It was like looking in a mirror when she saw the self—portrait hanging on a banner from the side of Fred W. Martin School back in February.
The color pencil drawing was created when Gabriella Reyes was a high school art student— 10 years ago and she says she just couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
“Driving by Wilkinson Ave., coming off Communipaw with my daughter and my boyfriend and I yell ‘stop,’ ‘stop,’ ‘stop,'” Reyes says.
“No-one had asked me if they could put it up there. No-one even told me it was going up and it doesn’t even have my name on it.
“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it,” she says.
As a professional artist, Reyes has sold her work in various mediums– including charcoal, oil pastels, ink, acrylic paint and color pencil.
The young mom is a former Jersey City resident and student from the Jersey City school district.
Reyes says the self-portrait was on the NJCU campus at the time.
“One on this side and one on the other side,” Reyes says.
The artist says she reached out to the school and even posted it on Facebook.
“My freshman art teacher, I tagged her in that post,” Reyes says. “I tagged all of them and she wrote back to me and was like ‘I was laughing when I saw that.’
” According to Reyes, she feels hurt, disappointed and taken advantage of.
“This shouldn’t happen to anyone since most artists struggle and work so hard for compensation and recognition,” the artist says.
It’s her intellectual property.
“That wasn’t the school’s,” Reyes says, adding that she explained it to the Board (of Education) and they were like ‘we’ve never heard this kind of complaint.’
“And I spoke to the principal of the ATC Program (the visual performing arts school) and she said ‘maybe you left it on a computer.’
“That doesn’t give you guys the right to just take it,” Reyes says.
The artist says she wants to see her signature because the drawing went seven years uncredited and that was an opportunity she was robbed of.
“Where would I have been in my creative field had my name been put up there and people would have known who I was within my own community,” Reyes wonders.
She is proud of her displayed artwork, but wants to know why it was hung without her knowledge, permission or compensated for.
“I thought my teachers cared more about me, to be honest,” Reyes says.
The BOE told the artist they would look into the situation and the following day the principal of Martin School reached out and asked ‘how can we make this better.’
“I would like to sign it personally,” Reyes says of the drawing. “And show the students that you shouldn’t let anyone take anything from you.”
She sold the original self—portrait piece in 2014.