My family spoke carney, and I ran away from their sideshow traditions to become a painter. Painting sideshow banners for the non-profit arts center Coney Island USA brought an epiphany: I found a medium where the two halves of my life — the carney and the painter — 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.
My art wall brings together, from left, current sideshow performers, and from right, local people in the arts. In the center: the sky and water of Coney Island and the support staff who keep it all running. Everybody — locals, photographers, and tourists — is represented in the sparkly grey shadow people at the bottom.
Coney Island is 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 BA in art from Brooklyn College and an MFA in painting from Queens College (CUNY). She is a Professor of Art at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Artist in Residence at the non-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 in Seoul, South Korea, and Rivington Gallery in London.
Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Transit Authority NYC, The Village Voice, Merk, CNN, DiDomenico Partners, Laughing Lotus Yoga, Feld Entertainment, as well as in private collections.
Roberts has been the 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; and is an ethical vegetarian tending toward vegan.