My family spoke carney and I ran away from their sideshow traditions to study art and become a painter. In 1997 I painted some sideshow banners for the not for profit arts center Coney Island USA and had an epiphany: I found a medium where the two halves of my life–the carney and the academic–could mingle and make art.
I love the manipulation of substance on substrate. I love that hand painted work can be seen on the street, be it a fresco madonna in Fiesole or freakshow banners in Coney–it's real. Coney Art Walls has brought that experience in a magnified way to the Amusement area in Coney Island.
For my contribution to Coney Art Walls I made the project title visible to the masses streaming down Stillwell to the beach. I wanted to pay homage to Coney's rich history, through a personal lens. My Uncle Lester A. Roberts, talker with the 1920's Dreamland Circus Sideshow, is surrounded by stars of the show. Offstage, the cast called them selves "The Dreamland Social Club" when they went out, and I aimed for that dignity and camaraderie in the mural. I added a contemporary figure in the lower right; Little Jimmy, Oompah Lumpah, Salsa champ, and Coney personality who passed in April.
Coney Island afforded me a place to bring my studio practice to the street, accessible 24/7. People hip and unhip, visually educated and not are here and Coney Art Walls is bringing the experience of seeing lots of real art to southern Brooklyn.
Marie Roberts is a painter and native New Yorker, living and working in Southern Brooklyn. She received a B.A in art from Brooklyn College and MFA in painting from Queens College, both CUNY. Roberts is a Professor of Art at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Artist in Residence at the not for profit arts center Coney Island USA,
Roberts' work has been shown at venues that include the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Brooklyn Museum, PS 1, MOCADA, Deutchbank Galleries. Salina Gallery, LIU, 32 Edgecomb Gallery, Yale School of Art, Gallery SoBab, Seoul, South Korea, and Rivington Gallery, London
Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Transit Authority NYC, The Village Voice, Merk, CNN, DiDomenico Partners, Laughing Lotus Yoga, and Feld Entertainment as well as numerous private collections.
Roberts has been subject of several short documentaries, including "Sideshow Picasso" by Marilyn Agrelo, and the 2015 "This Side of Dreamland" by Joshua Glick and Patrick Reagan. She is included in Coney Island Lost and Found by Charles Denson; City Lights: Tales of New York by Dan Barry and in media as diverse as The New York Times and TLC's Cake Boss.
Roberts is included in the current traveling exhibition "Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland 1861- 2008", curated by Robin Jaffee Frank, which will open at the Brooklyn Museum in November 2015.