Updated: Jan 22, 2022
This week all ART YARD programs were conducted virtually, and every one of them was inspiring and successful!
ART YARD Advanced Studio (always) on Zoom landed on Monday, January 17th, the day of celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We were very grateful and deeply moved to celebrate and honor his legacy together as a community with an art making session lead by Teaching Artist Fatima Traore.
"Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty we are free at last". These were the last words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's inspiring speech "I Have a Dream" delivered in 1963 by the Lincoln memorial.
We delved into the meaning of these words and thought deeply about what it means to be free. Fatima encouraged students to not only compose a piece about freedom but to engage in the art making process freely. The results were rich and thought provoking as were the comments and conversations in critique.
Fatima showed a few modern artists for inspiration including; Delita Martin, Shira Barzilay, Dan Bullock, and Peter Zunder. (shown in that order below) Each artist illustrated a theme of freedom within their work or used a free/ non-traditional process within their medium. She also demonstrated ways to use a squeegee and palette knife for a less controlled outcome, and recommended the blind contouring method.
Letting the paint flow freely Wayne painted a beautiful double portrait of Dr. King and Nelson Mandela.
Nayarit created a central spiral with Dr. Kings words leading to a deep red heart. The surrounding loose gold brush work is meant to convey the preciousness of the ideas.
Fatima used the palette knife painting technique she demonstrated to evoke the crowds present at the Lincoln Memorial for Dr. King’s 1963 speech.
Ed and Sarah also used a palette knife -- Ed in his painting evoking the freedom he feels soaring down the road on his bike and Sarah in a brightly colored abstraction.
I began my Kiss, Kali, Freedom piece splattering the upper half, then painting lightly with closed eyes on the lower portion before going in to define the details.
Jacob used blind contour and closed eyes to create two heartfelt paintings. One piece is a depiction of “The People’s Way” an abandoned Speedway gas station in Minneapolis which has been repurposed as a gathering place for activists. The other a scathing social commentary entitled “Business as Usual.”
Jacob Rath, Contemplating Freedom: The People's Way and Business as Usual
Maraya challenged herself to work digitally as working in a new medium certainly leads to unexpected results. While she started with an image of herself in a mask the resulting trio of pieces are evocative of outer space!
Maraya Lopez, Contemplating Freedom I, II & III
Maraya pointed out that Vera actually presents as protest. We all agreed, Vera most enthusiastically of all! With that in mind, we could dub Vera’s artwork as social commentary, and self-portrait.
Karla gives us some insight into her mixed media collage: “I started with a paint palette sheet as I thought about all the color in Fatima’s examples which brought to mind paint dollops on a palette and how art can offer comfort, enjoyment and healing. Then I added free-form line work to represent freedom of movement and expression. I have various cut-outs from a reproduced early 1900’s Sears Catalogue - Hats represent the many hats people wear and how we make associations, discriminatory or otherwise based on a hat! Also people’s actions can be associated with the hat they wear. (Can’t be a cowboy without the hat!!) hats can create a false sense of power. The pen represents the power of the written or printed word. These play huge in realizing freedom. The white circles are pools of ink yet to be written or drawn.”
Kevin honors a parents sacrifices for the sake of their child.
Amazingly Jane produced FIVE related pieces expressing her feelings of freedom in nature. She used one of her own photographs as the base for the first image and a jumping off point for the following quartet of drawings.
Jane Huntington, Contemplating Freedom II, III, IV & V
Amelia referenced George Orwell’s dystopian social science fiction novel and cautionary tale 1984. Her use of the camera as a many layered symbolic image is very evocative.
Fatima sums up the session: “Advanced Studio Artists came up with an array of ideas, techniques, and concepts. We pondered questions like what Dr. Martin Luther King would think about the world we live in today? How would he edit or continue his speech? We also discussed the responsibility that comes with freedom in ourselves, our communities, and the world we live in. Each person delved into the creative process with freedom in mind and everyone's final product held great depth and meaning. We had a frank discussion about the responsibility of acting in freedom, as well as the debt we owe to those who fought for freedoms large and small. The act of art making itself is freeing and we agreed it was a powerful way of honoring and celebrating Dr. King.”
Due to frigid temperatures this week ART YARD Advanced Studio which is usually in person met on Zoom for a session titled Everything Must Change with Teaching Artist Aisha Tandiwe Bell. Inspired by Surrealism, in particular work by Meret Oppenheim, we used materials of our choice to depict transformation. Aisha shared a short video about Oppenheim, she had us begin with at least three sketches of our ideas, demonstrated techniques and helped us stay on target by adding prompts as we worked.
Aisha muses: “As usual I was a little nervous and unsure as I planned this lesson mostly because I see ART YARD Advanced Studio as a room of artists for whom I am providing an interesting art making concept so I always want to make it .... interesting. I'm always so pleasantly surprised by everyone's interpretation and work and all of the ways these artists interpret the directions and utilize the materials. The response to the work and the conversation is consistently inspiring and refreshing.”
In a visual pun on leaves – Amelia turned the leaves (pages) of a book into the leaves of a plant.
Jacob merged his cracked screen cell phone with the slice of lemon in his drink.
I morphed my coffee cup into a bird. While I did not have time to paint a background as Aisha suggested, I did find that pinning my painted sculpture to my painting of Triple Roman Windows worked well!
Meridith McNeal, Coffee Cup Cardinal and Coffee Cup Cardinal on Triple Roman Windows.
Pat’s classroom gourd got skewered in an impossible way by her scissors.
Ed had us all discussing composition as he decide during critique to omit one of his apple gloves from his final collage.
Nayarit, who drew a set of chicken legged lamps, ruminates: “Aisha’s lesson challenged everyone to test their imagination by taking a biotic and abiotic entity to create something out of this world. The prompt pushed us to rethink our reality and really tap into what we wish to see in this world. Using our imagination to transform and create a new reality. In our discussion yesterday Maraya spoke about the dualities of some of the pieces from both a conceptual way but also visual ways as pieces were interpreted differently in so many different ways that day. It is great how this duality continued the next day as we played around with what is reality and our imagination in our pieces. Chores and hot peppers were a hot topic, in some way everyone expressed their take in surrealism from Robin’s humor with her charging egg to Vera’s dilemma with chores with hot pepper mop to Naya’s potato pens storytelling piece.
Aisha’s hot pepper incense burner is beautifully painted and works well with her background (painted separately.).
Marilyn quips: “I loved this lesson! I realized I didn’t fully “get it”, but I was close. I think Aisha’s teaching style and clear guidance works for me.”
Dennis reports: “Freedom is a state of mind! Students at ART YARD Art Matters at Brooklyn New School (BNS) remote afterschool program explored various types of freedom and created beautiful representations of such. Max loves horseback riding and feels totally free when doing so - Anael loves her cat and finds peace, comfort, and freedom by being in his company and overall joy in taking care of him (well ... minus one very important part of cat care, which will remain unmentionable just now) - Zoe feels free when experimenting with different art making techniques - and Ellis loves the freedom of flying. Teaching Artist Fatima Traore and Dennis discussed the importance of freedom, and what a powerful word and feeling it is - Max said that he was happy to represent Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by expressing his symbol of freedom.
Students were allowed to control their own materials. Some tried blind contour drawing, Fatima applied some paint directly from its tube. Zoe read a book that she wrote called "The Little Bamboo" and then explained her piece - a drawing of a brain with many ideas swirling around in it - drawn in black marker. Both Max and Ellis used their Chunkie markers to create rainbow-esque designs; Max also drew a horse looking free in a field and Ellis drew a rainbow kitten. Fatima's lovely piece depicted a crowd scene, listening to one of Dr. King's speeches.
Anael's cat participated (not sure if voluntarily, tho) by allowing his paws to be printed on paper. Dennis tried to get Olive to participate in the class but she was otherwise engaged ..... napping!”
Other related art news:
I am quite happy to report that a poster I created using an image of one of my Liberty Clouded paintings (about wrongful conviction) with overlaid text, as well as two photographs I took of the poster pinned up in public are to be included in Protest Signs at CAB Gallery, at University of North Carolina Wilmington February 24 - April 1, 2022.
What makes this even cooler is that I made the poster in an Advanced Studio session taught by Jacob Rath, and I made the copies and posted them around my Brooklyn neighborhood for another session taught by Vera Tineo!
Meridith McNeal, Liberty Clouded Be Loud (poster), Lock and Chain and This Company Is Racist (in situ photographs), 2021