This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom Teaching artist Reg Lewis presented a challenging lesson, titled “Disarm,” that forced participants to confront their feelings about guns and/or America’s gun culture in general. The recent mass shootings that are a part of an ongoing and disturbing legacy of national gun violence made for an uncomfortable lesson that Reg nonetheless felt compelled to deliver. The resulting artwork revealed that we indeed as a community are having a difficult time processing the trauma of it all.
Reg explains: “The inspiration came directly from Mexican artist, Pedro Reyes and his installation project, “Disarm” which essentially transforms guns into musical instruments. He accomplished a humanitarian service by repurposing guns confiscated by the Mexican government and transforming them into life affirming instruments, literally, capable of creating beauty and establishing connection.
With this object in mind, the participating artists transcended expectation by creating very personal and thought provoking artwork. I was impressed by the diverse and very personal responses to the lesson:
Delphine’s life affirming rainbows of explosion create such stark contrast against the empty black outline of the gun. It looks like a reflection of life clashing with a symbol of death.
Nayarit created a profound statement through a four panel narrative that reflects her vision of seeing guns literally transformed into new metals designed to protect life (especially of children in school).
Marilyn’s collage clearly conveys her feeling about guns with a bold image fueled by an intense fire that seems to reflect her passionate animosity toward weapons.
Ed created a searing satirical statement reflecting gun rights with his vibrant but raw piece that surprisingly repurposed the image of the military assault weapon.
Meridith produced a mesmerizing, meditative piece by creating a mandala that incorporated rainbow colored patterns, the sheer beauty of which deceptively concealed the images of the guns.
Although Robin’s vibrant artwork initially evoked for me feelings of solitude, or even quiet comfort, her explanation of the details illuminated the heavy symbolism of her piece that reflected communal trauma.
The impact of Eden’s artwork was also enhanced by her explanation which turned the central image of soup into an emotional contrast between two countries with their relationship to guns with that particular influence upon the racial climate and her desire for her father’s safety. The narrative punctuated her piece to create a moving portrait.
Vera expressed her perspective by creating a short but pleasantly jarring video that essentially mocks the NRA’s mantra (presented in repetitive loop) that ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’ by revealing how immature and naive the sentiment.”
Vera Tineo, Disarm
Reg, in a poignant role reversal, depicts burying guns rather than humans.
Overall, the artwork produced from the lesson remind us that the topic of guns will forever be controversial and polarizing, but if we ever wish to “disarm” even a fraction of our gun obsessed citizenry, we must continue to address this topic with creative courage with the belief it will cause some measure of transformation.
As I deinstalled our exhibition in our studio at BWAC, Teaching Artist Iviva Olenick presented ART YARD Advanced Studio in person with the second of her two part series How does your garden grow? inspired by the work of landscape designer Mary Reynolds, who works with existing wildlife and land to encourage the growth and abundance of the natural world.
In this session we completed worked on our drawings of know urban locations imagined with an influx of flora and fauna. These watercolor landscapes striving to strike a balance between pre-existing wildlife and landscaping or planned introductions of nature.
In painting her drawing from the previous week, we observed Nayarit’s facility in working with a fluid painterly hand on top of her more tightly rendered pencil drawing. This is really quite a skill. One that I have noticed perplexes many an artist. Nayarit mentioned thinking about restoration and drought, and reintroducing water to areas that need it. In fact, what was a boulder in the drawing became a body water in the completed painting!
Iviva set a tone of thoughtful contemplation which had us meandering from topic to topic. Both Robin and I chose to represent our own backyards. Robin talked about how stay-at-home orders changed her relationship with her yard. She was amazed to find a veritable bird sanctuary in her Bed-Sty space.
Robin Grant, How does your garden grow?
Before Iviva’s first session I had a chance encounter in my garden with a butterfly. This got me envisioning an idyllic back retreat with butterflies swarming to plants surrounding a musical fountain (like the one I recall Anna Lavinia’s aunt Sophia Maria having in her court yard in my child hood favorite Beyond The Paw Paw Trees by Palmer Brown.).
Meridith McNeal Butterfly drawing in sketchbook and How does your garden grow?
Ed continued a Dumbo portrait with geese and a possum. Which got us all chatting about all the creatures we have encountered in our Brooklyn Wild Kingdom!
Iviva continued redesigning a family member’s backyard. Iviva also shared photographs from Governors Island where mowed lawns are juxtaposed with pockets of wildflowers and “weeds.”
During critique Iviva thanked the artists present for taking her passion for plants so seriously. We in turn felt inspired by Iviva’s ideas and invitation to join her in envisioning a more bucolic urban setting.
Dennis reports from Jersey City: "As afterschool programming at BNS was not scheduled for this week and our next day of classes at PS 6 in Jersey City isn't until next week, Dennis took advantage of the time to start installing an exhibit at PS 6. While it won’t be on the scale of our usual exhibits due to COVID protocol, it'll be photographed and possibly filmed and released virtually."
Other Art News:
Congratulations to ART YARD Artist Robin Grant who has work included in The Art Show IV presented by MUZ, 1012 Fulton Street, Brooklyn NY, June 12, 3-7pm:
ART YARD Artist Karla Prickett writes that her mural project in Salina, Kansas is “Finished, signed and sealed!”
Kudos to ART YARD Artist Marie Roberts who has work included Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars the first large-scale exhibition from Reed’s archive. This exhibition of the life and work of the icon whose profound influence—musically, visually, and culturally—still affects a range of artists and writers today is on view at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center through March 4, 2023.
I am happy to report my piece, created in an ART YARD Advanced Studio session taught by Ed Rath, currently on view in All The World’s A Stage at the Cape Cod Art Museum received a Jurors Award for excellence!
Meridith McNeal, Magical Things From Recovery in Contemplation, Stage, 2022
Managing Director Dennis Buonagura is in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and came across The English Pug and the French Poodle (Le Caniche français et le Carlin anglais), also known as The Two Snobs (Les deux snobs), an outdoor 2013 art installation by the Canadian artist Marc André J. Fortier.
Dennis adds “I was hoping there’d be a T-shirt or mini replica or something …. but nothing. They’re called The Snobs so our friends think I may have posed for the statue with Olive.”
LOOK! There’s ART YARD’s Maraya Lopez in the center in sunglasses and a mask!