The art in the exhibit, titled “In Transition: Works by Artists on the Move,” is from students taught by resident Liz Cohen Ndoye at weekly classes at the Hoboken homeless shelter and at St. Matthews lunchtime ministry for the past two years.
“The Hoboken shelter takes a holistic approach to ending homelessness,” said Jaclyn Cherubini, the executive director for the shelter. “We want to nurture the mind the body the spirit and everything else for our guests. Our guests are incredibly talented and smart and this class helps our guests develop their hidden voices and talents.”
“I prefer not calling them homeless but people in transition, people going through life changes because it’s a fine line between housed and homeless,” said Ndoye. “I want the community to understand and take the time to get to know these folks. They have rich, complicated lives and they express their feelings about their lives through their art. The transitioning are often overlooked or ignored and this is a way to see them.”
Ndoye said that she believes art not only offers those in need an outlet for expression, but “I believe art has a healing therapeutic quality,” said Ndoye. “Many of the folks are looking to relax have some peace and quiet, sit and talk, or put their head down and sometimes create. People are hungry for art and culture in Hoboken. I’m talking about people that are not just in transition but are housed and employed.”
“It’s a form of communication for people who often feel voiceless and invisible.” –Liz Cohen Ndoye
After two years of working with these artists, Ndoye says she has come to see the art classes as a powerful tool for helping people communicate.
“It’s a form of communication for people who often feel voiceless and invisible,” she said. “Hoboken provides a good amount of support, with the food pantry, the Hoboken Shelter, and St. Matthew’s lunchtime ministry, they have formed a community, sharing ideas and problems with each other.”
After retiring from 40 years of teaching in a private school, Ndoye enjoys working with Hoboken’s “transitional” population, helping them explore their own talents by exposing them to the techniques, history, and styles of a diverse group of artists, including Keith Haring, Hans Hofman, Kara Walker, Georgia O'Keeffe, Romare Beardon, Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, Basquiat, Helen Frankenthaler, and Yayoi Kusama.
The result is a diverse exhibition of works of art that reveal the unique perspectives and individual talents of these local artists.
Ndoye explained that some of the artists are creating artwork for the first time, while others show natural talent, but that “each artist is unique; as unschooled talents, their work is fresh and uninhibited, unselfconscious, and naïve.”
Ndoye, along with her husband Ibou Ndoye and colleague Spike Ezweiler, all teach the classes and use supplies she brings as well as those donated to the shelter by area residents.
According to director of the shelter, Jaclyn Cherubini, the shelter currently has a person who funds the art and creative writings programs there, but the shelter is always looking for donations of canvas, paint, and paint brushes.
Ndoye said “there are some amazingly talented folks that I work with,” and added that she believes that for many of her students local gentrification has caused some to lose their homes.
“My personal opinion is both in Jersey City and Hoboken and even Newark and Kearny and some part of North Bergen, a lot of the surrounding cities are going through a process of gentrification and because of that rents are astronomically high,” she said. “Many people work but can’t afford to pay for food and utilities and also rent. So through bad luck and bad choices, they end up living on the edge.”
She also added some of her students have mental and emotional challenges, some battle addiction.
Cherubini said that she believes the homeless can become invisible because “homelessness is closer to home then we like to admit. People are afraid if it could happen to them it could happen to me, many people are living pay check to pay check.”
Tim Golding, one of the artists displayed in the exhibit, has been in transition for the past four years.
He said, “I first came to Hoboken in 1989 and worked as a commercial banker in New York City. I have been in transition for the past four years after I had some medical problems. I was diagnosed with throat cancer and recently depression. [I had] some personal problems and I lost my apartment and couldn’t pay my bills. Now I live at the YMCA.”
Golding said he stumbled across one of Ndoye’s free classes after seeing a flyer and has been going ever since.
“I’ve always loved art, “ said Golding. “I don’t know why I was never encouraged to do it, but I love her classes. I know most of the other students and they are all so encouraging. I think it helps me with my depression because I feel like I am producing something. It gets me out and I’m able to express myself.”
He currently has three works on display at the museum. His favorite is “Orange Horse,” which is created with magic marker and highlighter, in an expressionist style.
“I’ve even been contacted by people who want to buy them, but I haven’t considered selling them,” Golding said. “I can’t believe anyone would want my art in their house. I still feel like I’m a student and I still have a lot to learn.”
The exhibit will remain open until Sept. 17.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.