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AHOY, Mateys!

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Are you flooded? I sure am. But before the monsoons, this is what we were up to.

But first: Hawley's vehicle in Sea Gate, before she bailed to high ground at my place on Waverly (Brooklyn is a bit soggy).


This week in Advanced Studio on Zoom, inspired by her own work which bridges visual art and gardening, ART YARD Teaching Artist Iviva Olenick led a lesson on concepts of "native," "non-native," "hybrid" and "invasive" from the context of plants/horticulture, and peoples.

Iviva presenting on zoom

Iviva summarizes: We started by looking at hybrid, grafted stone fruit trees created by artist Sam Van Aken to preserve species native to or that grew in the last 400 years in the New York City area, now lost to industrialized agriculture. We then looked at images of Georgia Lale's #OrangeVest performances addressing refugee rights.

Georgia Lale's #OrangeVest installation

Suggestions from Iviva's presentation

As a group, we came up with working definitions for each term, and then used media of our choice to create artworks expressing our personal definitions.

Richard made a map investigating borders.

Richard Lee Chong, Native, Non-Native, Invasive

Karla talked about perennial grains grown in her state, and organized burning of the hills to manage growth. Karla shares more about her piece: “A beautiful and natural untouched ecosystem exists C about an hour west of Salina - an area known as The Flint Hills. It’s unplowed prairie where prairie grasses can grow 10 feet tall and their roots 18 feet down. The preserve stretches for miles and in spring, vegetation is “control burned” to set the stage for vivid green overlapping hills The burn can be observed by interstate travelers. The brilliant yellow fire line walks over the hillsides setting a black palette and nurturing the next seasons growth. The lesson brought to mind this beautiful natural habitat and what it might have been by now had it not been preserved in its natural state.”

Marilyn created a cactus with fruits - a hybrid, imaginary plant. Marilyn adds: “I responded to Iviva’s prompt to design an imaginary plant. Discussing the many meanings of native, non-native, hybrid, and invasive during the lesson made me also think of the changing climate, with many regions now suffering severe drought. Perhaps a hybrid cactus could draw scant moisture from the environment and store it to nurture the growth of an assortment of fruit.”

Marilyn August, Native, Non-Native, Invasive

Ed's piece, a hybrid like Marilyn's, is an imaginary Apple Pie tree complete with maple syrup sap for sweetness!

Ed Rath, Native, Non-Native, Invasive

Meridith painted and told the story of her front garden, lovingly cultivated from scratch by Mike Bliss (England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, NYC), tended to by Gardel Prudent (Haiti, Brooklyn), with seeds imported and planted by Jenn Dodson (Virginia), and shared by Karla Prickett (Kansas) and tended by Meridith who comments: "It is a bounty and most certainly not an invasion!"

Meridith McNeal, Native, Non-Native, Invasive

Pat surprised and excited us all by her 3-D solution to Iviva's prompts!

Pat Larash, Native, Non-Native, Invasive

Nayarit chose to focus on the beauty which is underneath the label of unwanted!

Nayarit Tineo, Native, Non-Native, Invasive

Iviva shared a book on the subject she is working on:

Iviva Olenick, Native, Non-Native, Invasive (artist book in progress)

Fatima did a great job exploring the places (West Africa, The Bronx) of her own personal cultural heritage in her beautiful mixed medial piece!

Fatima Traore, Native, Non-Native, Invasive


This was the final of three Advanced Studio in person at our studio at BWAC sessions led by ART YARD Teaching Artist Candy Heiland drawing still-life figurines focused on drawing from memory.

Candy sums up: “The mood was lighthearted and everyone was chatty and entertaining. It appeared we were much less serious as we laid down the images we had been drawing from the previous techniques.

Akash revisted his image by using a photo. For someone who doesn’t like oil pastels, he created a sumptuous portrait of the indigenous American from last week, this time going in for a close up.

Akash Wilmot, Figurine (drawn from photograph)

Ajani drew an amazingly similar image from memory of their piece. They confessed that they had drawn their assignment from photo at home only a couple days before and it was still fresh in their mind.

Ajani Russell, Figurine (drawn from observation & memory)

Sigrid picked a new figure and drew from observation. She managed to create a sophisticated color palette to depict the vintage quality using the bright and limited palette of the craypas.

Sigrid Dolan, Figurine (drawn from observation)

Elizabeth, joining us for the first time this lesson cycle, expertly drew 2 pieces from the first two lessons. Candy commended her skill with the choice of the Barbie. The subtle difference between human and toy is the most difficult of all to capture.

Elizabeth Morales, Figurine (drawn from life & photograph)

Delphine playfully created her clowns using all three techniques. Her lighthearted willingness to reach beyond her normal materials and subject matter was uplifting.

Delphine Levenson, Figurine (drawn from observation, photograph & memory)

Meridith’s rooster creamers were each a beautiful finished piece. She commented that her latest "looked like a skinny-necked pigeon with remarkably inaccurate color." But that might be a symptom of switching up boxes of craypas. (Or one hopes, eh hem)

Meridith McNeal, Figurine (drawn from observation, photograph & memory)

Candy added a gorgeous setting (Stage? Curio cabinet?) to her salt and pepper set.

Candy Heiland, Figurine (drawn from memory & photograph)

The general consensus was that drawing from memory is the fastest, from photos was the easiest, and from observation often the most compelling. We also discussed how each technique has its place in our work. Drawing from life trains your brain to see and develops your hand eye coordination. Drawing from memory and imagination stimulates your creativity and knows no bounds.


Our latest design in the ART YARD BKLYN Redbubble shop is a portrait of Marie’s friend Angelica, who posed for Advanced Studio sessions on zoom by Sarah Gumgumji. Sarah’s drawing is available on a notebook and our first ever T-Shirt option. Check it out!!

Your purchases support our programs and we are so grateful for your support.


Other Art News

Mark your calendars and please join us on Saturday, October 7, 2-5pm for the public reception of Tree-Chuang in Sunset Park, a project ART YARD Summer Session participated in over Summer Session with Teaching Artists Xinan Ran!


ART YARD Teaching Artist Flávia Berindoague writes: “I created some paintings for the movie "The Kill Room', which will be in the theaters on Sep 29th. The Kill Room is a dark comedic thriller follows an art dealer (Uma Thurman) who teams with a hitman (Joe Manganiello) and his boss (Samuel L. Jackson) for a money laundering scheme that accidentally turns the hitman into an overnight Avant-Garde sensation, forcing the dealer to play the art world against the underworld. Joe Maganiello is an amateur painter and I created all the paintings for his character. Sending the link of the movie and some images. Flávia sent a second email explaining that her directions were to make “ugly paintings.” And was complimented by one of the stars – “wow, these are really ugly.”


Book reviews

The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever, Prudence Peiffer (Harper, 2023) is a well-told biography of Coenties Slip, an out of the way throwback of a street, almost a piazza or cul-de-sac skirting the water’s edge in lower Manhattan, where artists moved into dilapidated boat sail making lofts. Artists including Agnes Martin, Lenore Tawney, Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, James Rosenquist, Delphine Seyrig, and Jack Youngerman all made their live/work spaces here from 1956 to 1967. Barely heated with recycled wood burned in wood stoves, making use of the showers at the sailors rooming house (topped with a lighthouse dedicated to the Titanic!) at the end of the block, the buildings were raised to create the Lower Manhattan business mega-sky scrapers we know now. I was particularly taken with Prudence Peiffer’s ability to write the ambiance of the location into a place one could imagine entering. Equally compelling was the sense of community conveyed in what might seem like a very eclectic creative force. You know, like us!

The Slip book cover and image of Lenore Tawney at work in her studio


Remedios Varo: Science Fictions, Caitlin Haskell and Tere Arcq editors (Art Institute of Chicago 2023). I confess that I’ve not read the essays yet. However, this is really a coffee table ART BOOK. One of those you need the table to balance the thing on to look at the images ….but oh my, the images. Remedios Varo is one of my absolute favs, and this book does not disappoint! Just check out that detail of a painting on the cover!! (image below) When I unwrapped it I had the vibe of a painting by Ajani. The mysterious elongated form and rather mystical silvery-blue coloration. I love this book for the number of paintings packed into it, the quality of the reproductions, and well -- you know -- alchemy, magic, mysticism, philosophy, architecture, and eccentric cool looking figures, a must buy for your art book collection.

Remedios Varo: Science Fictions, book cover


Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington, Joanna Moorehead (Princeton University Press 2023). Another one of my go-to favorite painters is Leonora Carrington. This book is not a coffee table type publication but a very unique personal biography written by a relative. There is an anecdote told early on where the author is sitting with the 80-something year old Carrington in her home in Mexico and pulls out a note book. Leonora, the outlier Auntie, admonishes her and says: No notebook. Either we do this as friends and kin or we don’t do it at all. Thus the habit of at least twice a year personal get-togethers are the fodder and gathering place for story telling of this remarkable artists life! I loved it. (Candy is reading it now, and I've promised it to Ajani next. Just let me know if you'd like to read it too!)

On a related note, over the summer I re-read Leanora Carrington’s novella The Hearing Trumpet which is available on audio at the Brooklyn Public Library. It is a weird and moving tale which still seems fresh & relevant and is beautifully written.


I am hoping the carcass I recently called Kyra in to vanquish from my cellar steps counts towards the plague of locusts. I’ve about had it with this nonsense…typed just as my dishwasher starts up a mysterious grinding sound. Sigh.

🌊💦 💧

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