Meet the Mackem Mona Lisas.
Sunderland artists young and old have given a Wearside twist to one of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest works to celebrate an exhibition of his sketches going on display in the city next month.
Artist Ian Potts worked with young people from Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project (SNYP) and adults from Fulwell Library Arts Group (FLAG) to breathe new life into the masterpiece for a two-day exhibition which runs until Saturday, January 19.
The striking interpretations, which were also inspired by notable women from Wearside, feature everything from broadcast journalist Kate Adie depicted as the Mona Lisa to a textiles interpretation to an artwork created from plastics, which was inspired by an SNYP litter pick.
People will be able to see the Mackem masterpieces for themselves at Mackie’s Corner, which is being used as a cultural space as work continues on the long-term plans for the historic Hutchinson buildings in High Street West.
Backed by Sunderland Culture, Ian has been one of the temporary artists in residence at the site for the past two months and says it’s a great space to showcase local artists.
The Mackem Mona Lisas are on show ahead of Leonardo da Vinci: A Life Drawing, 12 sketches by the Italian master, which will go on display at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens from February 1 to May 6.
Speaking at the Mackie’s Corner site, which formerly housed Sweet Home Alabama, Ian said: “I did a Mona Lisa at the beach made from driftwood and seaweed two or three years ago which really captured people’s imaginations, so with the da Vinci exhibition coming to Sunderland this seemed a great way to involve local people and celebrate the exhibition, as well as notable women from Sunderland.”
Ian, whose workshops were funded by the Wearmouth Community Development Trust (WCDT), said: “There’s a real mixture of people in the groups, from some who had never picked up a pencil to more competent artists. For the kids especially it’s also been a great way for them to learn about women from Sunderland who’ve gone on to great things.”
•You can see the Mackem Mona Lisas at Mackie’s Corner on January 18 and 19 from 10am to 5pm. Free entry.
•FLAG meets every Wednesday morning at Fulwell Community Library from 10am to noon. All new members welcome to come along.