Drawing from Our Memory Bank
It is such a pleasure when Teaching Artist Reg Lewis is back with a thoughtful, well planned and inspiring session! Reg is one of those vibrant thinkers who approaches life with an open mind and a zest that is contagious.
This week’s ART YARD Advanced Studio session could be described as a tough one, not simply because the session focused on the work of an artist who works almost exclusively on leather, but also because the objective required students to indirectly reflect upon the pandemic by creating scenes of communal activities or a specific experience they sincerely and profoundly miss. Even the title of the session suggests the melancholy or the bittersweet: The Wealth of Community: Drawing from Our Memory Bank for Comfort and Recovery (The Art of Winfred Rembert – for better or worse).
Teaching artist Reg Lewis began the session by introducing an artist, Winfred Rembert who’s vivid narrative art and personal story is only recently beginning to reach a larger audience. Essentially, he has turned his trauma into a stunning chronicle of his experience in the south that is an important part of American history. The brief exploration of his work and process certainly seemed to resonate with the participants who created visceral works in response that revealed both a sadness and an urgency.
Reg describes the session: “One thing was made apparently clear once we began sharing our work from the session: we all deeply miss people; we all miss interaction and engagement. This sentiment was beautifully captured by Vera when she stated that the objective of the class made her think about, “how human beings hold space together.” She then presented her striking scene which featured the compacted atmosphere of the subway train which forces us to share space with strangers. The black and white tone of her piece accurately conveyed the mood of this negotiation we usually take for granted.
Her sister Amelia’s piece explores this theme by presenting a self-portrait that reflects the different “people” within her who compete for her attention (and attention in general) during the pandemic in her quest to solidify her identify. Her black and white self-portrait establishes a solemn mood of one in heavy contemplation.
Golnar portrayed a complex scene which reflected the sadness of separation from her family (and her father in particular) as they occupy homes in different countries and travel is further complicated by the pandemic. As Golnar presented her work, her self-conscious apologies for her interpretation of the assignment were in themselves as poignant as her work for it revealed how deeply she was effected by the reflection.
The Rath family all produced meaningful, emotional scenes that revealed the environments they longed to reexperience. Jacob’s piece featured the festive interior of a bar during a gay pride celebration that conveyed a richness of color and character although it was composed in black and white while Rachel’s piece brought us into the elegant space of an opera house with close friends in a muted atmosphere that featured sparse but very intentional use of color to emphasize the solo performer’s dramatic and a brilliant chandelier centerpiece. Ed’s vibrant collage work presented his desire to revisit the calm he misses from a casual stroll in a Minnesota park along a serene body of water.
Sarah produced a piece which symbolically reflected Rembert’s work through her composition as it featured pattern and repetition that was reminiscent of the stripes he wore as he toiled on a chain gang during his incarceration. Flowers and tally marks (as if prisoners keeping track of time) replaced the hammers and stripes that were heavily featured in Rembert’s piece.
Marilyn’s created two scenes on one page: one showing passengers boarding an airplane and the other showing a self-portrait of her casually shopping in a supermarket revealed her wish to experience the simple pleasure of travelling about without restriction or fear. The intimate display revealed how much we took our personal freedom for granted as we all yearned along with Marilyn through the wonderful simplicity of her portrayals.
Eden’s bold, detailed digital art piece worked on two levels: it revealed how much she misses the art of basketball as both an athlete and spectator, and it also served as a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant who lost his life with his daughter, Gianna last year in a tragic accident. The lone image of Kobe’s arm dunking a basketball was a perfect marriage between sports and art that revealed Eden’s extraordinary sensitivity and ability to literally draw meaningful parallels between creative varied activities.
Zeke created a scene which showed him and his friend’s just standing around sharing each other company. The piece actually accomplished an amazing feat by actually capturing Zeke’s growth spurt not merely as an artist, but literally in height; he actually shows this dynamic in his portrayal of himself and his companions. Zeke’s line work miraculously translated the restless nature of the youthful figures who we can tell are still maturing. This piece also reveals his hopeful anticipation of the freedom that awaits him as opposed to dwelling on the negative aspect of the pandemic. His work is definitely a reflection of growth on more levels than one.
Overall, the session led everyone to reflect and to make profound discoveries—
some bitter, some sweet. The discovery, however, that seemed to stand out most was the very discovery of Winfred Rembert and his stunning artwork. I’m just so glad that I had the fortune to discover him so that I could share his extraordinary work with others, and I’m sure his audience and recognition will continue to expand.”
My piece expresses a yearning for the opportunity to travel and show my artwork abroad. My big solo exhibition in Venice was postponed by the pandemic. My painting depicts one of my own paintings hanging in the window of Tramonto Bistrot in Sperlonga, Italy under a notice for a big exhibition of my work in the Torre Truglia. Seeing friends in person, exhibiting my work at galleries, traveling to far-flung locations and particularly to Italy are all things I miss.
Reg celebrates the energetic community dance parties in Fort Greene Park. Even the trees are happy and grinning along with the buoyant house music and dancing humanity! I am with Reg on this one and simultaneously pine for and look forward to a time when we can all dance together.
It is spring break in our partnership schools. Vera and I are working on our next Virtual Field Trip for PS 282. At PS 6 we’ve had excellent follow up to our ART YARD Art Matters sessions with teachers and administration posting about our recap on their active school based Facebook page!
In other news -- I'm so excited to have my paintings included in the fourth issue of the Lumiere Review literary magazine. I am very impressed with the magazine! It has a lovely aesthetic and the folks behind Lumiere have been super to work with – professional, enthusiastic, smart and supportive.
Please take a look and I encourage you to consider sending work for their consideration for future issues!
Between school break and a very busy day planned tomorrow working on the next Virtual Field Trip for our Art Matters at PS 282 community this recap is catapulting into the ethers a bit early!
Happy Nowruz, Vernal Equinox, Passover, International Transgender Day of Visibility, April Fool's Day, Easter....and everything else!