ArtYard invited musician, bandleader, and activist Jon Batiste to interview visual artists Jesse Wright and Heather Hart, whose works are currently on view in ArtYard’s gallery as part of the exhibitions, Three Mothers and Shelter Is. Jesse Wright’s Three Mothers is a triptych of portraits of mothers with their infant sons: Larcenia “Cissy” Floyd and George, Mamie Till-Mobley, and Emmett, and the artist’s mother Eileen Wright and himself. Heather Hart’s monumental rooftop installation, Oracle of the Caduceus, considers the social histories of home and sanctuary and is a prominent part of the exhibition, Shelter Is, curated by Lucinda Warchol.
In this video, Jon Batiste interviews Wright and Hart about their respective works and the thematic convergence of shelter, refuge, and motherhood. The video concludes with a musical concert of “God Bless the Child” by Jon Batiste and musician Noah Jarrett, atop Hart’s rooftop installation, in tribute to the three mothers honored in Wright’s triptych, and in response to George Floyd’s call for maternal shelter. This concert marks the first “activation” of Heather Hart’s rooftop in ArtYard’s gallery. Further activations of the installation will be curated by the artist throughout the duration of the Shelter Is exhibition.
Jon Batiste is an American virtuoso pianist, bandleader, composer, record producer, educator and actor. His major label debut “Hollywood Africans” was nominated for a GRAMMY award for Best American Roots Performance in 2019 and, along with his band Stay Human, he is featured nightly on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. His music is featured in the 2020 Disney Pixar film Soul, and his composing and songwriting will be featured in his large scale, genre-melding symphonic work “American Symphony,” set to be performed at Carnegie Hall in 2021.
Born into a long lineage of Louisiana musicians, Batiste received both his undergraduate and masters degrees in piano from the Juilliard School. He is currently the Music Director of The Atlantic, the Co-Artistic Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and is on the board of Sing For Hope.
Jon is committed to the education and mentorship of young musicians. He has led his own Social Music Residency and Mentoring Program sponsored by Chase, as well as master classes throughout the world. He has also led several cultural exchanges, beginning in 2006, while still a teen, with the Netherlands Trust, which brought students from the USA and Holland to perform with him at both The Royal Concert Gebouw and Carnegie Hall.
Heather Hart, based in Brooklyn, is a Lecturer at Rutgers University and an interdisciplinary artist exploring the power in thresholds, questioning dominant narratives, and creating alternatives to them through viewer activation. She was awarded grants from Anonymous Was A Woman, the Graham Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation, NYFA, and Harpo Foundation. Hart co-founded Black Lunch Table in 2005 and has won a Creative Capital award, Wikimedia Foundation grants, and an Andy Warhol Foundation of Art grant with that project. Hart’s work has been exhibited at the Queens Museum, Storm King Art Center, The Kohler Art Center, NCMA, Eastern Illinois University, Seattle Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and the University of Toronto, Scarborough among others. Hart is a lecturer at Mason Gross School for Art + Design and a trustee at Storm King Art Center. Hart works with Davidson Gallery in New York and she studied at Skowhegan, Whitney ISP, Cornish College of the Arts, Princeton University, and received her MFA from Rutgers University.
At a time when individuals are divided by physical boundaries and sociopolitical issues, interdisciplinary artist and educator Jesse Wright’s work seeks to champion making connections and promoting empathy through considering one another’s stories.
Wright draws upon his background in painting and commercial design to explore spiritual connections underlying daily experience through his mixed media paintings (often involving reclaimed materials from the streets), printmaking, and video. His blended visual styles also reference his blended Jamaican American heritage. Wright’s work is an exploration and communication of narratives inspired by humanitarian work at underserved and disenfranchised communities – orphanages, medical centers, schools, and displacement camps – in Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Uganda, and the United States while simultaneously developing an ongoing series frequently referencing scripture. The “NO RULE MULTIPLY ALPHA – Jamaica Faith” series reconnects the artist to his mother’s homeland through the depiction of locals and family members as vessels for biblical allegory and commentary on their life throughout the diaspora in it’s complex beauty and tension.
Wright currently teaches at the Goldman Sachs Student Art Program in Jersey City and Eastern Christian High School in Haledon, New Jersey. He received his Bachelor of Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His work has been presented in galleries, universities, and museums throughout the tri-state area.
Eric Fiorito is an artist, performer, proud toolpusher, and Production & Volunteer Manager at ArtYard. Born and bred in New Jersey, Eric graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts in 1995 with a degree concentrating in Sculpture and Performance Art. A fascination with prosthetic special effects makeup and the sculptural nature of lighting, rigging and facilitating camera movement, led him into a 24-year career in the motion picture film and commercial industry. Eric has worked as a Key Grip, Gaffer, Rigging/Dolly Grip, Assistant Camera, and Scenic Designer/Builder on numerous feature films, commercials, documentaries, museum installations, and music videos. Eric has been living and making art in Frenchtown with his wife and two children for over a decade, in this time he’s come to know, love and participate in a community like no other he has ever encountered.
Curator of Shelter Is
Lucinda Warchol is an artist, writer, and Gallery Director & Curator at ArtYard. She grew up in Manhattan and Bucks County. After graduating from Pratt Institute in 2015 where she earned a degree in Critical and Visual Studies, an interdisciplinary program grounded in contemporary critical theory, Lucinda worked in the context of both the primary and secondary art markets in New York City. She recently worked as the creative director to Spoonbill Studio, a project space founded by the unconventional art bookstore, Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers in Brooklyn. Lucinda’s own writing and work investigates collective memory, reinventing the archive and citizenship in times of displacement.