A Month of Shotguns Series at Mary Benson Gallery Aims to Bring New Artists Into the Scene

With a keen eye and a steady hand, several local artists are aiming to make a big bang in A Month of Shotguns, a series of weekly one-night-only exhibits at the Mary Benson Gallery starting this Saturday.

In the tenth most artistic city in the country, it’s easy for Jersey City residents to sometimes lose sight of just how hard the bohemian lifestyle can be for the city’s many painters, sculptors, artisans and other creators. Some struggle to sell their art, others to even finish the projects they start. Roland Ramos, a local art event organizer, aims to help those in the middle who have tons of work, but aren’t quite sure what to do with it.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Ramos of Shotguns. “I want to have a series that allowed multiple artists who are really passionate about what they’re doing but who aren’t really able to get into a gallery or don’t know the first thing about getting into a gallery (to get) an opportunity to get their art out there.”

Ramos, who recently moved to Jersey City and is set to curate the first show in a new chapter for the gallery at 58 Coles St. on October 13, is best known for his work rallying the art community in Hoboken. There, he runs the Digable Arts Festival and other events and also founded 720 Creation Station, an artist incubator program based in the Monroe Center for the Arts (which is located at 720 Monroe St., hence the name).

“I’ve been having shotgun shows on the regular at the gallery at 720 Creation Station, and just had one for the Tri-State Art and Music Festival,” he says. “I try to help artists figure out how to do something with what they’re doing… I help them with goal setting and organization and help artists become more productive and focused in their craft.”

He adds that his events and others’ have made a difference for the Mile Square City. They are home to more than 10 galleries, many of which participate in their 3rd Sundays gallery walk, and will welcome yet another — the Hoboken African Art Gallery — come September 20. They also hold two Arts and Music Festivals yearly, have two large complexes housing multiple artist studios (Monroe and Neumann Leather on Observer Highway) and boast a thriving music community.

“Hoboken is taking off a little bit now. There are galleries popping up and people are rating them now… (but) Jersey City needs to get a new load of new blood in, new art in. This series will be injecting new blood into the system, jump-starting the art scene a little bit,” Ramos says boldly.

Every weekend at Mary Benson Gallery, Ramos will highlight three artists he hand-picked for his project. This Saturday, Sept. 1, the series kicks off with “A Deeper Understanding,” featuring self-taught painter Adam Carsons, also known as Psybe, whose work is seen below.

“He’s one of those talented people who doesn’t know what to do with art except do it,” says Ramos. “He keeps on creating these amazing pieces, but he’s not sure what to do with it. He hasn’t shown in a gallery before, but everyone who sees his work is spellbound.”

Carsons uses spray paint to create flowing landscapes that are broken down into “unreal geometric explosions” by fine details set in acrylic. His paintings seem to bend break into fourth and fifth dimensions and warp viewers’ traditional concepts of space.

Also featured is Newark-based musician Michael Greeley who is determined to get his art out there after years of taking his pieces on tour with him. He says his works reflect some difficult times in his life. “I started teaching myself to draw and paint about three years ago and both have become proven allies in the journey toward self-realization,” he says. “I’ve been meditating for about ten years to help ease chronic bodily pain… The artwork is a byproduct of those murkier psychological corridors and thought-constructs that are brought to light during the act of such.”

Rounding out Saturday’s lineup is Dorian Monsalve (his work “Revelations II” is seen above), whom Ramos discovered at one of his art events.

“His first show was with me at the Digable Arts Festival and now he’s blowing up!” raves Ramos. “He’s participating in the Contrast Art Show in New York City (on August 30 and 31) and he’s got pieces all over New York state now. He came from humble beginnings; he’s just a regular guy who took a stab.”

Monsalve has stood out for his unique medium and process, which he explains on his website. “My artwork consists of scratching away layers of colored ink that I previously apply on a white clayboard or scratchboard… By using sharp knives, a fiberglass brush, steel wool, and other tools I create highly detailed images,” he says. “The pressure exerted on the tool used… determines the amount of light or color that is revealed, creating highlights, shadows, and excellent contrast.”

He says his art whisks him away to new places in his mind. “I always feel inspired and transported into an infinite surreal world full of bright colors, deep contrast, fantasy images, and miniature figures awaiting to be revealed… it gives me a way of freedom and spiritual connection with my inner self,” Monsalve says.

The following week will feature instrument makers Joe Dwyer, Mark Dalzell and BurnMethod (a collaborative effort between guitar expert Matt Stephenson and artist Lyu Ba; the third, artists Mr. Mustart, Josh “Dogmatic” Matson and Robert Callahan, who are inspired by the or create in public. Other artists slated to be featured are Monique Sarfity, Natalia Kadish, Margaret Clinton, Patsy Castle, Jo-El Lopez and Jack Halpin of Art House Productions. The lineup, complete with artist profiles, can be found at the Shotguns website.

At every show, Ramos says the public will get to see the artists’ work and meet them to get a feel of who they really are. “We’ve got special music performances planned and hope to have the artists work on an art installation in space. They’re leaving their energy there during the exhibition, and people can really see who they are outside of the pictures on the wall.”

A Month of Shotguns kicks off with “A Deeper Understanding” on Saturday, Sept. 1, from 5 pm to 9 pm, at the Mary Benson Gallery, located at 369 Third St.

Story preview photo by Michael Greeley. All images courtesy of Roland Ramos

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.