Photographer and author Peter Forbes once said, “stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.” For its newest limited-time exhibit, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Keystone third-floor gallery and its featured artists come together to reflect on art as a storytelling vehicle and the fruits of collaboration in that respect. Meet Mirvia Sol Eckert, Salma Taman, Kevin James Wilson, and Israel Solomon, the artists behind the newest Saks showing, “4 in July.”
As the creative community continues to emerge from behind post-pandemic roadblocks and back into in-person exhibitions, the Keystone Saks gallery and its manager, Jim Longfellow, have been presenting new opportunities for artists after a harrowing year and a half. Coming off the success of last month’s painting and poetry exhibition, Paper Airplanes, the gallery hopes to keep bringing new audiences in to enjoy the work of local artists.
This is where the “4 in July,” a well-rounded and vibrant group of local creators, come into play. The artists had each been individually booked for the same exhibition last year, but have assembled to display their work together after an inescapable hiatus. Their work surrounds couches, chairs, and a quaint tearoom.
The gallery features four distinct sections, one for each of its featured players, but sacrifices nothing in fluency. A common thread links each artist’s showcase with its counterparts— earnest storytelling and portraiture without shock value, in its many forms.
Painter Mirvia Sol Eckert’s stylized collection brings subjects to the forefront through vibrant color schemes and work rooted in defined lines and shapes. With a background in graphic design, many of her featured paintings showcase established subjects, often women, encompassed by geometric patterns and imagery. “I want to show a lot of my Puerto Rican culture, and the way they feel about certain subjects,” the artist explained. “I want to empower women, and I feel that my portraits show a vulnerability with women, with strength inside.”
For Salma Taman, portraiture is the ideal medium for celebrating world leaders and prominent figures. Taman, an Egyptian painter who moved to the U.S. in 2010, enjoys commemorating global game changers through striking colors and studies of the face and upper body. The artist and feminist is especially fond of showcasing influential women, like Queen Nefertiti and Audrey Hepburn. “I feel like, in my art, I try to always show who I am, and show that I’m very proud and that I can be proud of my heritage.”
At first glance, Eckert and Taman’s sections seem to contrast sharply with the work of exhibition counterpart and artist Kevin James Wilson, but that simply isn’t the case.
A teacher at International Business School in Indianapolis, Wilson has experience in many mediums, but one stands out on the walls of Saks. His collection showcases intricate prismacolor and graphite pencil drawings, with portraits that feature vignettes of common scenes, often rooted in love and romance.“One of the greatest influences on my work was Norman Rockwell,” Wilson mused. “He painted a lot of realism, everyday people in everyday places. He told a story through his images, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
His section neighbors the collection of fellow teacher and painter Israel Solomon, whose portraits feature more inorganic geometric schemes and vivid color schemes. Formerly a visiting artist with The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the artist often finds inspiration for his work in his family and home city, who appear as subjects in his portraiture alongside more abstract subjects. As one of four incredibly talented creators on display, Solomon sees this opportunity to showcase his work as a space for growth and continues to explore new mediums and hone his skills.
“I’ve been studying oils lately,” he revealed. “I’m challenging myself, and I love to learn, so by looking around and seeing Kevin, Mirvia and Salma, I see what they do and I say, “okay, I love that, how can I learn? How can I develop and improve as an artist?’
This admiration of the work that surrounds their own is not exclusive to Solomon, not even in the slightest. Perhaps the most enchanting part of these artists’ collaboration is the joy and consideration that they share for one another. “I feel like we have chemistry on the walls,” Wilson expressed. “There’s only one thing that talent respects, and it’s talent. That’s what I see on the walls.”
“In diversity there’s strength and richness, and I think that the fact that we have very different styles, we complete each other in a very interesting way,” Taman added.
The portraiture and scenes featured aren’t scenes of anger or strife, nor are they off-putting or shocking. All four artists have been successful in their employment of visual art as a storytelling vehicle, a device to muse on the beauty in the human experience. “I feel like the more authentic you are, the less that you do things for attention or shock value, the longer that we’re going to last,” Solomon maintained, speaking to the simple nature of the works on the gallery’s walls. “4 in July” is rooted in the joy in ordinary things, in the delicate everyday pleasures and relationships we build in our communities, and it’s a must-see for those who strive to salute the delights of the day-to-day.
Most of the pieces featured in the gallery are for sale.