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Bright Fire

Updated: May 13, 2022

Monday ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom welcomed the next turn of the pagan calendar in a session called Let’s Celebrate Beltane: The Fertility of our Creative Community with Teaching Artist Hawley Hussey.

Hawley summarizes: Beltane is a Pagan holiday, and one of the eight Sabbats. It falls about halfway between the spring equinox (Ostara) and the coming summer solstice (Litha). The holiday celebrates spring at its peak, and the coming summer. Beltane also sometimes goes by the name May Day.

Pagan calendar wheel from Hawley's PowerPoint

The word ‘Beltane’ roughly translates as ‘bright fire’ and, as such, one of the most important rituals, which survives today in our modern festival, concerns the lighting of the Beltane bonfire. Fire was seen as a purifier and healer and would have been walked around and danced/jumped over by the members of the community. Farmers would also have driven their cattle between bonfires to cleanse and protect them before being put out into the fields.

Beltane festival in Edinburgh, Scottland

The important point to note when thinking about our own festival is the joy and the revelry that is fostered in the ritual. It is about casting off the darkness and celebrating the light. It is a time for celebrating fertility, both in the context of our biological functions as well as our own creative energies, the fertility of our creative community.

We took a deep dive into Fire Festivals and the Ubiquitous May Queen and Green Man:

The May Queen and The May Pole brought up many Happy Memories and meditations on our relationship to Nature and how important this is.

The work was so delightfully varied and so masterful! It seemed everyone took a journey that had the fun and dancing vibe needed for this important Celtic Holiday”

Pat shares many compliments: Thank you to Hawley for such a generative lesson!

Ed: LOVE the colors and the humor!

Ed Rath, Beltane Greenies

Alison: so much warmth in your painting! And a beautiful custom.

Alison Guinet, Beltane Picking Wild Lily of the Valley

Karla: Love the colors and texture, and the interaction between the “beads” and the leaves on the left.

Karla Prickett, Beltane May Pole Memories

Marilyn: Each of your two tomatoes has its own little personality!

Marilyn August, Beltane Tomatoes

Vera: I love the sense of intimacy in your piece, and (as always) your use of texture!

Vera Tineo, Beltane Maidens in DR

Nayarit: Yes, immersive! I love the way you use the arc to frame it on the left—great composition. I like discovering all the different faces in your piece!

Nayarit Tineo, Beltane All is Nature

Zeke: I love the way your Green Man’s face emerges from the landscape. The waterfall in the back really makes it for me.

Zeke Brokaw, Beltane Green Man

Hawley: Beautiful detail, and I really really love the fact that you include the roots—such an important and usually unseen part of the plant.

Hawley Hussey, Beltane Plants Hairy Bittercress and Siberian Squill

Meridith—yet another inventive use of shaped paper! You capture depth within the lilies of the valley.

Meridith McNeal, Beltane: Crown with Violets and Lily of the Valley

Karla adds: "I had absolutely no idea of what to create except somehow referencing a maypole! I did some reading before the lesson. This Gaelic tradition was something I didn't know a lot about. Love the cyclical wheel of the year in the more pagan tradition!

Compliments on the work created in this session! Your (Meridith) crown was just amazing! Leaving the white of the paper is a pure puzzle! Ed made me laugh and his men reminded me of the characters from my granddaughter's drawings! Nayarit is just doing great things with her drawing! Love that she Zooms from the bank! Pat, Allison and Vera always work from such thoughtful and experiential reference."

Pat Larash, Beltane: Sea Creature on Sun Flower and Birch


At ART YARD Advanced Studio in-person at BWAC the following evening talented musician José Carlos Cruzata Revé returned to play for us with musician/visual artist/teaching artist Damian Quiñones.

Evelyn wrote the next morning: “I really felt the community last night--thank you so much for creating this space. ❤️”

View of our studio at BWAC

This is how we did that: we set up the studio with tables, chairs and couches, an array of art materials to suit everyone’s fancy, and refreshments. I gave a brief overview of our exhibition currently on view in the space, which proved the perfect springboard for a discussion about various approaches to music inspired artmaking such as Wassily Kandinsky abstractly visualizing sound, Terry Rosenberg painting the movement of the players, Stuart Hoyt drawing the band or Romare Bearden creating individual portraits. (depicted in that order below)

José and Damian took to the stage, and we began making art as we immersed ourselves in the wonderful improvised musical conversation!

José writes: “I want to congratulate ART YARD BKLYN for such a good job its being doing lately to encourage every single person who is attending the program to develop and express their own voice. As a musician, I found myself inspired by the art created! It is great to know firsthand that my playing can combine sounds to create a path to connect with people as well as painters do.”

Golnar Adili, Live Jazz drawings

Golnar Adili, Live Jazz paintings

Assia and Golnar at work

Assia Adili, Live Jazz drawings

Molly Willis, Live Jazz Painting

Alison Guinet, Live Jazz Drawings

Christine Willis, Live Jazz Paintings

Damian adds: “It was such a pleasure joining the other artists at ART YARD on Tuesday. I had such a lovely time and was deeply moved by everyone's creativity and sense of community. The support between the artists and almost collaborative spirit during the session between the artists and us, the musicians was inspiring and very fruitful. I’m excited to come visit again soon.”

Evelyn Belveau, Live Jazz: José

Evelyn Beliveau, Live Jazz: Damian

Evelyn Beliveau, Live Jazz

Jacob Levenson, father of ART YARD Artists Delphine and August quips: “I was at ART YARD on Friday to chaperone my daughter. I had planned to wrap up some writing in the background. But I was so moved by the music and creative energy in the room that I soon found myself painting at the table next to her.”

Delphine at work

Delphine Levenson, Live Jazz and Jacob Levenson, Live Jazz

Vera Tineo, Live Jazz

Nayarit summarizes: José and Damian were wonderful to say the least. Once again, another jazz night for “everyone that was meant to be there”. Verá and I arrived after things were underway, entering the gallery was as if a yellow glow was everywhere as the music played around us. And that’s exactly what we saw in critique, I was amazed by the use of yellow in almost everyone’s work. Meridith with her abstract piece to Evelyn’s phenomena portraits that really captured the joy of such event. Everyone was enriched on many levels from deep thoughts and ideas about music and art to feeling the profound level support of the ART YARD community.

Meridith McNeal, Live Jazz paintings

Ed Rath, Live Jazz Drawings

During critique Damian taught us some fascinating musical concepts -- from monophonic instruments to polyphonic instrument and what it means to play and improvise gave us an better understanding of what musician have to consider when playing a set. He went on to point out his palette for his acoustic guitar (image below) which he uses as he plays as we might use a palette of paint! It was a pleasure to see José again, such a talented musician and who generously shares his ideas and enthusiasm with us. The evening was magic.”

Damian's musical palette