Let me introduce you to Marie Roberts, who is a very special artist and woman I have known for about 20 years. Her work — and people trying to make work that looks like hers — can be seen all over New York City, and especially in Coney Island, where she is the long-time artist in residence and has dedicated much of her career to the Coney Island Sideshow.
— Professor Jenny Toth, Director, Wagner College Gallery
Marie Roberts: Artist’s statement
It is inconceivable to me that painting could exist without drawing.
What I do as an artist is rooted in drawing. I draw from observation, from invention, from memory. Drawing is a way to see and to understand the world, and to see and understand what I want to do in my work.
I carry a sketch book or two and try to make sense of the visual world wherever I happen to be. As show painter to the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, a program of the not-for-profit arts organization Coney Island USA, I have the rich opportunity to watch and draw live performers constantly. Having a family for whom sideshow was a norm, I see the performers as skilled professionals and distinct human beings. Since becoming an insulin-dependent diabetic, I see parallels between sideshow and life.
My least favorite act was the Human Pincushion. Twenty years ago I became an insulin-dependent diabetic, and I perform a variation of human pincushion multiple times a day. Life imitates art, and I am looking at the vocabulary of art to make sense of life.
Ars longa vita brevis — art is long, life is short.
About Marie Roberts
Marie Roberts is a painter, an ethical vegetarian tending toward vegan, and a native New Yorker living and working in southern Brooklyn. She received a B.A. in art from Brooklyn College and M.F.A. in painting from Queens College. She is an art professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and artist in residence at the not-for-profit arts center Coney Island USA.
Roberts’s work has been shown at venues that include the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Brooklyn Museum, P.S. 1, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art, Deutsche Bank galleries, LIU’s Salena Gallery, 32 Edgecomb Gallery at the Yale School of Art, Gallery Sobab (Seoul, South Korea), Rivington Gallery (London), and Coney Art Walls (2015, 2016 , 2017, 2018) curated by Jeffrey Deitch.
Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Transit Authority NYC, the Village Voice, Merck, CNN, DiDomenico Partners, Laughing Lotus Yoga, Feld Entertainment and private collections.
Roberts has been the subject of several short documentaries, including “Sideshow Picasso” by Marilyn Agrelo (2008) and “This Side of Dreamland” by Joshua Glick and Patrick Reagan (2015). She is featured in several books, including “Coney Island Lost and Found,” by Charles Denson, and “City Lights: Stories about New York,” by Dan Barry, and in media as diverse as the New York Times, TLC’s “Cake Boss” and AMC’s “Ride” with Norman Reedus.