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Art Matters

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

We are gearing up for our return to the schools next week with our virtual collaborative schools program ART YARD Art Matters. Our Zoomed Teaching Artist meeting was not quite as fun as the meetings are in person (and I missed the tasty snacks) but boy-oh-boy there are some great young-student-specific ideas percolating with our talented Teaching Artists! For example Golnar Adili is thinking about magical maps of our commutes, Aisha Bell had us all excited thinking about the exploration of the playground as a vibrant community for little ones and Claude Viaud Peralta is planning to work with the characters in dreams as fodder for artmaking.


When an ART YARD Advanced Studio session is conceived and lead by a participating artist there is a particular excitement amongst us. In a text message this week Ardelia used the phrase “Let me go educate myself first” -- I like the action and power this embodies. I also feel like participating in ART YARD Advanced Studio each week allows me to learn in a similarly engaged manner.

Not to mention, I truly love learning about artists who inspire others. Inevitably, they do me as well. Certainly it expands my breadth of knowledge. This week ART YARD Artist Sarah Gumgumji introduced us to the art of two talented artists from her homeland Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Mater and Dana Awartani.

Ahmed Mater, Illumination Diptych VII, 2009
Dana Awartani, Al Ikhlas (Unity), 2013

Sarah summarizes: “In this lesson, Give a light: Not Only Things You See But What is Behind It we got to know each other more as I shared the work of two Saudi artists with our community. With the drawings of Dana Awartani I presented Islamic culture and the meaning of the geometric shapes. Discussing the content of the mixed-media artwork of trained medical professional Ahmed Mater let us think of the light inside of us. Ahmed represents the Islamic Art of the past paired with images of modern medical innovation, in effect an exploration of the seemingly contradictory topics of faith and science. In his work the Islamic style frame represents where he is coming from and his culture. He prepared the paper with coffee or tea as old Islamic books. The central images are modern x-rays from his medical profession.

I was so happy that all of the ART YARD Advanced Studio artists did a remarkable work of art based on my lesson! They applied all the required steps; they represented their jobs in the middle of the page while adding their hobbies, culture, or community as the frame. The use of a beverage-stained boarder allowed for personal expression - coffee, tea, wine, pomegranate juice and hot chocolate were all used. I can say that I got to know this eclectic group of people even better through their work in this session.”

In her digital drawing Eden explains “I was inspired by Ahmed Mater’s pictures of skeletal x-rays, and since I don’t have a particular job or occupation at the moment, metaphorically I considered my job to be cultivation be it of ideas or of other people, so I represented what I do as flowers growing through me, and then imposed that on to the background of the coffee stained paper”

Eden Moore, Giva a Light - Cultivation

Similarly to Eden, I thought of the nature of my “day jobs” – educator, arts administrator, curator, mentor – and realized that a commonality might be the notion of being catalyst. I drew a spiderweb in the center panels to represent catalyst, dots to represent ideas, actions and people. My boarder is my take on Dana Awartani’s patterning, but I used a rainbow palate to represent being an artist. I used a dark brew of Ceylon Tea which I had steeped for a DAY for a commission I was working on. I love how it worked.

Meridith McNeal, Giva a Light - Catalyst

Likewise Claude addresses an ephemeral part of his several jobs – that social aspect of working with an eclectic mix of clients, colleagues and peers at PS1, as a furniture mover, as a student, and as a general innovative jack-of-all-trades picking up work where he can.

Claude Viaud Peralta, Giva a Light - 8 Ball

Pat’s piece “represents the myth of Daphne turning into a laurel tree, with part of the passage in Ovid's Metamorphoses where the poet narrates the end of this myth. We had just read this passage in my Latin 3 class. The border is painters tape which I had originally put on as an interim measure to block off the middle panel, but I liked it so I left it there. Maybe it represents the interim nature of so many things we're doing this year. I added the glitter nail polish later. The word at the top is ΔΑΦΝΗ, Daphne's name in Greek, in honor of the beautiful calligraphy that adorns the background of some of Ahmed Mater's pieces.

I loved Sarah's lesson! The examples she showed us were beautiful, and she guided us to make projects that all shared, sometimes subtly, a common visual theme but had so much diversity in style and content.”

Pat Larash, ΔΑΦΝΗ, tea, watercolors, permanent marker, pencil, painters tape, nail polish

Wayne’s piece Many Faces is inspired by his passion for Bauhaus art and design and his day job in Beauty Creative Direction and Contenting.

Wayne Gross, Give a Light - Many Faces

Zeke looked at his role as student as the time of growth and expansion. His drawing, which we compared during critique to Keith Haring – simultaneously playful and serious – is still in process.

Zeke Brokaw, Give A Light - Growing as a Student (in progress)

August’s highly ornate decorative boarder is bold in a similar way to Zeke’s. Image to follow, completed I hope, as it’s a stunner!

Kevin is planning a piece which like Zeke’s delves into being a student. We particularly loved how Kevin plans to include coffee blotches on the piece to mimic how papers occasionally are returned with splotches along with comments from a professor!

Kevin Anderson, Give A Light - Student Life (planning sketch)

Jane explains: “I work as a freelance photographer and retoucher, and as such, I’m always having to adapt to clients’ needs and expectations. I always want to leave my clients happy and myself open to new projects. The past couple of weeks have been especially busy, but I always almost end the conversation with “let me know if there’s anything else”.”

Jane Huntington, Give A Light - Anything Else?

Sarah writes “My art represents what I deal with while working on a new project, and the frame is an old negative film used in old cameras with a snapshot of things I love to do.”

Sarah Gumgumji, Give A Light - Many Projects

Halli also explored the balancing act of work and life in general.

Halli Beaudoin, Give A Light - Balance

Both Marilyn and Karla used collage to great effect! Marilyn digging into a box of papers headed for recycling from her days as a virologist and Karla mining her architect grandfathers blue prints.

Marilyn August, Give A Light - Virology
Karla Prickett, Give A Light - Windows

Ed spurred a lively and excited conversation about dreaming when he explained his piece My Brain Awake, My Brain Asleep to us at the end of the session!

Ed Rath, Give A Light - My Brain Awake, My Brain Asleep

Speaking of critique, I love that Claude takes notes while we are sharing work to help guide his thoughts for compliments at the end of the session!

Claude's class notes

Our conversation about the strength of our coffee and the brew of tea, spurred Dennis to share this story and excellent trio of photos:

“Our friends moved from NYC to Toronto a few years ago. They have tea time everyday at 2:30 - a typically British custom passed on to Canadians. I always thought it was kind of funny - 2 NYers sitting down to tea every day. They always suggested that we try it. Really? Stop in the middle of one's day to sit and drink tea? I don't drink tea!

Knowing I’d just read a biography of Princess Margaret, they sent me a Canadian “tea time” kit - a cup commemorating Margaret’s royal visit to Canada in 1958, a box of maple leaf cookies, and Canadian tea. It was a welcome surprise - they turned a somewhat worrisome day into a very happy one for me. One thing tho - I use the cup for coffee.”

Dennis Buonagura, Tea Time 1
Dennis Buonagura, Tea Time 2
Dennis Buonagura, Tea Time 3

What we are reading...

Vera has been reading a series of articles about how Brazilians grapple with racial redefinition. She sees the connection to similar issues in the Dominican Republic. In a related trajectory Vera just downloaded The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman (Women in the West) by Margot Mifflin. You can read from the book description how the ideas of cultural identity and race are also pertinent to her story: “Oatman’s blue tattoo was a cultural symbol that evoked both the imprint of her Mohave past and the lingering scars of westward expansion. It also served as a reminder of her deepest secret, fully explored here for the first time: she never wanted to go home.”

The Blue Tattoo audio book cover image

Dennis “is currently reading a novel (this one's known as an apologue) by Andre Alexis called Fifteen Dogs. Quite good, thus far.

The Greek gods Hermes and Apollo (in a contemporary world - not in Ancient Greece) have a bet and the winner (loser?) is to grant a group of animals (in this case, 15 dogs) the gift of human consciousness and language. The reader (me) wonders: "is that really a gift?". I've always thought the animals I've observed in my lifetime were sort of lucky to follow instincts and live in the present - unlike humans. I've read that animals (even domesticated ones) are not conscious of their own existences - I disagree with that theory.

The story revolves around the dogs with the human traits - I'm only midway through the book. But that's only the surface - the underlying themes of the creation and use of languages (especially poetry), the loneliness of death, the struggles of the class systems and hierarchies, and the importance of friendship, compassion, empathy, and love make this a gratifying read (well, maybe not the death parts - but it's part of our natural world, no?) and is keeping me quickly reading for more.

The author gives great representations of the characteristics of the different dog breeds and, altho it's NOT set in NY, I'm seeing much of it happening in Central Park. Wonder what the author would think about that?

The cover illustration is terrific - very Grecian urn.

Fifteen Dogs book cover

I don't often recommend books because others don't always enjoy what I enjoy. I'll put this book alongside my very favorite book (with sort of the same theme) The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.

If you chose to read it, let me know what you think.”

I generally have several books going at a time. Currently on my coffee table are Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys written by my college professor Janet Kaplan, American Utopia a joyful collaboration between old friends David Byrne and Maira Kalman, and We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World by Jasmin Hernandez in which I found a quote by Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels that I have shared with several of the ART YARD crew as they prepare for grad school interviews:

Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys on my coffee table
American Utopia page detail
We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World page detail


Big congratulations to Ardelia Lovelace on the inclusion of her art in Daisies on view at 1 Fulton Street in South Street Seaport through April 30th, 2021.


"My studio is the top floor of my Brooklyn row-house. The larger red rug covers a thick stack of large paintings and drawings on paper. It makes for a strangely buoyant surface to walk on! There is shelving on the back right, and a desk where I work on smaller pieces. I pin paper to the wall and work standing in the area just before the large painting on the left. I share my studio with my cats Rik and Lola. You can see their luxurious bed and scratching post in the photo.

The artwork visible is from two current bodies of work. Inside Outside Windowphilia are life-sized ink and watercolor paintings of windows that play with reflection and layers of external and internal space. Also visible in a grid are pieces from the series Magical Things From Quarantine, portraits of easily overlooked objects of everyday life imbued with a power greater than the sum of their parts that are most meaningful to me during this strange and disorienting time. In that mix are also pieces I have done with my students in our Monday night virtual ART YARD Advanced Studio sessions."



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