains.

Twenty years later, she paints from other traditions, constantly challenging herself.

The artist has exhibited in a 15-year retrospective at the College of New Rochelle’s Castle Gallery and has had numerous solo shows both locally and nationally. Her images have been published in many publications and media.

She has presented workshops for children at sites including the African Burial ground and the Museum of the Bible in the Arts and is currently working on a series of paintings titled “Nannies and other Mothers.” In this new project, she attempts to shed light on a subject long neglected by popular culture. “Although Caribbean people are intimately familiar with the subject, we never talk about it,” the artist says of the stories of the countless émigrés who leave their families in search of better lives and work as domestic workers.

More of her work can be seen at http: wsww.laurajamesart.com.

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