Temporary Mural Project

August 27, 2024 - December 6, 2024
Nancy Dryfoos Gallery
Mashell Black

About the Exhibition

Attention students and community members, pick up your paintbrushes and prepare to create! We cordially invite you to participate in the Temporary Mural Project. This collaborative endeavor will unite the Kean University community and its supporters with the acclaimed Jamaican-born artist Mashell Black. Utilizing the walls of the Nancy Dryfoos Gallery as a canvas, we seek to create a visually compelling representation of the diverse individuals associated with Kean University.

Take inspiration from Black by using abstract lines and blocks of color, or allow the paint to drip and fall wherever it may. There is no wrong way to contribute: draw a sketch, extend another drawing, or layer over previous works.

Black’s process allows him to connect with the community he is working with on a spiritual level. He explores how art manifests from the observer to a community, forming into society. Diving into that connection allows for his temporary pieces to manifest.

Inspired by his love for his family, Mashell Black can transform primal emotions and create freely, honoring his ancestors. In his travels, he harmoniously combines his devotion to his family with active participation in the community to foster unity among all people.

Be a part of the art, visit, and contribute to Mashell Black’s Temporary Mural!

All supplies provided.

Selected Works

About the Artist

Born in a small rural community on the island of Jamaica in 1980, Mashell Black found a calling in expressing himself creatively when school supplies and local resources were not available to provide him with the foundation of a traditional education. After moving to the United States in 1994, Black’s family encouraged him to continue pursuing his art. With the watercolor lessons that his step-grandmother gave him, he also learned to read and write, improving on the limited education he received in his native country.

Black went on to excel in a traditional school environment in Tenafly, NJ, while maintaining his love of drawing and painting. With a substantial scholarship in hand, he attended Syracuse University, graduating in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Black continued his education and pursued a Master of Fine Arts at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, completing his degree in 2006.

From construction work to picture framing to substitute teaching, after graduation, Black worked a number of jobs while building a space where he could concentrate on his art. Along the way, he also started his own house painting business. With the blessing of his wife, Rabiyah, Black returned to creating art, developing new techniques, and engaging the art world full-time in 2016.

With the start of the new decade, Black is expanding his art practice even further, channeling his experience as an immigrant and an African American. With one foot firmly planted in the world of painting and the other in drawing, his technique reveals a common theme of isolation as he exists between a state of belonging and not belonging, exploring the place he occupies between them. Equally devoted to both disciplines, Black now uses his creative talent to recognize the spiritual connection that art manifests within an observer, within a community, and within our society.

Artist Statement

I create art that celebrates paint, lines, and drips. Fascinated with the transitions of one mark to the next with every line and color in relation to each other, I use these relationships to reveal emotional journeys and craft engaging tales.
I often share stories about my wife and son because love often inspires me. Other times, when I’m filled with anger and fear, I find painting is a fantastic place to resolve such primal emotions. And when I feel lost and alone, I reach back for some kind of ancestral connection.

So, I go back in time to connect and dance with my ancestors through this medium of paint. They love me, and I love them. We dream together. And in this place, I’m free to imagine and create the worlds as I see fit.

I need this kind of power and love because being nervous and feeling like a victim often leaves me shaken and unfocused. But when I paint, relaxation takes over, and intensity is replaced with peace. I become aware of every mark and sound around me, yet I remain willing to go wherever the painting needs to go.

The spiritual connection I feel with my story, with my ancestors, and with my canvas is the reason why I make art. And it is this spiritual connection that also drives me to share these experiences that show up in my paintings.