A Rebirth of Wonder

Updated: Jul 23

In week two of ART YARD Summer Session 2022 we worked with Teaching Artist Marie Roberts to create to large-scale acrylic murals on canvas.


We began with a comparative study master works including frescos from Pompei, Georges Seurat, Diego Rivera and Marie’s own banner paintings among others. (shown in that order below)



I also shared my work to be included in the Coney Island themed exhibition coming up at BWAC. Then I read I am Waiting by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, included in A Coney Island of the Mind.


Meridith McNeal, Magical Things from My Mother's House A Coney Island of the Mind, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12x12"

Working in groups switching off tasks, Marilyn August, Evelyn Beliveau, Zeke Brokaw, Sigrid Dolan, Sarah Gumgumji, Robin Grant, August Levenson, Delphine Levenson, Meridith McNeal, Eden Moore, Elizabeth Morales, and Marie Roberts gessoed canvases, made design choices, drew out our designs, mixed colors, and painted.



Artists opted to work on tasks they were well suited for such as Evelyn drawing out the large banner to large scale, Jacob precision painting line work, Eden working in tandem on lettering, Zeke and Marylin steadily painting taking up new areas whenever necessary.



When not mural painting, artists created individual pieces inspired by lines from I Am Waiting also on view.


Elizabeth created a deeply moving piece in which she relates lines of the poem to recent gun violence in schools.


Elizabeth Moralez, I am Waiting

Sigrid creating two mysterious symbolic paintings incorporating text in such a way as to make Marie compare her work to the Book of Kels. Marie used a warm walnut colored ink for her observational landscapes. I like the dialogue between Marie’s and Zeke’s landscapes. Zeke with a more colorful approach. Delphine employed excellent graphic design with a bubbled circular motif surrounding her letters as well as some excellent watercolor work. Robin references Mark Rothko’s abstract expressionist paintings in her colorful abstractions. (images to follow next week, when I remember to take photos!)



Marie opines: “It was fascinating to see how the ART YARD Summer Session participants transformed the source material - historical and my own banner work, into something totally reflective of a different formal point of view. For me, the joy of working with this group is how each participant brings individuality into a team project.”


Jacob and Evelyn sketch in the mural design.

We are thrilled that our mural A Rebirth Of Wonder, a directional banner and individual paintings inspired by the Ferlinghetti poem are included in More Art of Coney Island curated by BWAC co-president Alicia Degener opening at BWAC on Saturday July 30, 1-6pm. The opening is free and open to the public. We hope you will join us!


In a third area of focus, participants interested in developing a lesson worked with Dennis Buonagura to conceive of a lesson concept, hone a written plan, develop work samples and ultimately teach a class during Summer Session. We also had discussions about the importance of strong communication skills—voice projection, enunciating and eye contact.


This week Jacob Rath took the plunge with great results!


Jacob summarizes: “I taught a lesson inspired by the driftwood collages made by George Morrison. I began the class by insisting that we do not use the words "nature" or "natural," and instead think about things as being "human-made," "other life form made," or "inanimate element made." I briefly discussed George Morrison's life, and showed examples of his driftwood collages. Some of his works were collages made from salvaged pieces of wood from Lake Superior, another piece of his was made by rubbing charcoal on paper over wood pieces to capture texture. Participants were instructed to create an art piece that included textures shaped by either a non-human life form or inanimate element (such as wind, oxygen, water, or sunlight).


Teaching Artist Jacob Rath wins Best Dressed for ART YARD Summer Session 2022

Students took this assignment in many different directions. Elizabeth made a drawing combining several different wood and stone textures from the room. Marilyn made a collage similar to Morrisons using fragments of rubbings from wooden floor boards and posts. August took inspiration from our discussion, and made a drawing of the different particles found in the air. Sigrid's piece combined textural rubbing with observational drawing. Most of the artworks emphasized textures. Many were done entirely with charcoal, and many of the artists that used color used it in a subtle way.”


Art work by (left to right, top to bottom): Marie Roberts, Elizabeth Morales, Delphine Levenson, Marilyn August, Sigrid Dolan, August Levenson, Jacob Rath, Marie Roberts and Zeke Brokaw.


Another astounding achievement of the week, is thanks to Delphine, who took on the organization, and cleaning of the supply closet.


Trophy goes to Delphine for BEST ORGANIZER!!

🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆

 

By Marilyn August



SUMMER SESSION, WEEK 2

DAY 1

July 18, 2022 3.6 miles


Red Hook and new adventures!


Finding my way to the ART YARD studio at BWAC was a little less complicated than last week, even though it was totally new territory. I was delighted to meet Sigrid on the bus and it was nice to have company for the walk to BWAC from the bus stop.



Our space in this Civil War-era building on a pier facing out to the Statue of Liberty is huge! The thick walls are built of old, irregular stones; and the floor consists of wide, well-worn, wooden planks, with high ceilings. The room is furnished with a stage, a grand piano, large, overstuffed sofas around the perimeter, with windows that face the water. The weather is hot, hot and humid--there’s no air conditioning, but fans and sea breezes keep it ventilated.


Marie shares her power point presentation of master artists

Today we tacked up canvas rear of the stage where our mural would hang to assess the size and scale of the mural. The vote was unanimous to add an additional panel to expand our surface horizontally. We moved the canvas to covered tables and Marie Roberts supervised the application of gesso, which is a white paint mixture used as a primer on canvas to coat and seal the fibers before application of paint for the mural.


Robin in animated discussion, August, Delphine and Sarah on the stage

We were also challenged with making a piece of art based on lines from a poem read by Meridith, “I Am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from his collection of poetry in A Coney Island of the Mind. These pieces will complement the Coney Island theme of the larger show at BWAC and will be included in the exhibition. I selected a line and started working on a concept for my project.


I Am Waiting

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti


I am waiting for my case to come up

and I am waiting

for a rebirth of wonder

and I am waiting for someone

to really discover America

and wail

and I am waiting

for the discovery

of a new symbolic western frontier

and I am waiting

for the American Eagle

to really spread its wings

and straighten up and fly right

and I am waiting

for the Age of Anxiety

to drop dead

and I am waiting

for the war to be fought

which will make the world safe

for anarchy

and I am waiting

for the final withering away

of all governments

and I am perpetually awaiting

a rebirth of wonder


As I transferred from bus to subway on my way home I found myself front of It is my favorite market – Trader Joe’s! This TJ’s in a former bank is really beautiful. With 4x the checkers as my usual store in San Jose, check out was a breeze.


Trader Joe's in in Downtown Brooklyn

At home, Gigi, my feline roommate, greeted me with hungry noises, and I obliged by preparing her dinner—and then mine.

 

Day 2

Tuesday, July 19, 2022 2.6 miles


Today was an even easier commute, as I’m beginning to recognize some of the landmarks along the bus route. Zeke also arrived at the bus stop, and we rode together to BWAC.


Meridith treated us to a big bowl of delicious “gourmet” popcorn. It was a big hit, along with donuts from Marie. Another hot day.


Meridith's morning popcorn preparation.


Prior to my arrival, Meridith and Marie had put up brown paper around the canvas which was already mounted on the wall, and Marie and August (who is our Program Assistant as a work study job this summer through his High School) had gessoed a smaller panel to enlarge the main mural.


When “critical mass” was present, Meridith discussed the concept of taking a sketch, a small representation of what the mural is to be, and scaling it up to a very large size. Evelyn took on that responsibility and very quickly sketched in with paint the outlines of the image Marie had designed. It consists of a sun at the bottom right corner of the canvas with rays emanating diagonally across to the left. The words A Rebirth of Wonder are painted over the rays and the entire expanse. A border of waves at the bottom and cloud-like forms on top and sides frame the canvas. The inspiration comes from a line in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem I Am Waiting from his poetry collection, A Coney Island of the Mind.


Everyone who wanted to paint had the opportunity to pitch in and paint in the sketched areas with guidance from Evelyn.



Meanwhile, Marie painted the outlines for a smaller banner which will direct visitors to the exhibition. It consists of a fist with a finger pointing in the direction of the gallery entrance. Zeke and I painted the orange border and the yellow ground around the hand. Marie painted the purple hand and black outline of the fingers while I painted the green sleeve and red lines setting the plaid design.


It was amazing seeing the blank canvases gradually filled in and then suddenly vibrant with color.


August, Jacob, Evelyn and Zeke at work. Mural shapes up!

Since my father had studied art with Marie over many years, it is very special for me to have the opportunity to work on the mural with Marie. I loved painting and watching how quickly our mural came alive. I was impressed with the teamwork and enjoyed being part of the larger effort.

Dennis, Sarah, Robin and Marylin outside our studio at BWAC

After class, Meridith, Jacob, and I traveled together to Dumbo to rendezvous with Ed Rath for dinner. We had a bus ride and a good walk to Ed’s loft not far from the water. After a delicious bowl of watermelon and a glass of wine at home, we walked to “Superfine”, a lively, popular restaurant nearby where Ed had a show last year. The dinner was delicious, and it was great fun to see Ed. We talked and laughed for a few hours, and then it was time for me to make the journey home to Manhattan, this time by Lyft.



The ride back was spectacular—over the Brooklyn bridge and up the East Side Highway. My driver was quite chatty, so it was an enjoyable ride home.


From the Lyft, photo by Marilyn August

 

Day 3

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 5.1 miles


Finishing the banners was the task for today. Everyone got right to work. Eden did the fine work of painting the red letters on the first banner in tandem with Jacob carefully outlining each letter in black. Zeke and I helped paint the gold sun, rays, and lettering so the big mural finally was coming together. Lots of decisions today—Marie made recommendations for colors to outline the sun rays and the drop shading the letters. After much discussion, it was decided to outline the rays with white, letters rimmed in copper, and the drop shading in green. Unhappy with the uneven blue background, Marie and Meridith got together and reformulated the blue paint to even out the color and cover the missed areas—made a big difference!



By the end of the day, the fist banner was finished and signed—looks fantastic!


A Rebirth of Wonder by ART YARD Summer Session 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 6x12"

Directions banner in progress

Meanwhile, Delphine made major progress organizing the art supplies and weeding out the junk in the storage area. It was a huge job that she has worked on for the past two days. Sigrid and Elizabeth made great progress on their paintings started Monday.


After I got home, I decided to start my dinner with an ice-cream cone appetizer from the local shop for my walk to Carl Schurz Park and another outdoor concert. This week was a big band concert, Steve Shaiman and Swingtime Big Band. They were great! Steve Shaiman provided a historical context for each piece, which made it very interesting. There were two excellent singers, a Frank Sinatra-style crooner, Zack Alexander, and Bobbie Ruth, who sang Doris Day and Judy Garland standards. It was a perfect way to spend the hot night outdoors.



Then home for a late dinner, a few games with Gigi, and some late hours catching up on my chronicles.

 

Day 4

Thursday, July 21, 2022 3 miles


This morning I stopped for fresh bagels. Another scorcher with unbearable humidity. The commute was relatively uneventful until I arrived at Borough Hall. I got a bit turned around at the exit but finally made my way to the bus stop and the air-conditioned ride to BWAC.


Jacob was putting some finishing touches on the large mural, adding green shading to the letters. It looks great!


Today’s major activity was Jacob’s lesson. He discussed the work of George Morrison, a Native American artist, born in 1919 in Chippewa City, MN. Jacob showed some of his work consisting of driftwood collages which looked like puzzles made with pieces of different textures. Morrison was among the abstract expressionists and studied at the Art Students League in NYC. We were tasked with coming up with pieces inspired by his work, perhaps thinking about how man-made things could be altered by the environment.


George Morrison, New England Landscape II

I decided to explore textures and did rubbings from the floors, walls, and pillars using pencil, charcoal and graphite. It was very interesting to see the relief emerge. I then cut the rubbings into geometric shapes and pieced them together, puzzle style, like Morrison. I enjoyed it.


Marilyn at work on the project

As always, the variety of work was impressive—with many in the group thinking out of the box to create a unique piece of work, again demonstrating how we each have a different way of creating and looking at art. Jacob a great job of presenting the lesson and launching us to be creative.


That concluded week 2. Another great, enriching, challenging week for me.


Stopped by to greet my favorite birds that hang out outside a barber shop on my street. Then home to Gigi and dinner.



 

Other art news


Hyperallergic printed an article this morning which underscores the ART YARD belief that art is an excellent platform for making a stand. It brought to mind Elizabeth’s painting (above), and the headline image is likewise deeply moving.



Read the full article headlined “NRA Children’s Museum” Visits Ted Cruz’s House to Protest Gun Violence by clicking this link.

 

Dennis writes: “I met Marilyn in Tribeca (well, sort of ... we were on the same train but didn't know it until we exited) to see the Portia Munson exhibit at the PPOW Gallery. We stopped for coffee first and discussed some of the topics that surrounded Munson's work - feminism, consumerism, gender equality, and the fact that we both somehow accumulate lots of stuff.


The exhibit consisted of two main rooms - the first being Munson's “Bound Angel” - a giant oval table covered in wedding dresses held hundreds, if not thousands, of white and white-ish objects of female figurines, snow globes, lamps, ash trays, candle holders, religious figures, - you name it - each bound with string or electrical cords. While (we think) we got the message, Munson was telling us (blinding and stifling to represent violence and terror lying beneath), we could only think "WHERE did she get all of this stuff?". We now know that she scavenges flea markets, charity shops, yard sales, and such - which led us to our next question "WHERE does she keep it all?". The room also held many of her other works on silver trays which - some depicting sacrificial martyrs - together with the oval table, create a monumental installation.


Portia Munson, Bound Angel.


Munsion's paintings and drawings of some of the objects show greater detail of the exploitation of the female body in various consumer items - nutcrackers, salt and pepper shakers, female torso perfume bottles (remember those Avon bottles?), and novelty items sometimes won at carnivals.


For the second room, the visitor turns a corner from a room filled with white items to a sea of pink, “Today Will Be Awesome” - which is a huge piece (a vanity dresser, headless mannequin, open drawers) that resembles a female form in a power stance. Again, hundreds/thousands of pink items that were produced to appeal to women reveal victimization and suffocation - jewelry, tiaras, evening gloves, bras, fake hair, dolls - even a pink dog-shaped toy AND a little pink Kong (an actual dog toy - Olive has a red one! pictured below.). This 'pink room' also had many pink paintings of some of the objects.


Portia Munson, “Today Will Be Awesome”

I couldn't help but ask the gallery associate if the objects were attached to the tables and trays, etc., or if they were numbered or if a key was involved. We wondered how the installation was set up and how it could be moved. She explained to us that nothing was attached and that Munson did the installing herself, with the help of some of the gallery’s staff. I suggested she call in sick to work on the day of the de-installation!!!


Our experience was wonderful - sometimes visually pleasing and other times puzzling and upsetting.


Additionally, the gallery featured two works by Hunter Reynolds (who died only a few weeks ago) - both pieces relate to the AIDS epidemic. Marilyn and I did not know the technique Reynolds used but googled to learn that they were "chromogenic print grid collages" - a photographic process with each piece sewn (seemingly by hand - but possibly by machine) together. Reynolds' own image appears in 'Survival AIDS Series 2 With Memorial Dress".


Hunter Reynolds, Survival AIDS Series 2 With Memorial Dress".

Munson's exhibit gave us a lot to think about - and talk about.


On a lighter note, Marilyn gifted me with a beautiful pair of pug socks! I love them.


Pug socks, close up on Portia Munson installation, Olive with toy and pug socks detail

 

You may have noticed this recap is posted a little early. That is to make sure I have enough time to get uptown to the opening of my exhibition Ordinary Magic TONIGHT at The Galleries in The Interchurch Center in Morningside Heights, Manhattan.



Transportation: 1 train to 116th Street: Either walk one block west and turn right on Claremont - building on end of block. Or walk to 120 and take left to Claremont.


 

Headed uptown to my opening, crossing my fingers you will be there! I am running late... but on my way!!

💖


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