‘Let’s Connect’ at the Barnes winners announced

From left: Leroy Johnson, Thom Collins (executive director and president of the Barnes), Delia King, Eric Goldberg, Maryann Held, Jane Golden (executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia), Jonathan Pinkett.
Steve Weinik, Mural Arts Philadelphia

For the first time ever, The Barnes Foundation launched an open call for local artists in Philadelphia called “Let’s Connect.” A collaboration with Mural Arts, artists living or working in Philadelphia were invited to submit an 8 X 10 inch work inspired by a piece in the Barnes collection. From May 21 to June 4, 310 artists were on display, and both the public and a team of curators cast their votes to select four winners who would get their very own artist residency at the celebrated museum’s Mural Arts Studio at the Barnes. 

“Collaborating with the Barnes Foundation on ‘Let’s Connect’ has been seamless and inspiring,” says Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts. “Larger arts organizations in our city need to support local artists—they have the capacity and the responsibility to help artists grow and thrive.”

Shelley Bernstein, deputy director for audience engagement and chief experience officer of The Barnes, adds, “Engaging local artists helped bring new perspective and new audiences to the Barnes collection. We noticed, so often, their interpretations put a modern and hyper-local spin on our collection objects.”

This morning, the four winners were announced: Eric Goldberg, Maryann Held, Delia King and Jonathan D. Pinkett. There was also a Director’s Highlight winner, Leroy Johnson, who was selected by Jane Golden and Thom Collins, the executive director and president of The Barnes, and who will also receive an artist residency. The top 20 artists were also announced. 

We got to chat with them about the pieces they submitted, where they find inspiration and how they got their start.

Name: Eric Goldberg
Age: 72
Neighborhood: West Philadelphia
Medium: I am a painter (oil/watercolor/acrylic) and a printmaker (etching)
How did you get started? I was born into a family where drawing, painting and building things was a way of life. My parents were amateur painters and my older sister became a designer. Art has always been an everyday thing for me.

Where do you find inspiration?
For me, inspiration is everywhere. It’s more a matter of choosing which concept I want to concentrate on.

Tell us about the piece you submitted.
Each time I visit The Barnes Collection, I find myself gravitating to the Vincent Van Gogh painting “The Postman.” Initially, I thought it was the hypnotic stare of the subject that so strongly attracted me, but I now know it is more. Van Gogh has not simply painted an imitation of Joseph Roulin’s appearance — he has expressed the man’s character, his inner being. Van Gogh has depicted Joseph Roulin as a person of wisdom and integrity, a person of great strength of character who exudes both intelligence and warmth.

I am a fortunate man. I too have a postal carrier who possesses the attributes that Van Gogh expressed in his portrait of Joseph Roulin. Barbara Jean Griffin has been delivering my mail since I moved to my present address in 2012. Her open, friendly disposition was apparent from our first meeting. In the years I have known her, she has proven to be a person of genuine warmth, intelligence, integrity and wisdom. It was an honor to have her sit for me.

When not making art, what do you enjoy?
For most of my life, teaching people the skills to express themselves was a secondary source of joy. Now, it’s spending time with friends and family that are a great joy to me.

Name: Maryann Held
Age: 33
Neighborhood: Lives in Lansdowne with a  studio in Kensington
Medium: Acrylic

How did you get started?
I’m one of those artists who has been drawing for their entire life. When I was really little, my dad would draw characters for me to color until, as he said, my drawings got better than his. Professionally, I studied illustration at University of the Arts and have been fortunate to support myself with my art ever since — though making a living as an illustrator definitely requires tenacity.
Where do you find inspiration? It may sound trite, but nature is a huge inspiration for me. I have always loved drawing animals more than any other subject, and seeing and studying them in the real world provides a ton of creative fodder. Classic fables, folktales and stories are my absolute favorite to illustrate, so I can always look to those for ideas.

Tell us about the piece you submitted.
Karl Priebe’s mysterious and strange “Miss Chalfont” instantly hooked me, and I had a clear idea of how I wanted to respond almost immediately. I decided to focus more strongly on her as a character in my own illustrative style, with a background that echos Rousseau’s work (I was originally planning on choosing one of his pieces). Over the past few years, I’ve developed a fascination with floral folk art motifs and have been incorporating that into more recent pieces, including this one.

When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy?
A lot of things! Reading, films, collecting houseplants — I’m always finding some new hobby. But one interest that’s persisted is staying active and working out. Illustration can be a pretty sedentary lifestyle, and getting out and moving is really important to me. Recently I’ve been taking boxing classes and that’s been incredibly fun for me.

Name: Delia King
Age: 44
Neighborhood: Southwest Philly
Medium: Reverse Glass Painting

How did you get started?
In 1997, I met a glass painter in Cleveland — the late Robert Ritchie. He taught me the technique.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from the people I’m around.

Tell us about the piece you submitted.
It’s based on a 1900 Picasso painting of men standing on the corner in Paris. It reminded me of the guys I know in West Philly. I created the painting as a personal goal of completing a new work. I hadn’t done any new work since multiple tragedies hit my life four years ago. Having recovered from PTSD after three and a half years in therapy at WOAR, I was at peace finally, but it bothered me I hadn’t returned to art. I made “Let’s Connect”  a goal for only completing a new work, and was enormously fulfilled at it coming together.

When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy?
I work for IATSE Local 8, drive for Lyft, exercise and hang out on the block.

Name: Jonathan D. Pinkett
Age: 68
Neighborhood: I was born and raised in South Philadelphia. I maintain a studio at 4003 Main Street in Manayunk.
Medium: Oil paint and walnut oil

How did you get started?
I grew up in a foster home near the Philadelphia College of Art in South Philadelphia. I spent a lot time hanging with the artists/beatniks attending that college. That interaction greatly influence my interest in becoming an artist . So naturally I enrolled there after high school. Plus I was lousy at sports and needed to be proficient at something to keep pace with my peers.

Where do you find inspiration?
The beauty, structure and spirit of the human face has always attracted me. I consider the human face , with it’s form shadows and plane changes, to be like a landscape. Each face I paint is like a new exciting journey.
Tell us about the piece you submitted. I rendered my friend Karee from life. I paint from life because I want an organic, natural representation of the subject in front of me. I am also very fascinated by late 16th century artists that painted from life using natural light exclusively. Frans Hals, Rembrandt and  H. Van Rijn’s approach to portraiture is a technique I aspire to, but with a contemporary influence.

When you are not making art, what do you enjoy?
Spending time in different countries/cities — especially Tokyo and Berlin.

Name: Leroy Johnson
Age: 81
Neighborhood: Francisville
Medium: Mixed media/found objects

How did you get started?
Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial (elementary school)

Where do you find inspiration?
Life, history, and process.

Tell us about the piece you submitted.
In this piece, I have attempted to objectify the emotions and physical circumstances that I sense in Pippin’s work and the stories that were told to me when I was a child by elders.

When you’re not making art, what do you enjoy?
Everything at the moment. Reading or writing.

The residencies for the above artists at the Barnes will take place from July 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019.

For more information, visit: letsconnectphilly.org.