Marlena Marisseau of Manchester is a photographer by trade, running her own business Mixed Moons Photography. She does portrait photography focusing more recently on maternity, newborn and Mommy and Me shoots though she does everything from weddings to fashion photography. But first she was a painter.
"I used to paint more," the busy working mother said. She's a native of Ghana who settled in New Hampshire after the Army transferred her here.
In more than one case, her paintings have predicted her future, she said. "Some pieces have come to fruition. ... I paint when I feel I need to know the next phase of my life," Marisseau said.
Her painting, which will be offered in a silent art auction at this weekend's Black Lives Matter Seacoast gala fundraiser, depicts a woman and incorporates the fabric pattern of an African dress that her mother wore, the Ghanaian flag and gold fleck. She decided to paint the woman as pregnant. When she completed the multimedia piece, she named it "Tribute To My Mothers."
"It was some sort of intuition. I had no idea at the time, but I happened to be pregnant when I was painting it," Marisseau said.
"I need to paint a painting with money in it," she added.
"A Tribute to My Mothers" is one of the paintings by BIPOC artists that will be auctioned off at the third annual Black Excellence Gala presented by the Seacoast chapter of Black Lives Matter this Saturday, Oct. 1 at Rivermill at Dover Landing in Dover.
Artist Victoria Carrington organized the art auction, the first time the gala has featured one, and invited the artists to participate.
"Art always has a way to carry messages and showcase beauty," Carrington said. "BLM wanted to create an opportunity, a space to promote BIPOC artists and showcase their work. It's a great gesture of BLM Seacoast."
Of Black, Mexican and Navajo heritage, Carrington, who lives in Concord, is a communications specialist with the New Hampshire Children's Trust and a freelance graphic artist with her own business Lilac and Aspen, whose name gives a nod to both her Colorado and NH connections.
"It's a call back and a note to my two homes and it encompasses a lot of my personality," Carrington said. "I am centered in nature." The piece of her artwork to be auctioned is titled, "Real King Of The Jungle."
She grew up in Colorado and moved to New Hampshire in March 2020 to help her best friend, whose husband is an essential worker, with her children during the pandemic.
Since moving here, she's made an effort to go to galleries and events. "Traveling the state sparks my curiosity and I have a large network of artists," she said, noting also the difficulty BIPOC artists in the state sometimes have connecting with fellow artists and with opportunities to promote their art.
"It's always hard for artists to get recognized, but for artists of color it's even harder. If you're an artist who is BIPOC, it's harder to get recognized," Carrington said.
The artists she invited to be featured in the auction are "all great artists that I knew were underappreciated and I have an opportunity to change that, to bring them to the forefront," she said. "Representation matters."
In addition to Marisseau and Carrington, the artists whose work will be auctioned off are Jozimar Matimano of Manchester, Randall Nielsen of Manchester and Aina Sullivan of Derry.
The BLM Seacoast chapter paid the artists a stipend in advance for their artwork and will give them 50% of the proceeds from the auction.
"They acknowledged and honored our time," Carrington said.
Fine art painter Jozimar Matimano is a new American who lives in Manchester. He was born in the East Democratic Republic of Congo, Butembo, where he grew up and then moved to Uganda at 10. In October of 2016, he moved with his family from Uganda to Manchester. The 27-year-old is pursuing a degree in fine art at the Institute of Art at New England College. Many of his paintings are portraits of Black men and women.
"To me, it's a part of where we are as Black men and Black women," Matimano said. "I try to show all the pride in who they are, their excellence and their strength."
The painting he is auctioning is titled, "Power of Women."
"Art is my life, I'm an artist through and through," Marisseau said of why she wanted to participate in the auction. "I want to put my art out there. Growing up I never saw that many BIPOC creators or painters. How art can translate into your life is really powerful."
Carrington wanted to organize and participate in the auction because it's "an opportunity to educate and open a conversation that might be difficult," and it gives insight into BIPOC artists' work.
"People want to know, but sometimes don't know how to ask the question and the arts allow them to have the conversation." Carrington said.
Black Excellence Gala details
The keynote speaker at this weekend's Black Excellence Gala will be Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and core faculty in women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire and a columnist for New Scientist and Physics World. Nature recognized her as one of 10 people who shaped science in 2020, and Essence magazine has recognized her as one of “15 Black Women Who Are Paving the Way in STEM and Breaking Barriers.”
Featured performers will be singer-songwriter Adrienne Mack-Davis and Anthony Bounphakhom, a Seacoast dancer and founder of the Block Collaborative, an art and dance studio in Portsmouth.
Doug York of Exeter who owns 7North Coffee Co. will DJ and Najee Brown, creator of the BIPOC theater company Theater for the People will be the master of ceremonies. Food is by Chris Viaud, the chef and owner of Greenleaf and Ansanm, both located in Milford, N.H., and a competitor on "Top Chef." A Southern Girl Bakery will join Viaud in creating desserts.
Tickets and information about the event are found at blmseacoast.com/gala. A limited amount of tickets are available for those with financial hardship at this time and for Black, Brown and Indigenous college students, both undergraduate and graduate. If you would like to attend but cannot afford a ticket at this time or to get an available student ticket, email email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Black Lives Matter Seacoast Chapter gala to highlight BIPOC artists