By Logan Dubel
When viewing artistic works — whether by Van Gogh, Picasso, Michelangelo, or a local artist, the unique style of each artist is unmistakable. Although pieces created by different artists may never appear the same, they can convey a united message that resonates. A new exhibit displayed throughout the month of April at the Ocean City Center for the Arts achieves that goal.
“Points of Juxtaposition,” on display in the main Thaler Gallery, shows the work of six African-American artists and educators from the Eastern Shore, with more than 190 years of experience combined. The exhibit features 36 pieces ranging from watercolor and acrylic paintings to pencil drawings, ceramics, and mixed media. From abstract to comics style, genres of all types have a place in the show and depict life in America and the older African consciousness. The artists also do not shy away from topics such as poverty, sexism, and family dynamics.
While the pieces are undoubtedly individualistic, the artist team notes they are visually linked by color, pattern, and spiritual awareness, as well as themes of social challenges, beauty, and history.
The venture began when six friends — Tony Burton, Alexander Gamble, Kenneth Jones, Michael J. Morris, Ernest Satchell, and Carl Williams — formed an artist group. The educators developed “Points of Juxtaposition” and have taken it on the road across Delmarva, now exhibiting at the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th St. in the resort. Using the subtle power of their paintbrushes and pencils, the six artists are making an undeniable impact in the local community. The exhibit aims to inspire not just future artists, but professionals by emphasizing perseverance and excellence.
For artist and show organizer Michael J. Morris, also known as Mijomor, the process of seeing all the different pieces come together and unite in one exhibit is quite impressive. “When we create these pieces, we are just being creative and do not start a project with the intention of having such a shared message,” Morris said. “However, even though we all have entirely different ways of creating artwork and we go in opposite directions,
we all come together at a central point, just like the points in a compass. It is an unconscious effort that is so interesting to see play out.”
While Morris has not spoken with many viewers inside the gallery about the exhibit due to the pandemic, he has heard many positive reviews and more importantly, accurate interpretations. Although it may seem trite, a picture truly is worth a thousand words in the case of “Points of Juxtaposition.” The message of perspective and unity is clear to all who pass by.
For Morris and his fellow artists, the true purpose of creating “Points of Juxtaposition” is passing knowledge to the next generation. They hope to inspire resilience, hard work, and fearless creativity through the exhibit.
“I used to ask kids what they would do artistically if they woke up one morning and had no hands. They told me that they would paint with their toes. This just shows that art must be something you love, not just a job,” Morris added. “We all know what it takes, since we taught art even at the college level. You might eventually become very talented, and your love of art can turn into money. Even when earning money, you still need to remember that art is what gives you peace of mind and is your quiet place away from the daily grind.”
Morris has more advice for budding artists: Be confident and never fear taking a risk by sharing a strong societal message. “Artwork is what we have to say about the times we live in, whether we put it down on paper, canvas, or clay. We speak a language without the written word, and there are things inside of you that you must put down on paper,” he reflected. “Never be afraid and speak your mind through your work. If you speak out in a creative, not vulgar manner, the public will understand and appreciate where you’re coming from, even if they don’t agree. This is 2021.”
The group’s collaboration with the Art League of Ocean City will continue, and both groups have expressed interest in creating a documentary highlighting the lives of the artists and the success of their display. With the support of the Art League’s Ocean City Film Festival, the project will likely come to fruition and be a hit.
The exhibit remains on display at the Arts Center through May 3 and admission is free. Click here to see a sneak peek online.
Visit pojartists.com to learn more about the group.