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Charms of Mindfulness

Updated: Jun 1

What are you doing on Sunday afternoon? We hope you will join us up at Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling to celebrate and view my (Meridith) exhibition Things That Happened!

 

Sunday, May 26th from 3-5 pm

Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling 

898 Saint Nicholas Ave., New York, NY

 

The event is free and open to all AYB Artists & friends! 




 

ART YARD Artist Evelyn Beliveau reviews the exhibition: Things That Happened, a solo exhibition by award-winning Brooklyn artist and AYB cofounder Meridith McNeal, is on view in The Salon Gallery at Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling through May 26, 2024. The exhibition consists of watercolor paintings, including eleven unframed, large-scale works (up to 79” tall) depicting windows—collectively dubbed Windowphilia—and sixteen framed 12” x 12” works depicting a range of objects, called Magical Things. The paintings turn a loving eye on the details of urban architecture (in Rome and NYC) and everyday objects, with careful focus on the visual qualities of objects we might otherwise pass by, especially effects of light on transparent and semi-reflective surfaces. The paintings present a great deal of complex imagery (many contain recognizable objects or text) but do not divulge all that rests beneath the surface.

 

Visitors are greeted by a light-filled Windowphilia painting (Inside Outside Dappled Door (Gianicolo, Rome), 2023) along with wall text in English and Spanish. From there, visitors enter a spacious hall lined with Windowphilia paintings, anchored at the far end by the four-by-four grid of Magical Things.


Meridith McNeal “Things That Happened” Installation view

 In the Windowphilia paintings, McNeal delights in windows’ dual qualities of transparency and reflectivity. When light hits just right, a transparent barrier between spaces becomes a partial mirror, interposing glimpses of the space behind the onlooker upon the space beyond the glass. McNeal zeroes in on these moments of mingling, producing a pleasant confusion—particularly in Inside Outside Unnamable Books (Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn), 2020; Inside Outside Freebird Books (Red Hook, Brooklyn), 2019; and Inside Outside Filaments (Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn), 2019, all of which feature a delicate interplay of sky, lamps, and architectural features dissolving into one another.

 

Meridith McNeal, Inside Outside Freebird Books (Red Hook, Brooklyn), 2019

 The Windowphilia paintings combine monumental presence with fragile physicality. At this scale, even heavy watercolor paper feels delicate, and I was struck by the tactile quality of the edges of the paper pinned to the wall. These vast expanses of paper collapse far vaster three-dimensional spaces into the two-dimensional realm of pictorial space, becoming portals to an in-between state. While the viewer of a window can step to one side, shifting the reflections to sort out what is in front and what is behind, the viewer of a McNeal painting faces the fused, intermingled spaces as McNeal chose to capture them. I found myself trying to imagine myself standing on one side of the window, then the other, then in both places at once. The occasional self-portrait embedded in the reflections (such as in Inside Outside Unnamable Books) reminds us of the artist’s presence at the scene, anchoring McNeal’s assertion that “everything on view in this exhibition really did happen.”


Meridith McNeal, Inside Outside Unnamable Books (Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn), 2020

The translucent medium of watercolor suits the translucent subject matter of windows, as the white paper gleaming through washes of watercolor in Inside Outside Dappled Door echoes the sunlight pooling through windowpanes that the painting depicts. Light itself is a major subject of the exhibition: how it redirects into spaces from various shining surfaces, how it is blocked by the intricate shapes of fire escapes, trees, or ornate window detailing to create complex, fluid shadows. The handmade quality of the brushwork—notwithstanding the precision of geometric architectural features like doors and moldings—creates a shimmering quality of light, as if we can see clouds passing by or branches quivering in a gentle breeze.

 

The Magical Things—framed, square, and arranged in a grid—offer more physical solidity. While windows are not present in these works, here the picture frame serves as a windowlike border, offering a glimpse into special and mundane moments from McNeal’s everyday life. Compared to the Windowphilia works, the Magical Things focus on a smaller glimpse of the world, often with a downward perspective at a table (as in Magical Things Coffee With Rocco, 2023). The titles of the Magical Things provide a tantalizing bit of context for the objects depicted—such as getting coffee or a meal with a friend, or receiving a gift, as in Magical Things Presents from Golnar, 2023—hinting at people or experiences with which the artist associates each object. The viewer can only guess at the depth of the objects’ meanings to McNeal; these pieces invite us to make conjectures about the stories these objects imply, and to consider the objects in our own lives with greater attention and tenderness. The appearances of these objects, like the surface of a painting or the surface of a window, are only ancillary to their true significance. However, by closely examining the surface qualities of the world around us, we can attain a great deal of grounding and presence. As McNeal writes, the Magical Things are “charms of mindfulness, imbued with a power greater than the sum of their parts.”


Meridith McNeal, Magical Things Presents from Golnar, 2023

Please join us on Sunday and see the exhibition for yourself before it closes!


 

We started the week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom in a session called Weaving Junk: A Collage of Sorts with Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow.

 

Jodie recaps in detail: “For this session, I introduced myself, a little of my work “Junkanooacome”, and the work of four other artists to the group who incorporate recyclable materials. I presented a slideshow that showed stats of several articles. Such as: A May 6, 2023 curated article by Giving Compass stating that…According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), 300 million tons of plastic is produced annually. This weight is equivalent to the entire human population. NOT ALL of it is recycled.


Jodie presenting her work on zoom

In light of this I began with Vik Muniz whose large-scale work such as “The Gypsy Magna—Pictures of Garbage” and others that he created with trash pickers in Brazil by showing a clip of the documentary  “Wasteland” and how his work created a positive impact on the community. For another approach, I showed a short Art 21 video of El Anatsui and his studio process of sewing numerous bottle caps together to form units that are then composed into large tactile abstractions.


Vik Muniz, “The Gypsy Magna—Pictures of Garbage”, 2008–2011

We then looked at a few works by Chin Chih Yang. For these works, Yang wove cut aluminum cans and transformed the material into textured sculptures and wearable art used in his performances.


Chin Chih Yang performing

Lastly, we viewed a few works by Coralina Rodriguez Mayer’s “Mama Spa Botanica” series that confront the lack of reproductive health care services for Black and Brown people in the US while addressing climate change. She weaves in intimate ephemera, environmental waste such as palm fronds, and domestic construction materials, and other detritus from the Atlantic in her iridescent and colorful mother mold casts of pregnant people.

 

Coralina Rodriguez Meyer, “Mama Spa Botanica”

Similarly, my work “Junkanooacome” incorporates recyclable materials and thrifted items that become wearable artworks for my performances. (see image above)

 

The prompt invited participants to select articles from the trash can that have some interesting appeal such as produce wrappings, wires, plastic bags, an old make-up case, foil, etc. This could be in the form of a collage of sorts.

 

With about 25 mins to make something Eugenie’s instruments made of cut plastic containers were really fun and a great way to start off the class discussions.


Eugenie Chao, Weaving Junk


Pat thought to take notes during critique. I will twine in these comments (indented):


Eugenie "activated" some pieces of recycling to give them a "second life," as she put it, as musical instruments!  Several participants commented on the acoustic elements of Eugenie's piece and enjoyed the playfulness that she shared through it.”

 

Rachel presented an assemblage of plastic berry containers and drew figures on them in marker. The translucency which overlapped was interesting and the collaged flag ornament on top. Later Meridith compared it to a piece by another AYB Artist. It was nice to have that comparison.



Rachel Palmer, Weaving Junk and Zahir Prudent, Window Painting

 

“Rachel made a mobile sculpture out of blueberry containers and other recycling to comment on urban life and climate change.  Meridith compared Rachel's piece with a piece by ART YARD Artist Zahir Prudent, noting not only their uses of "universal humans" but also their color choices.”

 

“Vee, inspired by Jodie's suggestion of making a time capsule, made a digital drawing/collage of a vault with cash and a stuffed human made out of junkfood and trash.  Other participants remarked that this was the most dystopian piece in today's lesson!”

 

Vee Tineo, Weaving Junk

Pat showed us a fringed collaged piece which reminded me of Nick Caves’ work somehow with its perceived movement.


Pat Larash, Weaving Junk 2 views and Nick Cave, Sound Suit

 

Delphine’s abstract example still in progress reminded me of a butterfly and seemed inspired by El Anatsui’s bottle caps.

 


Delphine Levenson, Weaving Junk and El Anatsui, Earth’s Skin, 2007, found object aluminum bottle caps

 

Karla’s collage incorporated part of her father’s coupon labels, discarded metal strips and cutouts. For me this was a sentimental and personal work that commented on the cyclical existence of what we call life.


Karla Prickett, Weaving Junk

“Karla used a variety of media, including old tags on which paperclips had rusted, corrugated cardboard, and some paper that "had patina-ed itself" to create a collage that suggested the inside of a lung to Rachel, and Arte Povera to Jodie.”

 

Meridith’s cat Rik was drawn on an old dryer sheet and cutout. She photographed it on the wooden table top. I like the contrast and that it seemed to have a lavender scratch-and-sniff component. I love that as a concept with the cat!


Meridith McNeal, Weaving Junk

This related to Taylors’ assemblage of dried flowers with a purple ribbon wrapping the bottom of the warm-toned bouquet, also pictured on the wooden floor.


Taylor Branch, Weaving Junk

 “Taylor combined dried flowers, twine, a plastic tube, and tissue paper, and placed it on a wooden floor to photograph it.  Simone observed that, like Karla's piece, Taylor's piece was "a conversation between organic materials and what we transform them into."  Rachel was reminded of weddings: a wedding bouquet, and jumping the broom in African-American wedding ceremonies.  Cayla thought of a match lit on fire.”

 

At the start of the prompt, I (Jodie) spent the first 10 minutes running around my basement looking for materials when bubble wrap was next to me all along! After laying out everything I could work with in such a short time the bubble wrap came in very handy, and not in the normal sense of its intended use. My “Junkanooacome” series just expanded with two new collages where I used the cutouts of my characters from an old postcard. I quickly ripped the bubble wrap to more organic shapes since it was hard for me to cut it and then created a landscape for the characters to stand in. My “Househead” character stands on a mound-shaped bubble wrap looking as if they’re pointing to something off into the distance like a ghostly plastic landscape with a tall skyscraper shaped in the nearer distance. The green jewels atop “Jack(ie) in the Green” were compared to a sort of galaxy of stars.


Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow, Weaving Junk l & ll


The bubble wrap persevered in the form of bows in Sigrid’s hair. Love it with a matching shirt. I liked the performative gesture of this. I think this even works well as a photograph. We learned of the re-emergence of the bow in current fashion trends and its current social critique.



Sigrid Dolan, Weaving Junk l & ll

 

“Sigrid made a headdress out of bubblewrap with a huge bow. She told the class that there was a recent controversy about bows (were women infantilizing themselves, and were some people being criticized for not wanting to talk about it?), and Meridith pointed out that, historically, bows and ribbons were empowering--a way for people with less means to update their outfits within their budgets.”

 

Simone’s flags amidst an abstracted landscape incorporated bubble wrap and gum wrappers made of foil. I love the colors and textures and I think it is an innovative use of the materials and related so well to my work and Cayla’s.


Simone Awor, Weaving Junk

“Simone used mixed media to represent flags of the world against a blue sky. She used plastic for the clouds and gum wrappers for the flags, inspired by the way several artists from Jodie's lesson used metal in their works.  She said that she doesn't usually make political art, but with recent AYB lessons she's been thinking about "a lot of conflicts, but also a lot of global solidarity, and awareness of how colonialism has affected areas where conflicts are happening."

 

Cayla’s work grasped the concept of recycling through her chosen mediums of a discarded cardboard box, blue construction paper and blue tape. The overall composition was dissected with a dotted white line at the lower section of the work. The dissection on the blue paper made it appear like a landscape too and the dotted line seemed reminiscent of a road. Such materials were immediately on hand after relocating. Good thing she didn’t throw out her packing material.


Cayla Kushner, Weaving Junk

Cayla also represented clouds in a blue sky, this time with packing materials from a recent move.  Meridith said that the dotted white line, which Cayla added late in the process, "is key to the piece."  Cayla said that the dotted line represented a road, and some participants also saw it as bisecting the earth in an expression of concern for the environment.”

 

I can see a show here! So many connections! We had just around 25 minutes to make work but we did our best. I was very impressed with what we all came up with in such little time!”

 

Delphine adds: “I love these artworks so much! First off, I loved the lesson and I thought it was really fun to decide what I could create especially with recycled materials. I really like Sigrid’s piece because I think it’s ingesting how she created a piece that is used in daily life. I want to also compare the pieces that used paper strips which I thought were an interesting way to make a piece with a lot of movement. Thank you so much for this lesson and I’m so glad to see new people joining ART YARD BKLYN!”


 

Tuesday ART YARD Advanced Studio in person in our studio at BWAC found Dakota Jones back for the second in his series exploring spiritualism, dream yoga and artistic practice.

 

Dakota summarizes: “This session was inspired by the artists Agnes Pelton and Georgiana Houghton among others.


Agnes Pelton, The Ray Serene, 1925
Georgiana Houghton, Flower of Samuel Warrand, 1862

Following suit from part one which focused on closed eye visuals and dream meditation, we continued our exploration of internal visual language through the usage of automatism — a technique where artists allow their arms to freely guide them rather than their thoughts, notably Houghton used this technique as a spirit medium using a planchette.


Advertisment for The Boston Planchette, 1868

Participants were encouraged to keep a dream journal prior to the lesson, during the lesson we recalled our dream journals during a 10 minute meditation. Artists were asked to travel through the space within their dreams and internalize, after which we began to draw freely.


Meditating by the window in the AYB studio at BWAC


A wide variety of work was produced and we really got to see for ourselves how differently everyone was able to interpret the instructions while still remaining faithful to the ethos of the lesson.


Making art to critique


During critique one of the shared sentiments among the group was to commend the work of the new participants who fit so well with the group of long-standing members, and that was conducive to the pieces which seemed to interact with and flow into each other despite the many different ideas and concepts that were represented.

 

Meditative paintings by ART YARD BKLYN Artists Liamette IIII, Ariel Abdullah, Evelyn Beliveau, Taylor Branch, Liv Collins, Leah Eliopulos, Moriah Gaffney, Abriel (Bob) Gardner, Sasha Jackson, Dakota Jones, Jules Lorenzo, Sharel McFarlane, Ajani Russell, Nayarit Tineo, Vee Tineo and Akash Wilmot: 



I enjoyed being able to see the unconscious processes of the many individuals in the class and I’m excited to expand upon that next week.”


 

Mid-week Dennis and Evelyn were leading some fantastic art making during the school day and in after school at ART YARD Art Matters at PS 17. Dennis recounts: “Students worked diligently on their Warhol inspired pop art pieces at PS 17 The Joseph Brensinger School, our partnership school in Jersey City, this week.  



Teaching artist Evelyn Beliveau offered updated demonstrations and skills to all classes - 1st graders learned gluing techniques, placement strategies for collaging their flowers (layering, composition, and covering all edges for gluing); 4th graders finished many of their pop art colored fruit pieces and also discussed mounting options; 6th and 7th graders moved forward with their 'everyday objects' works with many of them creating multiples upon multiples (in true Warhol tradition).  Two students drew from existing art hanging in the art room - one chose a sunflower and another chose a turnip (that IS a turnip, right?).  



Evelyn conducted critiques which were lively - but with 45 minutes classes and a lot of work (and clean up!), critiques were cut short by the bell.  It's Evelyn's plan to host full period critiques in an upcoming session.  Good idea!

 





Evelyn subbed for Gia in the afterschool session which consisted of creating shapes from templates.  One student found some sort of wooden table piece - not exactly sure what it was - looked like an old Carvel mold for Fudgie The Whale to me! - while others used stencils that Gia made.  Of course, many drew freehand.  They collaged the shapes and then cut them neatly for mounting.  Critique in afterschool was excellent as we are afforded more time (afterschool class is 90 minutes).  Students were very observant and found comparisons and contrasts in almost every single piece.  





We happily welcomed a new intern, Litzy Duran - direct from FDU and recommended to us by Prof. Marie Roberts - who jumped right in and got her hands dirty from the get-go.  Actually, she got her hands GLUEY as she participated in helping students with collages and even made a collage too!  Thanks Litzy - great to have you on board.


AYB intern Litzy Duran

Teaching Artist Gia Gutierrez shopped for mural supplies right in Jersey City and the painting (starting with the outline on the first day) of the 2 walls begins on Tuesday (weather permitting, of course).  The afterschool group will participate on Wednesday.  It's all happening ... bit-by-bit."


 

Today Dennis and interns Gaby and Evelyn O. tended to a splendid garden in paint at ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6.


Example artwork by Evelyn O.

Dennis writes: "With 3 week cycles at PS 6, Jotham Wakeman School, in Jersey City, it often becomes a bit difficult to diversify weekly lessons while working toward one final project.


Teaching Artists (in training) Evelyn O. and Gaby mastered this task by continuing on with last week's lesson as if it were a brand new one.  During this week-2 lesson, students received instructions in watercolor painting techniques, and some painted in acrylics. No markers this week!


Teaching Artists (in training) Evelyn O. and Gaby with students

In their DO SOMETHING:  CREATE A GARDEN collage classes, Evelyn and Gaby moved on from flowers drawn with markers to clouds, grass, fences, bushes and butterflies by preparing a stack of stencils (and, as always, students can - and many do -opt to draw freehand) in watercolor or acrylic. 



Once their pieces dried, students carefully cut out in preparation for collage assembly next week.



Students recapped vocabulary words: layering, collaboration, and composition."

 

 

Other Art News

 

Congratulations to AYB Artist Sarah Gumgumji who has graduated with her Masters in Art Therapy from The School of Visual Arts!!!


Sarah Gumgumji graduating with her Masters Degree from SVA
 

ART YARD Artist Jacob Rath writes from Italy where he is finishing up Montessori training. “I made a painting of a spider that lives in my yard. I've been spending a lot of time observing the plants and animals that live there, and I've gotten attached to this spider. It's a cucumber spider. I read online that they live all over Europe, North Africa, and the northern half of Asia, but not in the Americas.


Jacob Rath, Cucumber Spider

I'm also curious about summer session. Is it going to be as normal, or are you thinking about doing something different given the sudden surge in popularity? I'm moving back to New York in July and I'd be able to come for the last week.”


 

To answer Jacob’s question, we are aiming to offer our spectacular Summer Session in 2024. We are still working out the details and specifics.  One of several cool ideas we would really like to explore is a cycle with Evelyn learning water soluble oil paint techniques!!  

 

With that in mind, please keep in mind that our programs are made possible by the support of people like YOU!



 

Thank you for your generosity!

💗♥️💛💜💚🧡


 

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