ArtCrawl Harlem™ and Souleo Enterprises will present Motown to Def Jam - a multi-gallery visual art exhibition celebrating songs from the Chess, Stax, Motown, Philadelphia International Records and Def Jam catalogs - June 15 through July 26, as part of African-American Music Appreciation Month. Specially-commissioned works by over 40 painters, sculptors and new media artists will be on display at four Harlem art galleries: LeRoy Neiman Art Center, Strivers Gardens Gallery, La Maison d’Art and The Sol Studio. Participating artists include Aanisah Hinds, daughter of Grammy-winning singer Macy Gray, and S. Ross Browne, 2011 winner, Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series.

On June 15 a four-hour trolley bus tour—led by expert guides and culminated with a dinner gala at Broadway Housing Communities' Rio Galleries featuring popular subway singers and R&B songstress, Meli’sa Morgan paying tribute to the legendary labels—served as the kickoff for this exciting exhibition. 

EBONY.com recently got a sneak peek and has selected a few of the artistic highlights from the exhibition. Preview the images in the slideshow above and check out artist statements on the inspiration behind their work.

Beata Drozd

“To interpret Stevie Wonder’s song ‘Jesus Children of America’ I created the central piece inspired by Michelangelo's Pieta. In this portrayal of Pieta there are two African-American young males taking the place of Madonna and a dead Christ. Both the song and picture explore the connections between spirituality, human nature and the longing to believe in things that we cannot see. There is also another meaning; we must learn to trust each other but there are limits. At a certain moment we must allow our problems to fall. The Christian icon doesn't favor one belief over another. It simply represents spirituality and universal truths.”

Listen to the song here.

S. Ross Browne

I conceived this square album cover style painting after listening to the song ‘At Peace With Woman’ by The Jones Girls. The opening lyrics to this song state, ‘There won't be peace on earth 'til man's at peace with woman.’ To correlate the peace of the world with the equanimity of relationships between man and woman seemed to me overlooked but as old as Adam and Eve. In my painting The Reconciliation, you see the unbitten apple and the banished serpent, from the Garden of Eden, now a war torn desert wasteland. I present the role reversal of woman as usurper helping universal man to his feet. The armor she wears acts a metaphor of the enduring strength of universal woman during the myriad conflicts that besiege daily life. Her face is calm and compassionate and not tempted by the fruit. She is in a regal repose that promises forgiveness and lasting feminine prestige.” 

Listen to the song here.

Aanisah Hinds

“But, I'm Golden depicts a young girl being looked down upon, while she points to her crown saying ‘But, I'm golden, respect me and my mind.’ I feel like youth in general are bold and expressive individuals just as Phyllis Hyman sings in “The Kids.” I wanted this piece to embody that spirit.”

Listen to the song here.

Josh Goldstein

“In a way, every piece of art I make is trying to recreate Public Enemy's album ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.’ Of all the important political stances Public Enemy took on this album, I feel one of the strongest was the way it created the music itself. Every scrap of human recording was treated as a building block, with apparently random shards pasted together until something completely new and unique emerged. Sampling wasn't new to hip hop, but this record elevated the art to previously unheard levels, harnessing the excitement, grit, anger and unbridled energy of earlier eras to create a sound very different from the synthesized, sanitized pop of the 1980s.”

For more information on the album click here.

Beau McCall

“With ‘Happy Birthday,’ Stevie Wonder gave the campaign to honor Dr. King the anthem that it needed to establish a national holiday. The song connects to my piece since I adorned a crown to represent the royalty of Dr. King. I’ve placed buttons with a portrait of him in deep thought on top of stacked white buttons. The stacking of the buttons represents the sound levels of Stevie’s song. These are the voices singing out in praise for Dr. King.”

Listen to the song here.

Joseph Cavalieri

“Isaac Hayes’ song ‘Soulsville’ presents a straightforward portrait of a depressed 1970s inner city, and ends with a ray of hope with ‘God putting an end to all this misery.’ I chose to create a portrait of the strong and handsome Isaac Hayes in stained glass for a few reasons. First, it connects the song to soul music’s roots in the church. Plus it fit with my concept of making Isaac ‘godly.’ I added a halo of 1970s cars around this silkscreened image. Cars during this era were strong status symbols. The cars and color pallet of tans and greens date from the 1970s.” 

Listen to the song here.

Adrienne Moumin

“What felt strongest for me as I created Celebration was the optimistic tone in McFadden & Whitehead’s ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.’ This song was included on President Obama's campaign playlist. So I incorporated inkjet print multiples of President Obama’s commemorative cake and jewelry for his first and second terms, surrounding the original record label with clock hands. This arrangement is mean to suggest the passage of time and connect the past and the future.”

Listen to the song here.

Kimberly Mayhorn

“small pieces of carbon is an installation that explores through text and images, two Sierra Leoneans who fled their country to escape a horrific civil war that was largely fueled by the selling of ‘conflict diamonds.’ Over half of the country’s 4.5 million people were displaced and many were left as amputees. I was inspired by the lyrics from ‘Shine on ‘Em’ by Nas and felt that it spoke to the heart of my installation. Nas raises awareness of the link between diamonds and conflicts in Africa as well as raising awareness about the entire world not stepping in.”

Listen to the song here.

Fernando Carpaneda

“Foxy Brown’s lyrics to ‘B.K. Anthem’ depict Brooklyn street culture. To capture this I created a blazer on the figure with emblems and references to The Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, street gangs and freedom. These symbols can be seen everyday written in public places on the walls, subways and streets.”

Listen to the song here.

Adam Lowenbein

“Using paint like theatrical make-up, I work on printed self-portrait photographs as a way of playing with my relationship to fame, success and identity. This photograph of me was taken standing in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of an oil portrait of Mrs. William Astor by Carolus-Duran, 1890.  A 19th century portrait of a wealthy lady was a sign of her social status. The figure standing in front, is inspired by Pam Grier, a confident, glamorous early 1970’s starlet and fashion icon of the time. The song ‘Miss Black America’ radiates a happy positivity and my painting reflects the emerging position of a woman of color at that time.”

Listen to a sample of the song here.

Gregory Saint Amand (GOGO)

“This painting is a narrative of a young boy that gains a sense of self-awareness, self-preservation and a sense of his own potential. Intrigue, fear and courage are in abundance as this moment arises. Expressions of bold colors and rude strokes evoke the consumed currency of a language that lives between all that identifies him, and all he has seen. The parallel between this painting and the song ‘Save The Children’ by The Intruders is that all we have to do as a society is care a bit, and those we care for will stand on there own two feet.”

Listen to the song here.