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Portrait of the artist.

NOVEMBER 17, 2021

      Kay Reese Selected as 6th Artist in Residence at Paul Robeson Galleries

Newark, NJ –Paul Robeson Galleries at Express Newark, Rutgers University – Newark is pleased to announce that Kay Reese is the next Artist in Residence.

Kay Reese is an award winning visual artist, photographer and curator. She exhibits throughout the greater Tri-State area, and nationally. Her art practice entails the creation of assemblage and photo-based collage prints that reflect her views on contemporary society. She resides in New Jersey.
Writer and curator Ifeanyi Awachie was this year’s judge. Awachie affirms, “This artist’s transition to abstraction from a mainly figurative practice is both skillfully executed and urgently needed. The act of addressing notions of race, identity, history, and power through abstract forms puts Kay Reese in conversation with generations of artists who have dared to broaden our understanding of what Black aesthetics are, and demonstrates a high regard for the Black figure. Evoking weather, land, and rock formations, Reese’s compelling mixed media works also speak to another of our most urgent questions, that of the environment, changes in which we are seeing unfold in real time. Reese’s motivation to use Paul Robeson Galleries’ artist residency to hone this new direction in her work and begin a new project is a clearly articulated intention to make full use of the residency opportunity. Given her interests as well as her experience as a speaker and curator, I am confident that she will be able to spark a dialogue with the community that the Paul Robeson Galleries serve, and I am excited to see how her project on Kenyan environmental activist Wangarĩ Maathai allows her to connect not only with Paul Robeson but with the many centers at Rutgers University—Newark.” 
Of her practice, Reese states, “As a visual artist and photographer, I am on a journey of discovery which is inseparable from my life which itself is driven by innate curiosity intertwined with a fierce desire for new forms of expression through materials and image making exploring race, identity, history and social power constructs and influences. I use photographs, objects and collaged digital and mixed media strategies to explore, challenge and deconstruct social belief systems created as the norm. My practice employs experimental formats, techniques and innovative photographic processes which enable me to juxtapose and examine often contradictory relationships; re-constructing them to question and reveal more honest, often difficult humane truths.”
During her residency, Reese will use abstract strategies to express the story of Wangarĩ Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. The first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting “ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development,” she was responsible for planting 30 million trees and empowering Kenyan women to engage in social change. Using her standard visual vocabulary of photographs, objects and collaged digital and mixed media strategies, and abstraction, Reese will express her positive emotional as well as historical, cultural and political experience and impact.
About the Artist
Kay Reese’s life and artistic journey are inseparable. Her art practice is driven by an avid curiosity, intertwined with a fierce desire for thoughtful self-expression, and an intensity revealed in the stylistic breadth, and intellectual depth of her drawings, paintings, mixed media works, photography, assemblages, and triptychs.
Reese came of age in the civil rights era, becoming a Franciscan nun for several years before leaving the convent in the Vietnam, moon-landing era. After many years as an educator and businesswoman, Reese returned full-time to seriously making art, and entering the Bronx Council on the Arts’ BRIO Award competition where her photo-based drawings won 1st place in the Drawing, Printmaking and Artists Book category.
Later, injuries to her wrists led Reese to using digital means to create art. Exploring various photographic techniques led her to innovate an acclaimed photographic process she calls K-Scans; producing original, live action images using a flatbed scanner. Her results have been exhibited at the renowned See|Me exhibition on the biggest billboard in the world, in Times Square, in several Newark Arts Fairs, an interview on The Artist Gallery on Bronx Net Cable, and recently a virtual presentation on MASKS sponsored by Boston University.
In 1999 learning of her great, great grandmother’s emancipation from a Georgia plantation, and witnessing the NYC police killing of Amadou Diallo an innocent African immigrant in her Bronx neighborhood, her artistic practice changed to reflect socially relevant issues of identity, race, power, capitalism, consumerism, and other social constructs. 
Today, Reese’s practice has broadened to include abstract elements in a variety of formats including mixed medium creations and constructs into new forms of social commentary that resonate with social relevance. In 2021 Reese was awarded The Lynn and John Kearny Fellowship for Equity residency at The Gallery Aferro, Newark NJ.
About the Judge
Ifeanyi Awachie is an Atlanta-raised Igbo writer and curator based between New York and London. She has a B.A. in English and creative writing from Yale University and an M.A. in Global Creative and Cultural Industries from SOAS University of London. Ifeanyi is Founder, Director, and Chief Curator of AFRICA SALON UK, a global contemporary African arts festival. She is also Co-Creative Director of FUNCTION. Ifeanyi’s curatorial and creative work is shaped by her interest in representing interdisciplinary, contemporary, and celebratory images of Africa and the diaspora; pleasure politics; Black quiet and interiority; notions of luxury as a diasporic space; and everyday Black life. Ifeanyi has worked as Assistant Curator at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts and is currently a PhD candidate in Cinema Studies and a Corrigan Fellow at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
About the Paul Robeson Galleries
Named after famed Rutgers alumni and established in 1979, the Paul Robeson Galleries’ mission and programming embody Paul Robeson’s life-long commitment to unfettered artistic freedom, cultural democracy, and transnationalism. The Paul Robeson Galleries presents art and cultural artifacts as well as educational and public programming in the spirit of the diverse metropolitan context of Rutgers University – Newark. The gallery enacts its mission through the presentation of visual arts exhibitions, gallery education, and public programs. The Paul Robeson Galleries works collaboratively with individuals and organizations to achieve this mission.
About Express Newark
Occupying 50,000 square feet of the renovated, historic Hahne & Company building in the heart of Newark’s downtown, Express Newark is the Rutgers University-Newark community arts collaboratory–a third space that is neither the community or the University, where artists and community residents convene, experiment, and innovate in partnership with faculty, staff, and students to nurture talent, cultivate engaged scholarship and promote social practice. 
Currently, Express Newark has more than 80 contributors: its partners include Artistic Passion & PurposeCommunity Media CenterDesign ConsortiumForm Design StudioHumanities Action LabInstitute of Jazz StudiesNewAnceNew Arts JusticeNewest AmericansPaul Robeson GalleriesShine Portrait StudioVisual Means and XPress. Located at 54 Halsey Street, Express Newark’s neighbors in the Hahne & Company building include Marcus B&P restaurant, Whole Foods, Kite & Key computer store, Launch Pad Coworking Space, Barnes & Nobles, various other businesses and 160 residential apartments.

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