New exhibition Black Is Blessed: The Work of Laura James opens at the Sheen Center



(New York, NY) The Exhibition Black Is Blessed: The Work of Laura James opens at The glamor center for thought and culture this week with a refreshing and poignantly inclusive visual journey through the Bible. Bronx artist who draws on the ancient Ethiopian Christian style of iconography Laura James brings familiar gospel narratives to life by weaving biblical themes of beatitude and redemption with visual representations of the black American experience. The 22 paintings that make up the collection represent a visually diverse and vibrant set of religious imagery and offer opportunities for black and other people of color to express themselves in sacred art.

With the express purpose of Sacred Space diversification By delving deep into the universality of the Catholic Church, the artist expands our visual, religious vocabulary throughout the exhibition. The painting titled Sermon for our ancestors shows the crowds in the timeless Jesus Sermon on the Mount as enslaved and captive people making their way to Christ at the center of the play. The visual themes used by Laura James are specific to the Black American experience, but also speak to a universal experience of spiritual suffering familiar to all people in search of salvation throughout the ages. The exhibition also features a series of four paintings that tell the story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus after the resurrection. The artist takes the viewer on the sacred journey from the moment Mary Magdalene is commissioned by Jesus to tell the apostles that he is indeed risen, to his appearance in the Upper Room where the disciples are gathered.

“I saw, and behold, a great multitude…from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue.” Revelation 7:9

Artist Laura James reinterprets the texts of the Jewish Scriptures and New Testament for a more culturally inclusive depiction of biblical characters. The exhibition is currently open at The Sheen Center and will run until March 12, 2022. Gallery hours are 11am to 7pm Monday to Friday; and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Visit for more information.

The exhibition black Blessed: The Work of Laura James is co-sponsored by The Office of the Black Ministry of the Archdiocese of New York with whom will continue to work The shine center on projects and events highlighting Black History Month.

About the artist

A self-taught painter and illustrator, Bronx-based Laura James has been an artist for nearly thirty years. James paints in two styles, which she describes as “sacred” and “secular.” Dividing and combining the sacred and the ordinary, he has created a diverse body of work that has appeared in hundreds of publications. In 2000 James illustrated the lectionary The Book of the Gospels published by Liturgy Training Publications; The book is used by numerous Christian denominations around the world, and their religious art is at the forefront of the movement towards a fuller depiction of biblical figures. James has also illustrated two children’s books, both written by Olive Senior, Anna Carrie’s Water (2014) and Boonoonoonous Hair! (2019); both empower young black girls. She has painted works dealing with race and class in America, and recently completed a series of paintings about Mary Magdalene, which she projects into popular culture as “the first herald of the resurrection.”

About the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture

The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture ( is a cultural venue at 18 Bleecker Street, just north of Houston in downtown Manhattan, offering a vibrant mix of theater, film, music, arts and talk events. The Sheen Center, a project of the Archdiocese of New York, is dedicated to lifting hearts and bringing people of different faiths and backgrounds together through artistic performances that reflect the true, good, and beautiful in this world. The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture is named for the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a two-time Emmy Award-winning television personality whose use of print, radio and television to engage with culture inspires the Sheen Center’s mission to empower culture convey civic discourse and art. The Sheen Center is a state-of-the-art theater complex that includes the 270-seat Off-Broadway Loreto Theater equipped with five-camera HDTV with live-stream capability and a multi-track recording studio; the 80-seat Off-Off-Broadway black box theater; four rehearsal studios; and an art gallery.


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