Mixed Media Artist Comments on Covid-19 & Social Justice in New Exhibit

South Orange, NJ – Ushering in a new and exciting season of exhibitions at The Herb + Milly Iris Gallery in the South Orange Performing Arts Center is artist Curtis Grayson, III. His solo exhibit, Transitional Energy: Form, Shape, Color, will be on view from September 23-November 21. The opening reception will be on September 23 from 5-8 pm. The Walk + Talk with the artist and curator will be on November 14 at 2 pm.

When creating the more than two-dozen vibrant, mixed-media works featured in this exhibition, Grayson was inspired by the effects of Covid-19 and the national social justice movement. Ninety percent of the pieces were created during the pandemic, from 2019-2021.

“The collection of work is a testimony of being focused and resilient during some of the worst times we have ever witnessed” says Grayson. “This is my voice during isolation, Covid-19 and civil unrest.”

Grayson only approaches his canvas when he is “at peace of mind and heart.” He believes the canvas acts as a mirror for the artist. “What you pour into it is what you will get out of it. Only positive energy is expressed when I’m working,” he says.

The works in this exhibit depict an infinite flow of energy through deliberate and organic shapes. “The composition of each painting is meant to resemble an almond or cowrie shell bouncing off rocks in a downward flow creating an endless movement or dance as it bounces,” he says.

Grayson also cites reading Dr. Kimbwandende Fu-Kiau’s book Self-Healing Power and Therapy: Old Teachings from Africa and studying martial arts with world-famous instructor Shaha Mfundishi Maasi as motivators for focusing on the flow of energy in these pieces.

The Herb + Milly Iris Gallery is not a typical showcase space. It’s an immersive experience. Placement of artwork is meant to lead visitors through the display, which is located on the second and third floors of the South Orange Performing Arts Center. Art lovers can journey up SOPAC’s grand staircase—a work of art itself—that features glass balusters and large windows offering plenty of natural light.

“I am delighted that patrons will be able, once again, to see an in-person exhibit, which promises to entice, engage and enthrall,” says curator Jeremy Moss.

Speaking specifically about Grayson’s work, Moss said, “One is immediately aware of the fearlessness in Grayson’s work. Created on paper, canvas and wood, the use of vibrant colors, bold brush strokes and patterns grab your attention, but it’s the rich textures of handmade papers, silver gilt and fabrics, that really draw you into the detail of each piece. Together, the mixed media displays an energy and emotion that are captivating.”

About the Artist:

As a child, Curtis Grayson, III was inspired by the character JJ, a young artist, on the sitcom Good Times. Curtis later learned that the artwork shown in the show was by Ernie Barnes, an artist known for his elongated characters and movement.

Grayson attended the prestigious Arts High School in Newark. He holds two B.A. degrees from William Paterson University: one in African, African-American and Caribbean Studies and the other in Fine and Studio Art.

His work has been exhibited nationally, including at the Denver Black Arts Festival, Black Heritage Arts Festival and the Cleveland Fine Art Show.

Grayson is an art teacher at Columbia High School in the South Orange-Maplewood School District.

About the Curator:

Jeremy Moss began his career as a fashion photographer and photojournalist. As an artist, Moss works in numerous media, including metal, glazes, ink, printing and painting. He is the former Executive Director of Valley Arts. Jeremy oversees the strategic direction of The Herb + Milly Iris Gallery with the mission to champion emerging artists.

“My vision is to bring diverse, thought provoking and exciting exhibits to this hidden gem of a gallery,” says Moss.

If visitors are interested in purchasing Grayson’s work, they can contact Linda Beard at (973) 382-1035 or lindab@sopacnow.org.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, Noon-8PM

NOTE: Due to Tropical Storm Ida restoration efforts, the main entrance of SOPAC is closed and the elevator is currently out of service. Please enter the building through the movie theater entrance for Cinema Lab and use the stairs to get to the gallery on the second and third floors.

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