John Newsom: Painting the Forest of the Happy Ever After

March 16 - June 16, 2024

This exhibition presents for the first time the original oil paintings I created for the album Forest of the Happy Ever After by American rapper and Wu-Tang Clan affiliate Killah Priest. The paintings depict a world of nature and renewal, with plants and animals as allegorical symbols of the rebirth and new growth that occur every spring. 

The paintings are full of esoteric symbolism as well: an ibis, which alludes to Thoth, the ancient Egyptian god of the moon, master of knowledge, and patron of scribes; the Tree of Knowledge camouflaging a gnome, considered the guardian of Earth’s energy systems; and a tiger leaning in from a painting’s edge, representing the Sun. An image of pinecones suggests the opening of listeners’ pineal glands, which secrete the hormone melatonin. A river scene represents the knowledge endlessly flowing through Killah Priest’s rhymes and thoughts. 

The powerful portrait of Killah Priest that appears on the album’s cover shows him surrounded by flora and fauna, creating the appearance of a natural deity or shaman mediating between the imaginary realm and the physical world, or that of a sage with the capacity to absorb death and supplement it with rebirth. The MC’s voice is one of inspiration and healing; his presence radiates the ability to grow with tireless enthusiasm.

— John Newsom


John Newsom (b. 1970) is an American painter best known for combining multiple techniques of formal painting strategies onto large canvases featuring dynamic spectacles of the natural world. Newsom grew up in Kansas and Oklahoma. He completed high school in 1988 at Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan. In 1992 he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Rhode Island School of Design. He subsequently moved to New York City, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in studio arts from New York University. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York Public Library, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Hammer Museum, Neuberger Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, R.I.S.D. Museum, and the Library of Congress, among others. In 2021, Newsom curated an exhibition titled EXPEDITION at BMAC.


The handcrafted furniture in the Ticket Gallery was created by David Holzapfel of Applewood Studios & Gallery. Cloud Throne is made from cherry, yellow birch burl, and yellow birch. Tavola Luccicante is made from curly cherry, curly maple, and birch. We are grateful to David for lending us his stunning work for this exhibition, and to Michelle Hozapfel for her help with delivery and installation. Visit to learn more.


This exhibit is located in the Ticket Gallery, which is on a raised platform off of the main gallery. To access the Ticket Gallery, guests need to go up five shallow steps with a railing.


March 16, Saturday, 5 p.m. — Opening of New Exhibits
June 3, Monday, 6 p.m. — Meet & Greet with John Newsom and Killah Priest
June 4, Tuesday, 8 p.m. — Killah Priest Live at Stone Church


Installation views
Virtual tour
Video: Killah Priest LIVE Podcraft (ft. John Newsom – New Artwork Announcement)
Ask the Artist!