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Building Bridges

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio Teaching Artist Richard Estrin presented a session titled Building Bridges. It was well thought out, beautifully researched and really got us thinking. Richard presented work of three artists each in their own way addressed some sort of struggle with their history, where they found themselves and where they wanted to be. In doing this, they revealed something about their identities and their concerns.

Hiba Schabhaz, a Muslim Pakistani woman traditionally trained in the art of miniature painting. Coming from a society in which women had fewer rights when compared to men, her paintings depicted women with power, agency, freedom and sexuality while largely adhering to or referencing the traditional style It was tremendous that Sarah was able to elaborate on Schabhaz’s work and she added profound insight to the conversation. Wayne further complimented that the gentle and fluid lines of Sarah’s piece provides a beautiful narrative into the world or religion and associated prejudices. The style is reminiscent of Persian and Islamic art and incredibly personal and thoughtful.

Hiba Schabhaz, The Guard, 2014
Sarah Gumgumji, The Many Roles of Muslim Women

Emma Amos, an African American painter whose work confronted the patriarchal nature of the canon of western art while asserting her power as an African American woman. By utilizing African textiles and riffing off of particular well-known artworks, she drew attention to her concerns and her identity though her recontexualizations.

Emma Amos, Yo Man Ray Yo, 2020

Derek Fordjour presented work that was less immediately readable. Using the motif of rowing, as a way to discuss aspirations, class, and the advancement of blacks in a white society.

Derek Fordjour, Regatta Study, 2020

Richard explains his inspiration for the class: “Considering the theme of community, during this particularly polarized time, I have been thinking about bridge building between groups—how do you unite communities that do not seem to share any common ground. Like any overwhelming problem, it seemed that a way to approach this was at the micro level, that is, have each of us look and see how many different communities we each embody. Recognition of this fact makes the idea that we exist as a singular identity difficult to maintain, and by extension, that a binary approach when considering groups of people inappropriate.

The objective of the lesson was to create a work of art that in some way bridged several of the numerous groups with which we identify. The work could be narrative, symbolic, allegorical metaphorical or diagrammatic. It could be representational or abstract but its impetus was to be the complexity of our own identities.

This objective is a tricky one. I was most sincere when complementing everyone for their solutions. I was particularly floored by Amelia and her drawing of the chess set. Formally, yes, her decision was captivating, but the metaphor of the game of chess with its strategies and hierarchy of pieces was brilliant. “

Amelia Tineo, Chess Game

All of us shared Richard’s enthusiasm for Amelia’s work. Ed thought the perspective worthy of Matisse. Wayne pointed out the perspective, thought and maturity of Amelia’s work is profound and touching. It’s is reassuring to have such a meaningful perspective from a fourteen year old and provides hope for a better, more inclusive and kinder world to come.

Ed beautifully depicted two of his worlds in his drawing Carpenter by Day, Artist by Night.

Ed Rath, Carpenter by Day, Artist by Night

Marilyn used a spiral to organize her piece.

Marilyn August, Bridging Communities

Marilyn emailed after class to say: “It was a great class on Monday—Richard did a super job of presenting the lesson. After I gave my compliments, I realized I missed two that I wanted to share! I absolutely loved your piece—as I do every week. I’m always in awe of what you’re able to create in an hour and how beautiful, detailed and thoughtful they are. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t mention Richard—his unicyclist on the tightrope was amazing. As a lover of circus themes (two huge Marie Roberts banners in my house!), Richard’s watercolor and the family portrait were beautiful and very personal.” Thanks Marilyn, I did spend several more hours working after class! And yes, Richard’s piece is excellent!

Richard Estrin, Tightrope

I created a still life of objects each representing a duo communities I cherish including: artists, teaching artists, ART YARD, family, travel, Italy, foodies, animal lovers, readers and walkers.

Meridith McNeal, Sometimes the Soul and a Bowl of Salt

Zahir writes of the duality he depicted in his artwork: “This represents my community because everybody likes to go outside and look at the birds and animals in prospect park and I don’t enjoy that as much.”

Vera received compliments for her powerful graphic depiction of her cultural and artistic selves featuring a hand with a plantinos and a hand drawing.

Vera Tineo, Plantinos/Drawing

I am glad to be in the pink haired community with Vera!

Vera Tineo, Pink Hair Self

We really like Wayne’s organization of elements into an engaging multi-paneled composition in his drawing Memories of Time Gone By.

Wayne Gross, Memories of time gone by...

Halli’s banner-like symbolic portrait is both lighthearted and deep in content. A profound balance which helps to convey her complex ideas.

Halli Beaudoin, Bridging Communities

Eden's self portrait features similar graphically strong composition.

Eden Moore, Bridging Communities

Jacob is still working on his well realized portraits from this session.

Jacob Rath, Bridging Communities

Jacob sent over a bonus artwork to share! Explaining: “I do however, have a project that I made a few years ago that I'd like to share. I made a Hebrew Joy Division parody shirt that combines my Jewish identity with my hipster identity. Instead of "Unkown Pleasures (the name of the Joy Division album)," the shirt says "Passover" on the bottom, since the shirt is a portrayal of the Passover story. The shirt is a celebration of my love of Passover and post-punk music. I also like the idea that Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt, and into the land of unknown pleasures.”

Jacob Rath, Goy Division Passover, 2016

I am not surprised that our CREATE Thanksgiving thread celebrated in-person cultural experiences, cherished the memory of friends no longer living, discussed delicious recipes, and championed prized the work of animal rescuers.

Dennis's pugs Hazel and Olive. Photograph by Fran Reisner


Did you happen to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television? This year they invited local parades canceled during the pandemic to participate. We were thrilled to see the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in this context. Teaching Artist Marie Roberts beautiful banners and flags looked splendid. Marie said: “I am delighted. I worked for Macy's for a long time and always regretted not being part of the parade.” Congratulations to Marie on this dream come true!

Mermaid Parade in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2020. Banner by Marie Roberts

We are thankful for the many intersecting communities of students, artists, families, supporters, board members, friends, fans of ART YARD!

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