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Artist Lennox Commissiong Teaches Youth to Create Barack Obama Portraits Inspired by His WIZARDHANDS Art Exhibition in Harlem

Students from the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) created unique pointillism mosaic portraits of President Barack Obama at an arts workshop taught by Hicksville artist Lennox Commissiong at the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem, 258 St. Nicholas Avenue. It was at his exhibition WIZARDHANDS, which salutes Black heroes, and is on view free to the public through September 30.
“I decided to have the students create their personal pointillism portraits of President Barack Obama because his legacy is a reminder to the children that no goal in life is too lofty to attain, regardless of the obstacles that may stand in the way,” said Commissiong.
The HEAF art workshop was inspired by Commissiong’s dramatic pointillism portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama, comprised of thousands Color-Aid paper dots, on view in the WIZARDHANDS exhibition, which showcases a salute to Black cultural and political heroes.
Commissiong’s dramatic portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama is a mosaic comprised of thousands of colorful paper dots. “Michelle Obama comported herself with grace and dignity through one of the most racially troubled periods in recent times,” he said. “Each color dot represents the millions of women, of every race, creed religion, she inspired along the way.”
Pointillism is a technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colors, which become blended in the viewer’s eye. Commissiong has mastered this technique using small pieces of Color-Aid paper instead of paint. 
“I did the workshop so the kids could learn more about the technique of pointillism and become more in-tune with their artistic side,” explained Commissiong, who was born on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and grew up in Brooklyn. “Most of us have an artistic side, which we never discover unless the opportunity is presented, to express it.  As the color dots accumulated on the paper and the kids saw the image coming forth, they got more excited about the art.”
The HEAF students at the three-hour arts workshop were Brooklyn and Harlem middle school students: Kelsie Ann Taylor,11; Nicholas Riddick, 10; Joshua Jones, 14; Nashawn Dobbins, 12 and Zilaah Ricks,12.
“Each of my portraits takes me about 300 hours to complete,” said Commissiong. “Although the students weren’t able to complete their Barack Obama portraits at our workshop, I was impressed with their individual creative visions. Each was given color paper and glue to complete their projects. Also, Dwyer will help frame their artwork. Upon completion, Minerva Diaz. from the Dwyer Cultural Center, will provide a mat for the finished artwork, transforming the image into a unique work of art ready for framing.”
Located in the heart of Harlem, HEAF changes the lives of underserved young people beginning in middle school and continuing in college and beyond through a youth development approach that includes rigorous year-round academic enrichment, social and cultural exposure and constant individual attention.
“Our students are artistic and enjoy working with their hands and trying different things,” said Alaine Johnson, associate director of High Expectations and director of the Middle School Program at HEAF. “It was great to bring them to the Dwyer Cultural Center to work with Lennox Commissiong so they could explore different art forms and do their best work.  So, it’s not only about technology. Sometimes it’s just back to basics and being creative.”
At the workshop, Commissiong showed the students his WIZARDHANDS exhibition. His subjects range from cultural and political figures to jazz musicians. Over 20 artworks in the exhibition encompass pointillism portraits of cultural legends like Tupac Shakur, Bob Marley, Muhammad Ali and Thelonious Monk to abstracts, water colors and pencil drawings. Minerva Diaz is the WIZARDHANDS curator and is director of programs and operations at Dwyer Cultural Center.
To view the exhibition, please contact the Dwyer Cultural Center at for an appointment.  For more information on the WIZARDHANDS, check out Lennox Commissiong’s artwork at or on Instagram at wizardhands21.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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