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A Fresh Perspective

Updated: May 4, 2023

Saturday April 1st we celebrated with in person artists receptions at FiveMyles in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Many ART YARD Artists were in attendance!

ART YARD Artist Abby Johnson reviews: “The April 1st opening reception at FiveMyles, 558 St. Johns Place, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was packed with wonderful art, compelling ideas and interested people -- everything one hopes for in an opening party!

I was struck by how well suited the art on view worked the location. FiveMyles, with its gray walls and floor, high ceilings lined with beams and pipes and quirky garage annex is not at all a run-of-the-mill art gallery. The large crowd was captivated.

Meridith McNeal, Inside Outside installed in the PlusSpace at FiveMyles. Photos by Francesca Romana Caputo.

The exhibition begins in the PlusSpace with the art work of ART YARD Artist Meridith McNeal! Meridith McNeal: Inside Outside fills this former garage connected to the main gallery space. Created and curated for this space Meridith’s beautiful ink and watercolor life-sized paintings were perfectly installed. Meridith’s Windowphila paintings give visitors views of different settings from Brooklyn locations, to scenes in Rome! While, a whole spectrum of colors grace the work, I noticed a theme of earthy cool hues. The gallery is also covered in a cool blue/grey tone which may be why the paintings conformed so well. Looking into the PlusSpace at the paintings we the viewers are drawn into what become portals to different locations. Upon careful looking, what I found particularly interesting is Meridith’s painting technique with layers of watercolor building nuanced shades and rich passages which can be read abstractly. She surprises us with reflections and passages of bright white unpainted paper proving that these paintings are very well thought out. A great amount of patience and devotion speak through the abundant layers, while the window reflections bring the paintings a sense of complexity and intricacy through detail. I thought Meridith did an outstanding job producing a body of work for the location while bring visitors to different realms!

The Main Gallery space consisted of a two-person exhibition with art work by Mildred Beltré and Elisa D’Arrigo titled Mildred Beltré and Elisa D’Arrigo: Two Artists. Filling the space are ceramic sculptures created by Elisa D’Arrigo. At first glimpse the sculptures reminded me of the TV series “Stranger Things”, presenting a sense of mystery. Upon closer inspection, the materiality of the work is equally intriguing almost a snake skin surface. I particularly enjoyed the phenomenal line work in Elisa D’A’rrigo’s ink drawing Bud well placed at the Gallery entrance. It raises many questions as it leads you to the rest of Elisa’s work.

Installation view Mildred Beltré and Elisa D’Arrigo: Two Artists at FiveMyles. Photo by Ruby Lindsey.

Drawing by and Elisa D’Arrigo, textile Mildred Beltré on view at FiveMyles. Photo by Ruby Lindsey.

On the walls in the Main Gallery space hang vibrantly colored prints, and non-traditional textiles of ART YARD Parent Mildred Beltré. I enjoyed meeting Mildred, ART YARD Artist Sigrid Dolan’s mother, and was fascinated by her description of her process of making and working with hand-made ink. My favorite of her work is FC, a 38 x 50 inch print that depicts a woman’s body using only dot patterns to create the form. This work has an interactive feel. I watched as viewers enthralled by the illusion moved from different angles or distances to better see the image morph. Our perception of the art, is informed by the process of looking. For example, though the print was created with only black and white dots of different sizes, I began seeing hues of yellow and blue in the piece, while my fellow opening attendees ART YARD Artists saw it differently -- Imala Davenport perceived hues of purple and Keith Meyers hues of brown. It was fascinating to see what this particular piece did for each individual visitor viewing it.

Installation views Mildred Beltré and Elisa D’Arrigo: Two Artists at FiveMyles. Photos by Ruby Lindsey.

With an array of enthusiastic visitors, from New York City and beyond, the opening reception at FiveMyles was an absolute hit! All of us enjoyed the variety of art work, materials, and styles – in other words it was the perfect opportunity to discuss art as we view it in person.

The exhibition is up through May 8th, 2023. Gallery Hours: Thu. - Sun., 1-6pm or by appointment and by appointment. I encourage you to go see this exhibition yourself!”


Monday found ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom in a fascinating session titled Perspectives on City Life with ART YARD Artist Jacob Rath will present. In this session we created drawings/paintings that portray life in an urban environment. After a fascinating presentation and a look at art by looking at the work of Yefim Ladyzhensky, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, Richard Scarry and various Medieval artists, Jacob challenged us to use either up-down perspective or oblique perspective in our artwork.

Yefim Ladyzhensky, Oil/Tempera on canvas. Featuring urban streets and entitled, "The Children on the way to Stolarsky School," (From The Series “Odessa In My Childhood”)

Jacob summarizes: “I began my lesson with a discussion of top-down perspective. Since this type of perspective is common in video games, I spent a minute showing a character walking around a city in the Pokemon Ruby game in order to make sure everyone understood how this perspective worked.

Jacob presents on zoom

I then showed paintings by Yefim Ladyzhensky, an artist who painted his childhood in Odessa often using top-down perspective. Afterwards, I showed a variety of artists who used oblique perspective in their work, all of whom depicted life in urban spaces.

Everyone made drawings of their city/town utilizing one of these perspectives (although top-down perspective was more popular than oblique). The artworks varied from being idealized versions of their cities/towns, to more realistic depictions that showed things that were broken/ugly/not functioning in the way they were intended.

My own painting is titled "Potholes on 35th Street." 35th Street in Minneapolis is full of potholes. Biking on it is rough, since I'm trying to avoid potholes, loose gravel, patches of ice, and other vehicles on the road. I used the top-down perspective in this piece because I sometimes imagine that I'm in a video game while biking on it.

Jacob Rath, Perspectives on City Life, Potholes on 35th Street

Jeremy Winter, Perspectives on City Life, 35th and Bloomington

Meridith McNeal, Perspectives on City Life, Waverly Avenue Front & Back

Sigrid Dolan, Perspectives on City Life

Abby Johnson, Perspectives on City Life, Educational Map (in progress)

Diane Winter, Perspectives on City Life, Glen Rock

Ed Rath, Perspectives on City Life, Plymouth Street Top Down

Karla Prickett, Perspectives on City Life


I am pleased to report that ART YARD Advanced Studio in person is back to making art in our studio at BWAC in Red Hook, Brooklyn!

The view from our studio window

This session Seeing Yourself in Moss: Mutu-Moss Collage was taught by ART YARD Artist Ajani Russell. We began with a look at work by Wangechi Mutu. Next we looked at images of moss, lichen and mushrooms, which as Ajani explained are all nurturing plants, working in tandem with their hosts to protect and coexist. With this double inspiration we first painted abstracted moss, lichen and mushroom patterns. These paintings were then cut out in the style of Wangechi Mutu’s mixed media figures, to create our own figurative collages.

Wangechi Mutu, Riding Death in My Sleep, 2002. Ink and collage on paper, 60 x 44"

Ajani describes the inspiration for this session: “In New York City we have very limited access to nature. The plant-life we do have are miniature and highly controlled versions of the plants in the natural world. Despite our attempts to regulate ‘unwanted’ or pervasive plants they continue to persist. We see this in the grass growing between the cracks in the sidewalk, the moss growing on brownstones, weeds climbing up alleyways and in backyards. In light of ART YARD’s recent trip to the New Museum to see Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined, I wanted to draw on her work as the artistic inspiration for this lesson. I saw similarities in the textures she paints into her collages and images of plants and moss under a microscope.”

Denaé Howard, Seeing Myself in Moss (3 paintings in progress) use arrows to scroll

Ajani Russell, Seeing Myself in Moss, (2 iterations)

George Green, Seeing Myself in Moss

Meridith McNeal, Seeing Myself in Moss (3 iterations) use arrows to scroll

Abby Johnson, Seeing Myself in Moss

Jules Lorenzo, Seeing Myself in Moss

Assata Benoit, Seeing Myself in Moss (in progress and complete)

During the session conversation flowed naturally. We all enjoyed the company of Denaé's Studio Dog Faithful! We found ourselves sharing, offering advice, delving into deep topics and ultimately supporting each other in this very special community of intergenerational artists.


Spring has sprung in East New York - 65 degrees and sunny and the students of The East New York High School of Arts and Civics were blooming with art-making.

Dennis writes: “Teaching Artist Fatima Traore is developing a new lesson to begin after the school's Spring break - but she worked closely with students on Tuesday to finalize several pieces.

Mural on view at The East New York High School of Arts and Civics

Joshua and Elizabeth finished their portraits and began their variations of The Great Wave. Joshua's is an eyeball with a wave reflecting in it.

Joshua, Great Wave (in progress)

Kurt continued with skin tones on his Kehinde Wiley portrait and Inez put all finishing touches (including the towel in her piece - which was a source of great indecision for her as she wanted perfection!!) on her bathtub scenario reflecting a Great Wave.

Amaia finished her Angela Davis portrait and Zian did lots of color mixing and testing to achieve the right shades (shades also being the operative word as her piece is of a large pair of sunglasses!) and tones for her work. And - Andre also tested to get the right sand color that he'd been thinking of.

Happy Spring Break to all at the East New York High School of Arts and Civics.”


"Can you feel the love ....?" asks Managing Director Dennis Buonagura. He continues, “My Wednesday visits to PS 17, the Joseph H.Brensinger School in Jersey City, become filled with The Lion King "love". Every participant is dedicated and working hard - including those students who are participating in Art Yard's programming related to the upcoming production of "The Lion King".

Teaching Artist Fatima Traore joined me this week. We worked closely with five different groups of students. Fatima started each class with an updated slide presentation covering patterns, sets, masks, and logos. Students (all grades) learned to use the words/terms: inspiration, conceptualization, scale, and blending. Fatima taught students about watercolor techniques, blending colors, and drawing skills. PS 17's own 'prop master' Ralph Pryzanowkski (along with other art teachers joining in to make the school's musical production a success - which it WILL be) diligently built the under-carriage for the Pride Rock prop - the first of many to follow.

Fatima presenting at PS 17

Prop making at PS 17

1st graders learned about patterns - mostly in African motif style - with Fatima showing dozens of examples on the smart board. Already quite well versed in pattern making, these 1st graders were eloquent in their descriptions and all answered the question (in unison) "what word is most associated with creating a pattern?" - REPEAT !!! Classes are 45 minutes so moving forward is vital - every student drew patterns, explained them to me and Fatima, and started adding color. 4th graders followed the same lesson plan with a twist. Fatima created approximately10 different mask templates (all characters from the musical or simply animals found in the African Savanna) - students were given the option to use a template, or not - and created masks and then decorated with the patterns.

7th and 8 graders continued to develop their designs for masks of the central characters and ensemble - this week beginning to add color. Their designs will become paintings - and soon to be turned into masks for the cast to wear. Lots to discuss and decide upon - which masks should be 3D, which will be worn above the head (a la Julie Taymor's brilliant concept for the original Broadway production), what weight and size should they be, and overall which materials will be best to use - and how to properly fasten the masks to cast members who sing and dance? It's all in the works.

Fatima with PS 17 artists

The afterschool program created watercolor paintings as their designs for the stage's backdrop - but also lots of options to consider. What materials will be best to use, which backdrop would suit every scene (and how it should be lit when a scene changes), are there any scenes that do not work with our design ideas, and importantly its size.

PS 17 Lion King Set Design painting

We were lucky to have the assistant director (and dance captain, amongst his other duties) Chadi partake in this week's scene design class. He brought a lot of insight to the progress of rehearsals and what might be needed as sets and props. Busy day this week, so I didn't get to attend the rehearsal nor chat with the director so it was good to receive this live, in class, update.

PS 17 Lion King Set Design painting

PS 17 Lion King Set Design painting in progress

PS 17 Lion King Set Design painting

Dr. Brower, the principal, stopped in the visit and offer enthusiastic encouragement, which was great. I'm a real big fan of having visits from the principals and administrative staff to our classrooms, in every one of our schools!!!”


A big thank you to the PS 6 administration who share periodic ART YARD updates and repost the ART YARD Recap with a link each week!


🌟 Happy Spring Break to our school partners! 🌟


Other Art News

ART YARD family Ed, Rachel and Jacob Rath are celebrating Passover in Minnesota with a trip to Minneapolis Institute of Art in the afternoon. For the evening Seder the whole gang was attired in highlights from The Jacob Rath (mostly hand made) Yarmulke Collection!!

Jewish Art and Ritual Objects on view at Minneapolis Institute of Art. Photo by Rachel Rath.

Jacob Rath yarmulke collection!!

Speaking of holiday can get your very own Jacob Rath designed Goy Division t-shirt on this link!

Chag pesach sameach!


If you missed the opening at FiveMyles, I hope you will come by to see the exhibitions!



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