April 23, 2003 – Salvation and light are the spiritual themes of recent works by St. Croix artist Niarus Benjamin that go on exhibit Friday at Walsh Metal Works Gallery.
Benjamin's medium- to large-scale oils on canvas are, literally, of rock formations on St. Croix's North Shore, and she has titled her solo show of more than 30 works "The Rock in My Head."
The rocky outcroppings depicted in her own new series include dramatic cliff formations pounded by surf and dappled with rich tones of afternoon light. "The series creates a sort of vignette of the Judith's Fancy area and some other spots," she explains. "It's a different scene of St. Croix than is typically painted. Some people might not even recognize these places."
Benjamin's intent was to express the deeply felt spirituality represented to her through the power of these coastal landscapes. All of the compositions are massive in feel, and at least one canvas is larger than the diminutive artist herself.
In addition to these large works, Benjamin also will be showing a series of oils on small mahogany wood panels. They include several intensely drawn self portraits, a series of loosely narrative surrealist paintings and some mysterious images of shrouded figures.
Christina Frederick, who does publicity for the Walsh gallery exhibitions, describes Benjamin as "a very interesting young woman with strong spiritual beliefs" whose work departs from that of other local artists showcased at the Peters Rest gallery this season "because of the ties in her recent paintings to her religious faith."
This will be the final show of the season at the Walsh gallery. At the opening reception Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., Benjamin will be on hand to discuss her work.
A resident of St. Croix for most of her life and a public school art teacher for nearly a decade, Benjamin has developed a following among local collectors for her idyllic pastoral scenes of St. Croix's famed Senepol cattle. She says she finds inspiration in the landscapes of the island, as well as in her students' efforts to learn to paint from the heart and as well as the head.
She sees art as a powerful tool for young people to express their feelings. "My goal is to help my students learn to express emotion in their artwork as well as master techniques," she explains.
Her exhibition will hang through May 10. Regular gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays; visits may be arranged at other times by appointment. For more information, call the gallery at 773-8169.
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