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How High The Moon

Updated: Mar 16

We began the week continuing our exploration of the grid in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom when ART YARD Artist Karla Prickett presented “The Non-Objective Abstract & Improvisation” a session inspired by the work of Stanley Whitney.


Karla summarizes in detail: “Just in the past month, I learned of a significant abstract expressionist I had not heard of nor who’s work I had ever seen – Stanley Whitney - who lives and works in New York City and Parma, Italy.  This revelation couldn’t have been timed better, just prior to creating this week’s lesson plan. Once I saw images of this artist’s work and read all I could find about him, there was no doubt he and his current retrospective, “How High the Moon,” at Buffalo’s AKG Art Museum would be the subject and inspiration for Monday’s Zoom lesson. Everything about this artist was so exciting to me and so admirable! Several things in his bio also resonated with me. His BFA was earned at the Kansas City Art Institute at the same time I was beginning mine in Kansas. He received his MFA from Yale in 1972 as I was completing my undergrad degree. We would have been experiencing and witnessing the political and social issues of those years as art students. I admire his determination to discover who he wished to be as an artist and to persist in his own style as an abstract expressionist.

Karla presenting on zoom

In “The Non-Objective Abstract and Improvisation” I presented Whitney’s work in various stages as he continued to revisit his creative process. His inspirations are jazz music (especially Miles Davis), the stacked appearance of Roman art & architecture, and American Quilts (Gee’s Bend Quilts specifically). Works by Guston, Hofmann, Newman, Rothko, and Mondrian, along with quilts by artists Abrams, Pettway, Bendolph, and Bennett were shared as Whitney’s sources of inspiration.

Karla presenting on zoom

We created our own work inspired by Whitney’s process focusing on COLOR creating the structure of the composition and not the other way around Whitney’s process of applying one color shape before adding another in a “call and response” manner became our rhythm of inspiration and many of us work in a square format and listened to music as we created (links are included to the songs as they appear in the text below), everyone brought their own interpretations to their work.

We were all envious that Madison has just recently seen the retrospective in-person and it was great to hear her excitement in seeing it!  She marveled at the amount of work shown and commented on it occupying the entire third floor of the museum.  Her two works created as she listed to Lazy Afternoon by Fran Jeffries, Dream Flower by Tarika Blue, and Nostalgia by Samara Joy each dealt with the geometry of shapes and space and reflected her enthusiastic response to the show. The incorporation of improv-like black linework atop her free-form grid was great. I also see her second work as an interesting concept to develop. It was obvious she was inspired by the artist’s work!

Madison Mack, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation I & II

Listening to R & B and Dembo, Vee’s color palette was very interesting with color unifying the composition of centered digital markings and grid patterns.  It was both strong and inviting! 

Vee Tineo, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation

Meridith’s grid structured an arrangement of more organic geometric shapes.  The rhythm echoed in mood the album she listened to: Miles Davis Kind Of Blue.   

Meridith McNeal, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation

Ed listened to Live Concert by The Grateful Dead, 1974 as he explored Whitney’s color-relationship process separating rows of color blocks with divisional lines of color.  His work reflected a concentration on the transitional edges as one color shifted to the next.  Definitely keeping in mind the way color and shape would engage the viewer. 

Ed Rath, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation

I love the use of paint in Eugenie’s work! The softer colors and brushstroke textures make her interpretation of Whitney’s process quite interesting.  The staccato-like paint marks really create the rhythm of the piece!

Eugenie Chao, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation

Eugenie describes her process: “I didn’t listen to “music.” I was thinking about the melodies being played by the previous color and responding to what should come next. The tape resists could be the rests (the silence) in music. It’s a great project! I am working with sound and music in my artwork so I appreciate this new way of thinking about and interacting with music.”

I really like the unusual palette Maraya has used in this piece!  The color, movement, and stacking of shapes carry the narrative in a bold statement. I like the outlines on some of the shapes. The arrangement of shapes and colors is spontaneous and strong.

MAraya Lopez, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation

Maraya writes: “My piece for Karla’s class. Inspired by the album “Sketches of Spain” by Miles Davis. The first composition starts out with short sporadic sounds and beats as the album continues, the sounds are vast and smooth. The sound is structured and organic at the same time. Liberation explodes at moments. That’s the moment the bull escapes it’s death.”

I (Karla) started my work trying to blend some of my own grid process with that Whitney’s and determined there was too much white space and so I extended the rectangular shapes of color into a structure similar to that of Whitney’s works. The one aspect I kept focusing on was Whitney’s description of how each shape of color becomes a painting in itself.  It really became freeing to concentrate on one shape at a time and build a cadence in form and color. My music selection – the soundtrack from “Goodnight Goodluck,” by Jazz singer Dianne Reeves. This is a listening/working staple in my studio and the album includes, of course, “How High the Moon!”

Karla Prickett, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation

Marilyn, who was unable to attend the session, writes: "Thanks so much for sending the Power Point. I’m sorry I wasn’t present for the Karla’s lesson;  however, I watched the amazing presentation and attempted to follow the process. For my first attempt I used acrylic paint, and then I tried again with watercolor. It was great fun!"

Marilyn August, Non-Objective Abstraction & Improvisation I & II

Karla replies: "Marilyn… Both of these are really nice! Both are great and upbeat. The patterning in the second piece is a lot of fun. The wavy lines remind me of Ric Rac sewing trim!!"

Thanks to all for an engaging session in conversation, observations, and enthusiasm!" 


On Tuesday we thrilled to the daylight savings time view from our our studio at BWAC!

View from the window of the AYB studio at BWAC

In this ART YARD Advanced Studio session titled Dreams and Surrealism with ART YARD Artist Ajani Russell we created works inspired by dreams, fantasies and/or daydreams.

Ajani explains: "I centered this weeks lesson on dreams. I introduced literary/ art movements Surrealism and Romanticism showing work by artists Albrecht Durer (The Vision), Henry Fuseli (The Nightmare), William Blake (The Ghost of the Flea), Rene Magritte, Hans Bellmer, Leonora Carrington, and Max Ernst to give a sense of the various directions they could take the lesson and the importance of emotional, illogical and imaginative expression. 

Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781, oil on canvas

William Blake, The Ghost of a Flea, 1819, tempera and gold on mahogany

Leonora Carrington, Self Portrait, 1937-38, oil on canvas

After a lively discussion, participating artists then used watercolor, charcoal, pastel, pencil, pen or marker on paper to render dreams they have had. Some depicted full narratives while others may have drawn one scene of even the feeling their dreams left them with.  Some shared ideas expressed in the works were stress, confinement, plants and confusion. Distortion and various levels of abstraction helped to portray the mood of each dream. Jules and Ajani had similar themes of hands. Liv’s piece was a dream she remembered from childhood and had a very soft and gentle aesthetic while Molly’s was a stress dream and had bold and sharp line quality. The exaggeration of the subject's facial features in Ed’s piece added to the confusion and absurdity of his dream." 

Liv’s gorgeous pastel drawing reminded us of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry drawings from The Little Prince.

Liv Collins, Surrealistic Dreaming

Dakota’s delicate watercolors were done from the feeling of recollected dreams, rather than a particular visuals. The second of which reminded us of work by English Romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851).

Dakota Jones, Surrealistic Dreaming I & II

Molly’s drawings while depicting sort of anxious dreams were done so with great humor!

Molly Willis, Surrealistic Dreaming I & II

A veteran painter of dreams, there was also a great deal of humor in Ed’s work!

Ed Rath, Surrealistic Dreaming Four Eyes

Ed recounts Dream: Four Eyes: I found myself in a room with a strange sculpture of a man's head with four eyes.  The eyes were in two rows, one row above the other.  A man in the room told me it was based on a real person who had four eyes.  I said I didn't believe him.  He said, "No, it really is true.  I'll go get the guy now." 

Next, a guy with long blonde hair standing on end walked in.  His face was covered in baby-blue dots.  The other guys said, "See - here he is, the man with four eyes."  I said, "No, he doesn't have four eyes, he has two eyes.  But what's up with those blue dots on his face?"

They both ignored my question and insisted he had four eyes.”


Evelyn worked quickly and was able to complete three pieces. Their endless staircase changeable hallway piece had us all sharing similar dream scenarios!

Evelyn Beliveau, Surrealistic Dreaming I

Evelyn Beliveau, Surrealistic Dreaming II & III

Evelyn writes: "Ajani's lesson spurred me to think back on old and recurring dreams. The painting The Ghost of a Flea by William Blake, included in their presentation, reminded me of an eerie figure that had appeared to me years ago, haunting a garden on the other side of a glass door; this inspired my first drawing. My other drawings address the theme of running and hiding within a bleak architectural space, sometimes escaping to float away from the roof, sometimes ending corralled in a small space. Vigorous pastel felt like an appropriate medium for the physicality of these spaces and the coinciding feeling of desperation. I appreciated the introspective lesson and the focused drawing time after a challenging day."

Ajani concludes: "Several artists depicted images of hands. Jules described her use of finger counting to trigger lucid dreaming and how that often morphed her dreams into a more frightening strange version of nightmarish multi-fingered hands. With the train ride underwater, Jules pieces moved into the realm of nightmare."

Jules Lorenzo, Surrealistic Dreaming I & II

Ajani’s explored different facets and viewpoints of a particular dream. We loved how they used fingerprints from smudged charcoal in tandem with delicate expressive line drawing.

Ajani Russell, Surrealistic Dreaming I & II

Ajani Russell, Surrealistic Dreaming III

My (Meridith) dream: “It is spring in Paris. Sitting at an outdoor cafe James Baldwin, Richard Olney and Beauford Delaney, I am reading a set of divination apples.  Some are actual fruit, others are hand-drawn in colored pencil then formed like apples. The characteristics of each type of apple provided the content of the Tarot-like reading.


The table is strewn with apples and miss-matched glasses. We discuss travel, books and food. Richard shares a complicated recipe that requires an open fire and wine. Beauford Delaney councils that fennel has magical properties. I want to know what type, but don’t want to seem naive or unworldly thus I do not ask. 


The sky is an achingly beautiful blue with occasional swift moving clouds.”

Meridith McNeal, Surrealistic Dreaming, in a cafe in Paris in the spring

Today in ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6 students finished up their fantastic painted portraits.

Dennis shares photo of students taken by Meridith which was the basis for the projected piece by Shepard Fairey.

Teaching Artist Evelyn Beliveau summarizes: "At PS 6 this week, we wrapped up a lesson cycle on poster design inspired by Shepard Fairey. After being out last week, I (Evelyn B) was thrilled to be back and see the progress students had made with Dennis, Gabriela, and Evelyn O.

We had a lot to do to finish up these three-color acrylic paintings, including the details of facial features and lettering. Each class started with a quick recap of our previous stages of drawing and last week’s introduction to painting. Then, we got right into making art.

PS 6 students at work

The palettes were inspired by Fairey’s iconic posters. Our first class of the day (Grade 5) used a palette of black, red, and pale yellow; the next class (Grade 3) used black, blue, and pale blue; and the third class (Grade 4) used black, green, and pale green. Dennis, Evelyn O, and I were busy ferrying palettes back and forth and making sure each student was provided with ample brushes, water, and paper towels.

I used a reference image of Aretha Franklin to demonstrate painting techniques. Some of my tips: use a modest amount of paint and wipe excess paint off the brush before painting, to maintain better control and avoid soaking the paper; use a tiny bit of water to make the paint flow; paint in smooth, single-direction strokes rather than scrubbing the brush on the paper. There’s a lot to learn when using acrylic paint for the first time!

Evelyin demonstrates painting tecniques

Students persevered through challenging parts of the process and found success. The paintings are bold and expressive, and many bear a striking likeness to their source images. I enjoyed speaking with individual students who had questions or felt stuck when translating their images into paint. Their insightful questions and positive attitude even when frustrated are as inspiring as the figures whose portraits they were painting."

PS6 AYB critique in action


Other Art News

ART YARD Artist Pat Larash is traveling with her students!

Pat writes: "Greetings from Turkey! Having a great time here, and the students are EXCELLENT! We have been in Istanbul for the last few days, heading out tomorrow to Troy and Assos for the archaeological site tomorrow, then back to Istanbul for a bit."

Blue Mosque, Istanbul. Photo Pat Larash
Basilica Cistern, Istanbul. Photo by Pat Larash

Just out Barkley L. Hendricks solid! (Skira and Jack Shainman Gallery, March 2024) is a marvel. This huge and heavy (solid, indeed.) glossy coffee table art-book is chock full of gorgeous images. Edited by Zoé Whitley this monograph includes several well written and thought provoking essays covering such aspects of Hendricks practice as his life-long dedication to photography, his deep admiration of personal fashion and his essential role in the cannon of figurative painting.

I pre-ordered this book and was just thrilled to find it awaiting me on my stoop coming home late after one of those missed-the-last-G train nights. Even from my exhausted state I was compelled to stay up and read it cover to cover! It's a beauty.


Also of interest is Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer by Arthur Lubow (Ecco, 2017). This well-researched biography links the arc of the artists life to her now iconic photographs. The text does not shy away from describing the more difficult aspects of Arbus' personal challenges or work as an innovator in photography as an art form, at a time when which this was a radical idea. This book is available as an audio or ebook through the Brooklyn Public Library app.

Diane Arbus with her camera


Happy National Egg Cream Day!

Meridith McNeal, Brooklyn Egg Cream, 2024

AYB Supporter Kris Bevilacqua and I were in attendance this afternoon for The 2024 National Egg Cream Invitational at the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum! My site-specific exhibition of new work is on view at Brooklyn Seltzer Museum through April 14, 2024.

As the judges votes were tallied, I was asked to speak about my exhibition. I told the story of how the exhibition came to be, invited everyone to the artist's reception Friday March 22nd from 5-7pm and announced that I am auctioning one of the pieces on view as an ART YARD BKLYN fundraiser!

Trimell Collins of Julianna's Pizza (Fulton Ferry, Brooklyn) makes the first Egg Cream of the event, flanked by Brooklyn Seltzer Museum co-curator & event MC Barry Joseph (left) and esteemed judge, fifth generation Brooklyn Seltzer Boy & 4th grader Aiden Gomberg (right).



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