Ben Jones’s mural Envision Empower Embrace is based on selected imagery from his recent paintings which address events related to social justice, climate change, and environmental disasters. The central image of a fish framing renowned jazz singer and political activist Nina Simone harkens back to Ben Jones’s commemorative painting Nina Simone High Priestess of Soul (1972). As Jones has observed, “The fish image is used because throughout history many civilizations have used it to represent Life.”
Product: Seamless Printed Digital Artwork on 6oz Poplin; Montclair Art Museum; Photo: Peter Jacobs
The fish is flanked by excerpts from Jones’s 2012 painting entitled Thank You BP (Wall Paper). This multi-layered work aesthetically investigates the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The tanker and ignited oil spills are accompanied by images of floating dollar bills evoking corporate greed, as well as fish, seashells, and a seagull, representing its disastrous ecological impact.
The international prohibition sign in red on each side of Envision, Empower, Embrace suggests that swimming or other activities are not permitted in these damaged areas. The inclusion of images of Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland extends this powerful work into the realm of racism and social justice, while an image of Donald Trump connects to the current political climate.
Viewers are invited to contemplate this work by occupying the chair that is to the right of the large central fish, as if to complete the mural. This notion of collaboration is central to the creation of this digitally produced mural. The photographer and collage artist Peter Jacobs, a longtime resident of Montclair, worked with Ben Jones to create this work by taking pictures and editing them into this particular monumental composition. Thus Ben Jones’s mural is a powerful aesthetic and political statement, intended to inspire thought and action on the part of viewers.
Ben Jones is an artist, activist, and educator, who uses his art to bring awareness to the plight of humanity throughout the world. For forty-three years, Ben Jones was a professor of art at New Jersey City University where he taught Advanced Drawing, Life Drawing, Color Theory, as well as African and Afro-American art.
Check out https://www.montclairartmuseum.org/ for more info on the artist and exhibition.