Standing on the blurred edge between the shadow of an artistic underground scene and the first glimmer of spotlight are creative visual artists on the cusp, ready to eMerge. It is my pleasure to announce that my company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC has partnered with Strivers Gardens Gallery to shine a light on these artists as we co-curate and co-produce the forthcoming exhibition, “eMegre: Danny Simmons & Artists on the Cusp.” The exhibition will feature the works of renowned visual artist Danny “Danny” Simmons, Jr. my brother and young murder victim Glenn “Spoof” Wright and eight innovative and visionary contemporary artists from New York City and London. The opening reception of the exhibition is Thursday July 12 at 6:00pm at Strivers Gardens Gallery located at 300 West 135th St, New York, NY.

“eMerge will be the first in a series of annual exhibitions featuring the work of new and exciting visual artists,” said Lisa Hayes, manager of Strivers Gardens Gallery. “This exhibition is a multi-medium exploration of form, portraiture and abstract expressionism using a variety of mediums. Doors, tea bags, pins, sneakers, threads and buttons are transformed from the ordinary to visual expressions of memory and tribute.”

Anchoring the exhibition is a presentation of abstract-expressionist painter, Simmons, featuring select works from the last four decades. Featured in this exhibition is Simmons’ The Door (1989), a fusion of painting and poetry on a wooden door that serves as a literal and figurative gateway to the exhibition’s eMerging artists. Today, Ebony.com is opening that door as we kick-off a special limited run weekly artist diary to introduce the world to the talented artists featured in the “eMerge” exhibition. We begin with Simmons and rising artist, Andre Woolery. Get to know the journey of each artist in their own words. 

DANNY SIMMONS:

As I reflect on my journey as an artist, the most challenging experience was to get recognition in the beginning. There weren’t very many galleries in the late ‘80’s or early ‘90’s showing African-American works. To bypass that I started the Sanctuary Gallery in Brooklyn for myself and artists of color to have an opportunity to show our works. So I learned it’s good to build organizations and institutions that you can control. We don’t need to create organizations that only show Black art but that are run by people of color. A lot of my life’s work over the last 15 years has been developing and helping to promote the career of emerging artists and artists of color. So connecting with this show” eMerge” is a great honor and I appreciate the opportunity.

When it comes to my art I think the piece that reflects most on what I am doing is “The Complicated and Ongoing Search.” For years now most of my paintings is about the pursuit of spiritual connection to something larger than yourself on this plane or another plane. The title of that painting defines what my career is about. It’s an ongoing pursuit to connect with spirit. To connect with spirit doesn’t mean an actual spiritual presence but to connect more with yourself. A lot of that is tapping into my creative resources more fully and deeply to get greater insight and spiritual growth. In the creative process you deepen your creativity and the well of creativity you can pull your work from. When all is said and done, I want people to know that I was dedicated to being a creative person and getting work out there that stimulates and sparks something in people that wasn‘t there before.

ANDRE WOOLERY

The past three years have been an unexpected journey or rather a waking dream. It all started with a month off from my day job and now has turned into a job within itself.  The hobby has rapidly evolved into a passion and now has put me on a stage to keep channeling my creativity for people to gain inspiration.

Being a self-taught artist and operating within my own bubble of expression, I've always felt vulnerable to the world's critical eye. If people don't like it, you've invested so much of your heart, mind and soul towards something people think is worthless. Those whispers of insecurity are what you hear in those silent moments of painting. But I've learned to listen to music (ha), have patience and trust my heart and mind. I'm always working on my confidence to boldly create and the journey has gotten me through all those moments of insecurity while making me a stronger artist. 

It has been an internal journey sometimes but luckily in the past few months the external love I've received has bolstered my armor. So I am always thankful to the people that check out my work. My family, friends, and fans are the fuel that has ignited the artistic flame within my soul. 

This “eMerge” exhibition is a powerful one for many reasons. I get to put my work on display for the Harlem community, which is where I live. Also being next to Danny Simmons and other talented artists is an honor to be in such great company. The word “emerge”' being attached to me is dope because it implies that the next step is established on firm ground. I'm looking forward to being there and creating all the crazy things in my head. 

Souleo Enterprises, LLC is the umbrella company that creates, produces and curates media content, events, exhibitions and philanthropic projects by founder, Souleo. Presently Souleo Enterprises, LLC is creator/producer of the adult LGBT, financial literacy and arts programming for the New York Public Library taking place summer 2012 seen here.