February 2023 First Friday: “Celebrating Black Artists – A Black History Month Exhibit”
Sukenya Best, Nia Alexander Campbell, Julian Haskins, Ray Johnson, Dathan Kane, Jackie Merritt, LaKaye Mbah, & Anjenette Renae
Friday, February 3
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Sponsored by Ronald & Katrina Brown
We are celebrating Black History month at Arts on Main during the month of February! Arts on Main is honored to host, “Celebrating Black Artists – A Black History Month Exhibit,” a group show featuring black Virginia artists: Sukenya Best, Nia Alexander Campbell, Julian Haskins, Ray Johnson, Dathan Kane, Jackie Merritt, LaKaye Mbah, & Anjenette Renae. The goal of this show is to educate our community, share history through artwork, but most of all celebrate black artists and their journey with our community. The opening of the show will take place on Friday, February 3 from 6:00pm-8:00pm. The exhibit will be on display from February 3- February 25.
Sukenya Best was born in New York City, where her origins in visual art, faith in God, dance, and cultural community festivals began. In the 90s her family moved to Richmond Virginia, which has been her home for over 20 years. She took art lessons in all of her schools to eventually receive a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2001. As an undergraduate student, she studied Baroque art history in London, Europe. During that trip she observed first-hand paintings by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Frans Hals; which sparked her current practice of portrait painting. She also traveled to Zimbabwe, Africa, to study drawing and batik making. There she experienced a rich culture and an appreciation for fabric designs. When she attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (earned a M.F.A in 2007) she continued to explore printmaking on fabric with the combination of dance and music.
In between her undergraduate and graduate studies, Sukenya has always enjoyed working with the youth. She taught art classes to various ages for her local faith community, the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Richmond’s Department of Parks and Recreation afterschool program, Art 180, Reynold’s Community College, and Virginia Union University. In her pieces you often see young people of color spiritually protected and capable of carrying the armor of God. The younger children have inspired her the most with their energy, imagination, and playfulness. During this time of racial injustice and civil unrest, it is especially important for Sukenya create artwork that is vibrant, piercing and imaginative, to inspire others to continue dreaming.
When Sukenya is painting with watercolor she gravitates towards luminous colors and expressive brush strokes. Her tools are sometimes untraditional so that she can get a spattered or textured effect. In her acrylic paintings she works to combine a Baroque style with an expressive background. In both mediums she subtly puts text into the composition to capitalize on faith and dreams. Artists that have inspired her current work are Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, John Biggers, Emma Amos, and Kerry James Marshall. Sukenya currently works at the VMFA as an On the Road Coordinator, where she travels around Virginia on an artmobile
Nia Alexander Campbell
Nia Alexander Campbell is an artist and writer from Richmond, Virginia. She received a BFA in Painting & Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University with a minor in Art History (emphasizing in Black art and cinema) and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Design from VCUarts Qatar. Nia’s creative practice explores the ways collage, writing, and various painting mediums can be used to tell stories through design. She believes that storytelling in any medium can function as an excellent way to combat ignorance, give a voice to the otherwise unheard, and bridge the divides we see in our world today. Her subject matter explores themes of history, language, mental health, and the experiences of underrepresented groups of people. She often draws inspiration from her experiences as an African American woman raised in the U.S. and her numerous experiences abroad. In both her visual and written work, Nia is passionate about inclusion and sharing the experiences of marginalized communities, emphasizing the idea that no community is monodimensional. Nia seeks to use her passion for visual art & design, writing, and social awareness to reach the younger generation, those who will grow to become future decision makers. Her design work especially manifests in ways that are inviting and unintimidating, acting as teaching tools for larger, more complex themes.
It all began with a surgery. During the recovery period, I turned to art as my only stress reliever. With the long days of physical therapy and sleepless nights, art became the punctuation of peace and clarity for me. The following two years would be the starting point of my journey into the world of art.
Through some hard-work, some sleepless nights and consistency, I became a constant in the Hampton Roads area. Started displaying at open mic nights, collaboration events and pop-up shops. Then expanding into new areas including Richmond, VA, Washington DC, Baltimore, MD and even New York. My love of art has also accumulated into having three successful solo exhibitions. A mini documentary along with many other accolades and recognitions of work. I’ve enjoyed learning to master the medium of acrylic paints while also experimenting with many styles and inspirations from Ray Johnson, Clayton Singleton, Chris Clark, Tommy Mitchell.” – Julian Haskins
“As an artist, I aspire to create art that is meaningful and emotional. My art engages representation of black beauty, strength and perseverance. With the influences of artist like Dr. Fahamu Pecou, Patrick Dougher and Clayton Singleton, I try to capture the power in what it means to be “black”. I want all people to be able to connect and relate to my work. But I particularly hope that people of color gain pride through the positive representation of the black men and woman that I create.
In my work I like to use men and woman of color to express the topics of love, struggle and togetherness. With acrylic and oil, my paintings of random nameless figures are full of emotion that come to life on canvas.” – Ray Johnson
Dathan Kane is a contemporary abstract painter and muralist currently based in Hampton Roads, Virginia. He received his BFA in Art & Design from Virginia State University. His work focuses on the constant duality of life’s choices using bold, organic, black and white shapes to explore this complexity and gain a sense of balance. Dathan‘s work is included in many collections including Dollar Tree, Work Programs Architects at Assembly in Norfolk, Commune in Virginia Beach, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. He has exhibited at the Chrysler Museum (Glass Studio) Gallery, and the Sichuan Contemporary Institute in China. Dathan participated in the RVA Street Mural Festival, and the Three Notchd “Leave Your Mark!” Mural Festival in Richmond and recently completed a two week residency program at Studio House in Baltimore. His documentary film, CURATE, produced by P.B.S “WHRO Media” in Norfolk aired recently throughout Hampton Roads, Boston, and North Carolina. He currently serves on the board of the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk and works on the Contemporary Arts Network exhibition team in Newport News.
“As an Artist and Musician/Songwriter, I am by nature a storyteller. It doesn’t matter if my story is told on canvas or in song.
Whether it’s intentional or not, ideas overlap and influence each other during the process of creating.
I’m a painter. My medium of choice is color pastel on paper or oil on canvas.
I love the intimacy of the chalk in my hands, the quickness of application on canvas, and the vividness of color on the surface…I embrace the journey.” –Jackie Merritt
Based in Norfolk, Virginia, LaKaye Mbah, MFA creates artwork that assists women and children with recognizing their self-worth by making West African traditions more accessible. The artwork is inspired by cultural dances, ancient Igbo motifs, and Yoruba decorative techniques. The works of artists Faith Ringgold, Aaron Douglas, Yinka Shonibare and Nike Davies have also informed her work. She holds an undergraduate degree in Mass Media Arts from Hampton University, and an MFA in Visual Studies from Norfolk State University.
“There are many misconceptions about Black women in America. They are often perceived as aggressive and threatening when, in reality, they play an integral part in keeping communities safe and whole. Society virtually erases their accomplishments from the broader social, economic, and political lexicon. This eradication of the impact of black women’s achievements is problematic because it leaves girls and women without an aspirational positive story. Without knowledge of how to create positive personal mythology, the lack of cultural identity causes confusion, self-loathing, and low self-efficacy.
Connecting with one’s ancestral history is the first step in creating a new personal mythology. LaKaye Mbah passes down the traditions of West African women to the new generation of Black women and children through her work. By sharing the knowledge of her heritage, she hopes to inspire others to seek information about their ancestry and feel empowered by knowing who and where they came from.” -LaKaye Mbah
Norfolk, Virginia native Anjenette Renae is a visual artist specializing in oil painting and fashion design. She discovered her passion for fashion at the age of eight, when she and her sister would make clothing for their handmade paperdolls. Overtime, Anjenette began sketching Fashion Designs for friends and eventually learning to sew. While majoring in Fashion and Retail Management at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, she discovered her passion for painting. Anjenette has helped young girls between the ages of 7-17 sketch and sew their own garments at the “Sketching Dreams Fashion Design & Arts Academy”.
In her paintings, Anjenette skillfully uses oil paint with highly saturated colors to intensify her work. Anjenette’s fashion designs include custom gowns, coats and jackets.
Anjenette’s inspiration derives from the works of costume designer Ruth Carter, specifically the costumes of Marvel’s Black Panther due to their likeness to traditional African garments. Anjenette’s paintings are heavily influenced by Amy Sherald, who is known for depicting her subjects in everyday settings.
“My inspiration comes from Black culture focusing primarily on the depiction of women in a positive light. My work is targeted mostly towards millennials and Gen-Xers who have an understanding and appreciation of Hip Hop culture and Pan-Africanism. Through oil paint, each piece is a representation of cultural pride. My works are primarily portraits using heavily saturated colors in stylized manner. My influences are Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, and Faith Ringgold as each of these artists are known for using bold colors and using their work to depict social and political beliefs. My paintings are developed by exploring concepts, sketching, then executing the idea in oil paint. My work is unique because as black woman in America, I understand the lack of proper representation of women and people of color. ”
Live music will be provided by Sheila Madanat. Sheila is the owner of Image and Sound Gallery, LLC.
First Friday is on February 3rd from 6:00pm-8:00pm. This event is FREE and open to the public. We will have live music and light refreshments will be provided. Beer and wine will be available for purchase.