Cover Artist Niarus Gillian Benjamin
by Niarus Gillian Benjamin
"My name is Niarus Gillian Benjamin. I am married to Jason Walker. I have two daughters Keren, 3 and Rayna, 2 and two dogs Mortimer and Pepper.
I was born in Dominica, West Indies and came to St. Croix when I was 9. I attended Evelyn Williams Elementary School, Arthur A. Richards Jr. High, and Central High School, graduating in 1989. I went to Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia (1989-1994), graduated in 1993 Suma Cum Laude, with a major in Fashion Design and Construction, but did an extra year in painting and drawing. I interned at Anne Klein in New York and, with a scholarship to Indonesia to study batik, I worked there with Twila Wilson who is still my friend. I do freelance 3-D interior drawings for her design business.
I came home to St. Croix in 1994 and taught Art at Arthur Richards for 10 years. Went to Florida State University to get a Masters of Science in Art Education. Got accepted to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago but went to Florida for family reasons. Loved the things I learned there and still use some of the strategies for teaching. I am now at Central High School teaching Visual arts.
As a teacher, my focus is to foster an eye for and an understanding of the visual arts in hopes of developing a value system in our students and thus our community. To that effect, I volunteer as the Youth Art Month coordinator for the Virgin Islands as an advocate for Art in Education. It is a national program sponsored by the Council for Art in Education (CFAE) and supported by the National Art Education Association (NAEA). In March, we try to hold an exhibit with as many schools as will participate. I have difficulty including St. Thomas and St. John because I have no contact there and I can't travel there since there really is no funding for this program. Sometimes I'll write a grant, but a good chunk of money comes from my pocket.
As an artist, I strive for technical excellence in my craft. I work in oils and watercolor mostly--sometimes, acrylic and pastels. I can use most dry and wet media pretty proficiently. Because I am an art teacher I feel that I should have knowledge of the use of the different media because not all students can use or will like every medium. Since our schools' environment does not allow for the use of oil paint, I don't teach the use of it.
Previously in my paintings, I would focus on light and reflections especially in a still-life. And while that is still going to always show up as a technical aspect, I want to now focus on the ethereal nature of life by doing Vanitas based on the old concept of the word. Iam also working on a similar concept of melding the past with the present looking at how things pass away and the ghost of memories and past events.
I love to draw people. In my sketchbooks (I always keep a sketch book), you will find numerous sketches of people and faces. Some get turned into paintings. I draw my students, my colleagues, people at the airport, wherever. I paint landscapes but a still-life to me is more challenging to paint. The right composition and juxtaposition of elements can be tricky. Being able to use the medium of choice, to show the desired surface textures, are sometimes daunting. I get scared each time I do a painting. It could be because I don't do it often enough, but....I love art, but painting in general. I've tried to quit several times to no avail. But it's not a bad addiction, I don't think."