14 Trenton area artists you should know

Trenton has in recent decades come to life as a center for the arts. Our city is home to a healthy range of arts organizations and institutions supporting the visual and performing arts. We have asked Artworks Trenton, the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, and the West Windsor Arts Council – along with muralist Leon Rainbow, curator Brass Rabbit, and Trenton Journal's art contributor, John Gummere – for their picks of Trenton area “Artists to Watch in 2022.” What follows is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive sampling, but points to the Trenton area’s rich diversity of talent in the visual arts:

Liz Amaral is a Trenton native known for her fluid, organic images in acrylics, ink, spray paint, and watercolor. Her work ranges from smaller pieces on wooden panels and canvas to larger murals, sometimes in collaboration with other artists, and emphasizes themes of spirituality and healing. She frequently works with organizations such as the Trenton Downtown Association, Whole World Arts in Princeton, Isles, and many others. www.lizamaral.artspan.com

Alia Bensliman grew up in Tunisia, North Africa, at a crossroads of ancient eastern and contemporary western art. Her drawings reflect her views of life and sentiments about the current state of our society, socio-political issues, taboos, religion, relationships, health, and human rights. She uses a combination of intricate lines, shapes and repetitive patterns, often enhanced with watercolors, ink, and gold and silver paint and to create the desired textures and intensity. www.aliabenslimanart.com


Sean Carney teaches art at Lawrence High School, and has developed his own method of painting on wood panels, using Minwax wood stain and a Dremel tool to selectively carve into the surface. His works show city scenes, seaside subjects, and landscapes in fine detail. www.carneystudios.net

Larry Chestnut, based in Hamilton, is a representational painter who creates portraits, landscapes and still lifes with broad, fresh strokes and strong colors. Among his influences he counts American artists like Cecelia Beaux, John Singer Sargent, Robert Henri, and others. “I find myself an observer when I paint, constantly being surprised by what appears on the canvas before me, and that’s what inspires me.” www.chestnutart.com

April Cooper (whose work was featured in Trenton Journal in December) creates paintings that revolve around the pride of Black women, long under-represented in the art world. Influenced from a young age by her mother’s work caring for women’s hair, she takes a special interest in Black women’s hair styles; her paintings use color, facial expressions, and poses to project a sense of dignity. www.artbyaprilcooper.com

Rashad Malik Davis is an award-winning author and illustrator who loves to explore themes of spirituality, magic, the mystic, and social justice “in a fun and humorous way.” In 2014, he had the option of “staying stagnant, pursuing a career that was financially safe but ultimately unfulfilling.” He now focuses on picture books for children. “The inner child in me thankfully has never left, and he's come out to share with everyone the magic and beauty of childhood and life itself.” www.ramalikillustrations.com

Raven George works in multimedia, acrylics, and ink. She is interested in “the concept of emotion in infinite variations of divine beauty.” Raven recently collaborated with Leon Rainbow and other artists on a mural expressing the need to stop violence in Trenton and elsewhere. This summer she will have a solo art show on July 23rd at Vintage Dope Thrift in Trenton. As a woman of color she seeks “to be a reflective mirror for viewers to feel and confront the way society has distorted our relationships with ourselves.” www.ravengeorge.com

Phillip McConnell is a 31-year-old artist from Trenton. He reflects on his experience and world view with his focus on abstract, surrealist, digital artwork. Phillip refers to his work as “Glitch Art,” the aesthetic of digital errors, created by corrupting the data of pictures with various techniques and coding languages, which he then prints on canvas. www.phillipmcconnellart.com

Paul Mordetsky focuses mainly on landscapes in oils or acrylics, “as a forum for representing space and light within the graphic language . . . . I am interested in landscape for metaphoric reasons more than for purely descriptive ones — that is, I like the poetry of big space with big forms in big light; it’s the mood and atmosphere and emptiness that draws me.” He often makes scenes up or pulls them from diverse references. His reference images act as a starting point for creating the atmosphere and mood he wants to project. www.paulmordetsky.artspan.com

Yun Li pursues art while also working as an IT professional. She paints representational portraits, landscapes, and other subjects; her influences include Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Sargent. Her passion for the arts goes beyond painting: she is also a Chinese folk dancer and performs regularly in various venues for cultural celebrations. “My passions meet in my paintings of gorgeous and fearless dancers. I think about painting all the time…Often when I close my eyes and sometimes in my dreams. The subjects are infinite www.yunlifineart.com

Asia Popinska is a native of Poland and a trained physiotherapist who has lived in the U.S. since 1996. She practices Buddhist philosophy, which she ties to a deep sensitivity that her work reflects. As a self-taught photographer, she relies on intuition and instinct to capture those fleeting moments to tell stories through her lens. "I think I was a photographer even before I got my first camera. I've always seen the world in pictures, colors, patterns and movement; in both light and darkness. I see beauty in the unique and imperfect." www.asiapopinska.com

C.a. Shofed is a photographer who has earned recognition both locally and internationally. Many of his works focus on the man-made environment, but go well beyond casual observation. He looks at buildings and other artifacts with an artist’s eye, seeking out patterns, reflections, and colors that transform even mundane structures into works of art. www.amphorartworks.com

Tamara Torres is an Afro-Latina multi-disciplinary artist and social justice activist whose studio is at Artworks Trenton. She works in a variety of mediums such as narrative collages, abstract painted mindscapes, and performance. Her artistic practice knits together advocacy for women's rights, racial equity, and her own autobiographical experience. Tamara has exhibited both locally and in England, Scotland, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates. www.tamaratorresart.com

Mary Yess received her MFA in painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and has worked with numerous arts organizations in our area. She takes a special interest in images of the built environment and the unique character of old industrial buildings in our area: “not only monuments to the creativity and ingenuity of the early industrial period in U.S. history; but that each one of them is aesthetically valuable, a true American Versailles.” She creates other types of landscapes and still lifes, as well as art using found objects, and has recently returned to making welded sculptures. www.saatchiart.com/maryyess

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