East Meets West in Montclair Fine artist Siona Benjamin brings a world of influences to her work
WRITTEN BY CAMILLE FURST
If you ’ ve been inside the MC Hotel in downtown Montclair , you ’ ve probably noticed the striking artworks hanging in the interior and exterior ofthe building and wondered about their provenance . Who was inspired to blend such brilliantly-colored dreamscapes that often incorporate vaguely recognizable local scenes ?
The answer won ’ tsurprise you when you learn about the artist ’ sbackground . Montclair resident Siona Benjamin , 59 , grew up in aJewish community inthe heart of Mumbai , India , and was educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools . As the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships , she frequently visited family in Israel and explored the theme ofmulticultural art there and in India . She lived inFrance for six months and continues to teach workshops and promote her artwork , which has been displayed inmuse- ums and exhibits throughout the world .
But for this artist who has been around the globe , Montclair is home — asmuch as any one place can be .
“ I belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time ,” says Benjamin , who came to America to study more than 30 years ago and moved to Upper Montclair in 2002 . “ It ’ s unnerving to feel that Ibelong nowhere , and it ’ s also unnerving to feel that Ibelong everywhere … And Idobelong , sometimes . Ilove Montclair . Ibelong to Montclair .”
FAMILIAR FEEL TO IT The painting in the foreground , “ Shangri-La ,” was inspired by artist Siona Benjamin ’ s walks in Edgemont and Anderson Parks in Montclair .
WORKS ON PROMINENT DISPLAY
Benjamin ’ s love for her hometown shines through her work at The MC Hotel , which in August observed the anniversary of its first year in business . The decor of the hotel is thematically tied to Montclair ’ s flourishing artistic community , and displays Benjamin ’ s work on each floor of the building , including the lobby .
In late September , she contributed two works to the exterior — a 22-foot by 6-foot mural and a circular installation for the rotunda that is 18 feet in diameter . Collaborator Yvonne Verwer created sky imagery for the latter artwork , and Benjamin provided the encircling border . The artists used a material called Dibond , which is used in the making of green highway signs . The selection of the art , design and installation location was the result of a collaboration between the artists , developers Pinnacle Properties and The Hampshire Companies , the Montclair township council , and the Montclair planning board .
Benjamin was selected as one of the artists to do the hotel commission by David Ashen of Dash Design , the company hired to create the aesthetic sensibility of the hotel .
THIS PAGE : MITSU YASUKAWA ; OPPOSITE PAGE : COURTESY OFSIONA BENJAMIN STUDIO
20 HOLIDAY 2020 MONTCLAIR MAGAZINE