Shadowboxing With the Artistic Muse

 On August 9th we had the privilege of meeting Mansa K Mussa and a chance to ask him about his art currently on display in our gallery. It was a lively evening of viewing the pieces and having him describe his creative process. The shadow boxes, which fill one entire wall, are small gems. There is so much contained in each that you have to stand there and concentrate to get it all in. Photographs do not do them justice! He has been doing shadow boxes for 10 years and these are a good sampling from that series.

 Behind the Eight Ball-shadow box

His collages, like the shadow boxes, are filled full of detail. They are expressions of what Mussa saw in dance images that he captured in his photographs, combined with other images that relate to the topic of that collage. As he says in his artist statement, “In the tradition of James Baldwin I am an eyewitness, an eyewitness to things seen and unseen. I am a Newark artist, and a citizen of the world, who has been living, working, teaching, and making art for over a half-century. My favorite instrument of art is the camera, and the camera, negative and JPEG are the vessels that capture the essence of my memory, that which I intend to be expressed or indicated. The photographer’s encapsulated memory makes us historians by default. Our work serves as a commentary on our personal observations of past, present, and future events in our lives, our communities, and by natural extension, the world.”

 Dancing in the Key of Life – Collage

Mussa sees the act of creating art as an act of liberation. “The liberation of the creative impulse as it passes from the mind, to the reality of the page, the stage, or the moving picture. Art is more than the simple process of creation a reaction in a viewer. Art is about power and healing. It’s about power because art can be used as an instrument for change. It’s about healing because the act of creating art can be a form of enlightenment for the artist and the viewer.”

Mussa is also a teacher. He gives workshops on the art of making shadow boxes.  (check out the Maplewood 1978 Arts Center for information on his Aug 18 shadow box workshop) For him “Making and sharing art requires a certain amount of courage that exposes the artist to appreciation, reverence, or criticism. My focus in this act is to use art to challenge and uplift the human spirit, to serve the community as an organizer and teacher, and to search for the common threads that bind us as human beings.”

This is a great exhibit that you shouldn’t miss. Plan to spend some time exploring these gems, it will definitely be a memorable artistic experience!

“Painting With Words” – Leona M Seufert

“Dancing in the Key of Life”

Our current exhibit’s artist is a multitalented individual. Over the course of twenty-eight years Mansa K Mussa has performed on concert stages with a number of West African dance companies including the legendary International Afrikaan-American Ballet. He has also taught dance for the Alvin Ailey Arts in Education Program, the Dance Theater of Harlem, Jersey City State Collage, and Arts Horizons. In March of this year he currated our group exhibit “This Music We Call Jazz: Giant Steps

This solo exhibit solo presents a collection of color digital photographs, collages, and shadow boxes expounding on the many facets of the dance universe. He says, in his artist statement, “Their acts of daring embody the forces of nature, and we see in their divine forms fire and water, earth and sky, power and passion. We also find personified in their figure’s elements that emulate the sacred and the secular, the proud and the profane, the sanctified solo, the daring duo, and the soaring ensemble. Like the forces of nature they have the power to alter time, to release light and energy, to suspend motion and to redefine space.

I see in these images the power to invoke a spirit of dance that transcends the stage and the surface of the paper. I hope these images exemplify the liberating act of creating art, the emancipating act of creating dance, and the redemptive act of documenting the human condition.”

Come to the reception Thursday, August 9, 6:00 – 8:00 PM to not only view this fascinating exhibit but to also meet the artist and dance aficionado behind the works. You won’t be disappointed.

  “Painting With Words” – Leona M Seufert