Art Fair 14C returns to Jersey City for its fourth year this weekend, bringing together artists and galleries from across the Garden State as well as international and out-of-state creatives seeking alternatives from New York’s high barriers to entry.

Located in the historic Armory building at McGinley Square and named after Jersey City’s exit on the Turnpike, 14C has also become a destination for locals drawn by the prospect of community and affordability. Low-cost and subsidized booths allow emerging and low-income artists to sell alongside established commercial galleries, with a group exhibition of New Jersey-based artists — a fundraiser of cat artworks — and a booth dedicated to military veterans’ work, among other highlights.

“Wisdom” (2022) by Modupe Odusote was painted on traditional Nigerian ankara fabric.

For some recently emigrated artists, 14C is one of their first in-person events. Bridgewater-based Nigerian artist Modupe Odusote claims she recently taught herself to paint, but she has already boldly reclaimed Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”(1907) for African women and swapped canvas for traditional ankara fabric. She claims the early days of the pandemic gave her the courage to do so.

“I was always afraid to try, but COVID made me a painter,” Odusote told Hyperallergic.

And for Somerset-based Indian artist Teena Soni, who just received her US work permit, the fair is her second show since moving here. A third-generation artist, Soni renders traditional Hindu symbolism into brilliant abstraction, working with 24-karat gold leaf and traditional pigments that she says are self-preserving, “so they will never show any signs of age.”

A few booths away, textile artist Christine Sauerteig-Pilaar focuses on material degradation, turning 1960s sewing patterns into a rumination on aging. Based in Oak Ridge, Sauerteig-Pilaar says that 14C provides an artistic community sorely lacking in the suburbs. She points to one of her pieces showing a nude woman with rifles on her body and adds that at this fair, she feels she has the freedom to express political frustration without judgment.

Teena Soni and her partner Tarun Swarnkar at her Showcase booth

Art Fair 14C was founded in 2018 by gallerist Robinson Holloway while he served on the board of the Jersey City Arts Council. Since its inaugural outing in 2019, 14C has been held in the Hyatt Regency at Exchange Place and Mana Contemporary at Journal Square. While local art events are held throughout the state, 14C is the only fair of this scale and breadth throughout New Jersey, and one of few to provide residencies to artists selected for its juried show. Booths are priced between $1,674 for the smallest and $6,510 for the largest — 90 feet of hangable wall space — with most booths under $3,000. Starting in 2021, the fair began offering special rates for exhibitors experiencing economic hardship; this year, eight booths were provided at $900 each.

Several presentations this year aimed to preserve the legacy of recently deceased artists. Linda Street of the Pink Dragon Artist Syndicate dedicated hers to Newark artist Jerry Gant, who passed away in 2018. Vinyl records appear molded into expressive Black faces, with the artist’s name displayed over fragments of blue milk crates. While some of Gant’s work is in the Newark Museum of Art’s permanent collection, Street claims to have only scratched the surface.

“These are just a few of the 4,000 pieces we have been going through,” Street told Hyperallergic. “Jerry left us with so much amazing work, and I am constantly finding new things despite us working together for so long.”

Linda Street (center) with Newark-based curator Souleo and artist Beau McCall

For Jeremy Hansen, who runs River’s Edge Gallery just south of Detroit, 14C is an opportunity to reintroduce the East Coast to late Michigan-based artist Jim Slack. Hansen interweaves Slack’s psychedelic paintings and sculptures with his own work. While Slack passed away in 2001, Hansen claims his Jersey connections deserve greater attention.

“Jim’s story is pretty tragic,” Hansen told Hyperallergic. “He was a disabled Vietnam vet who came back with severe PTSD but became a peace-loving Deadhead, and he eventually died alone of an overdose. But he was originally from this area, so we decided his first US show in a while should be here.”

For Atlantic City-based artist Drew Griffiths, Jersey’s reputation for producing great artists speaks for itself. A mid-career artist working halfway between sculpture and painting, he recently resettled at the Shore after years of traveling and claims 14C is an opportunity to reconnect with his roots.

“I’ve spent years bouncing around in Spain and exhibiting in Los Angeles, but I wanted to show the home state some love,” Griffiths told Hyperallergic. “After all, I’m a Jersey boy at heart.”

Art Fair 14C at the Jersey City Armory
Jim Slack’s work at the River’s Edge booth
Textile works by Christine Sauerteig-Pilaar

Editor’s note 11/14/22 1:30pm: A previous version of the article misstated the cost of a booth at the fair; the article has been edited.

Billie Anania is an editor, critic, and journalist in New York City whose work focuses on political economy in the cultural industries and the history of art in global liberation movements.