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In & out, then & now & how

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom Teaching Artist Jacob Rath presented a very moving session that asked us all to dig deep into emotional territory. Jacob explains his inspiration and idea for the session: “In a Jewish funeral, it is customary to make seven stops before reaching a person’s grave. This lesson is based on my interpretation of this custom. In my interpretation, funeral goers go to a different location for each spot that was meaningful to the deceased, and will participate in an action that the deceased would have participated in.”

Screen shot from Jacob's powerpoint on Zoom

While we were saying hello while gathering for the session I shared a quote my friend, talented artist Brece Honeycutt sent, saying that when she found this quote and instantly thought of my work. I in turn instantly thought of the lesson about to take place: “Grief, like glass, can be both a mirror & a window, enabling us to look both in & out, then & now & how. In other words, we become a window pain. Only somewhere in loss do we find the grace to gaze up & out of ourselves.” Amanda Gorman, ‘Call Us What We Carry.

Jacob summarizes the session: “Last night I taught a lesson titled "Seven Steps to the Grave." I explained that in a Jewish funeral it is customary to stop seven times before reaching the grave of the deceased. While these stops often happen in the cemetery, I brought up the possibility of instead stopping at places that were important/meaningful to the deceased person. I shared the plan for my own funeral as an example. I asked students to create an image of a funeral stop for either a)themselves or b)a loved one who has died. I emphasized that this assignment isn't about funeral parlors or cemeteries, as much as it is about celebrating moments when the deceased enjoyed life.

Jacob Rath, A Place of Healing, 7 Stops to the Grave

Students took this prompt in many different directions. Some students tried to encompass all seven stops in their image, while others focused on just one stop. I was impressed with the people that brought multiple places/events into one image in a way that felt seamless. Even though the work varied in content and style, everybody's piece demonstrated honesty and a willingness to be vulnerable.”

Jacob envisioned his mother Laura as a teen enjoying one of her favorite places, the Cloisters:

Jacob Rath, My Mother at the Cloisters

Marilyn paid homage to her recently deceased cousin, who lived with her family in their hotel on the beach at Asbury Park.

Marilyn August, Cousin's Hotel in Asbury Park, NJ (in progress)

Pat looked back at her grandmother’s funeral (which she attended by Zoom during quarantine) and the shared image of a wonderful restaurant her grandmother enjoyed.

Pat Larash, Wanamaker's Remembering Grandmother (in progress)

I depicted the many places my cousin Kelly, who died last week, loved and was loved by family. Adding symbolic images to represent her job, travel, and our family shared love of good coffee. The loops represent hula hooping which she was very good at (and had great form)!

Meridith McNeal, 7 Stops for Kelly and Kelly enjoying good coffee.

Abby tells of her uncles deeply cerebral scientific mind.

Abbrielle Johnson, Scientific Genius Uncle

Sarah memorialized her grandmother in her kitchen and her mother-in-law with her flourishing plants which graced every inch of her home. Using a wash of shimmering metallic paint to create a veil between these two loved ones.

Sarah Gumgumji, Honoring Mother-in-law & Grandmother

In beautifully painted renderings Fatima and Assata presented places of deep personal significance.

Fatima Traore, 7 Stops

Assata Benoit, 7 Stops

Zeke used strong black and white line work to do the same.

Zeke Brokaw, Basketball Court in Maine

Kevin explains his own piece: "When thinking about a place that I would want people to visit in my death, I thought about the Railroad Playground, which is one of NYC's parks (with the maple tree). I would always visit there when younger, and did so again a few times in high school. During my younger years I would watch Thomas the Tank engine: one of the episodes had Thomas strapped to a jet engine car. It accidentally activated, allowing him to travel very fast. I would pretend to run (travel) as fast as Thomas. To put it simply, the park to me was a place where I could make my imaginations a reality, and would always go with my mom."

Kevin Anderson, Railroad Playground

Pat compliments: “I really liked the way Kevin captured motion in his drawing, and used an interesting angle. Some of Kevin's other pieces have also used interesting angles. I felt like I was in that place, and Kevin was making it come to life.

Naya's drawing of a hospital and a road to "FAMILY" uses simple lines and motifs to tie together all of the elements visually--there's a harmony among all of the pieces.

Naya Jackson, Time Spent with My Brother

Ed's drawing should be required viewing for anyone who reads anything by Hemingway! I particularly liked the way he worked one of the "steps" (the sun for "The Sun Also Rises") into the background of one of the other ones (Paris).

Ed Rath, Ernest Hemingway's Footsteps

I also particularly appreciated Ed's characteristically wise and insightful comments at the end: "The big question is: what does [our art] mean to others, when we are not there to defend the work."

And thank you very much to everyone at ART YARD for being so warm and supportive.”


As we finish up 2021, I am really interested in seeing what ART YARD Artists are up to in their own studios! I thought you would be as well.

Jennifer Dodson shares a “watercolor painting in progress from an original sketch created at Old Burial Point during my trip to Salem, MA in November. Old Burial Point is the oldest cemetery in Salem township and has some key figures from the Salem witch trials buried there. I was very much drawn to this tree and the lime green gravestones that surrounded it. I sat on a bench and sketched this image until my fingers were too cold to keep going. I am also working on special commissioned boxes in progress. The boxes are a combination of wood burning and acrylic painted decorative elements. The final stages require oiling and sealing the wood with shellac. Which will be used for the cremains of a beloved pet. Finally, here is a self-portrait in progress on my easel, created using a combination of watercolor, gouache, and pastels."

Dennis Buonagura writes: “I’ve been working on a sweater for my great-niece Isabella (or is she my grand-niece?). Back and side panels are done and need assembly - once the sleeves and collar are knitted. Gauging and sizing for a child can be tricky so it all requires a lot of thinking and planning and counting and measuring. Then it requires steaming and blocking. No wonder people just go to The Gap and BUY a sweater!!! I need to find the right buttons too - I have a box of buttons that were my father’s (he was a tailor) but none seem appropriate altho I’d hate buying some cutesy buttons in a craft or yarn or notions shop. I guess I should use my father’s since this sweater is for his great-granddaughter. Any suggestions?” (I suggested M&J Trimming!)

Dennis Buonagura, sweater in progress

Candy Heiland explains: “I was inspired by a piece Meridith did in the Advanced Studio class. Describing her process, she picked the image of a clock to demonstrate the quantity of things she had to do and the limits of time. I began this piece with the image of a juggler keeping a multitude of balls in the air. I chose the stars as the background to illustrate the Aeons. I was questioning the importance, in the long run, of all of these things that held my focus. Something happened as the image evolved. It began to look more like a magician and I suddenly felt that everything we do affects everything else, forever. The balls became the stars. I had been questioning why I even try to create and it has affected my ability to work recently. I got the answer. I am reminded of what Picasso said, ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working’.”

Candy Heiland, Creating Stars, 2021, pastel on black paper, 26x20"

Ardelia Lovelace is working on a mixed media piece in velvet, newspaper, and acrylic

I was inspired by the work of William Villalongo. Her personal exploration is working as a tool for “reflecting on the influences that molded these feelings and how can I move forward with confidence going forward as I create my own life.”

Flávia Berindoague shares her most recently completed piece.

Flávia Berindoague Lovers #4, acrylic on canvas, 2021, 24x24”

Hawley Hussey explains several aspects of her recent and current studio practice: “I began building a labyrinth in the Summer of 2021. It's a slow daily process. Every morning I walk up behind my house and select a few stones. Some are very heavy and usually covered with a phenomenal variety of mosses. The Hudson River Valley is stone fences everywhere you look and over 100's of years people harvest the stones for fences and houses. This process has really connected me to my roots: generations of laborers, farmers, fishermen and artists.

I became hooked on mosses. "Without nerve or muscle, the moss can sense the water that makes growth possible, and adjust the leaf angle to the optimal plane for photosynthesis." -Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer I now travel with a looking glass around my neck and the transformative designs of the moss appeared in my newest paintings as energy and as texture. It's not botanical illustration. It's all feeling in the paintings. The New Year wish for me is to study the science and the lore of the mosses.”

Cecile Chong shares her most recently completed piece.

Cecile Chong, Home to Roost, 2021, Encaustic and mixed media on panel, 16 x 20 in

Richard Estrin sent a text saying: “I took a page from your book and am trying to work large. It’s been really good. I (re)learned many lessons. I am not quite ready to let this go, but am optimistic for next one.”

Richard Estrin, Sunflower

Meridith McNeal (yours truly) is as Richard remarks working LARGE! This newest painting is so tall it reaches the ceiling in my studio (second image included to illustrate scale.).

Meridith McNeal, Inside Outside Ceramic Studio at Pratt (Clinton Hill, Brooklyn), 2021, watercolor on paper, 91x70"

Meridith McNeal, Studio View December 2021

Marie Roberts shares: “I received Research Release Time from Fairleigh Dickinson University to explore the use of gum Arabic and powdered charcoal as a contemporary drawing medium. I noticed this was used in drawings prior to the 19th century and I was interested to see if it would translate into a media for the 21st century. I loved the range of grays and blacks produced and the mark making. These drawings are on Fabriano Artistico sized 30" x 22" using gum Arabic and charcoal, with Solid Paint Marker.I also made studies in smaller sizes on a variety of paper to see how the medium would react.

Nayarit Tineo has been busy in her sketch books.

Robin Grant has likewise been busy in her sketch book.

Susan Hamburger shares her remarkable new sculptures and explains: “These two pieces are life-size helmets inspired by multiple trips to the arms and armor section of the MET over the past several years. The designs and details are an exaggerated interpretation of decorative elements found in medieval arms, and the express

ion of might through seemingly unnecessary embellishment. The final layers of these pieces are made of paperclay which is sculpted over an armature of cardboard and papier mâché.”

Rachael Wren tells us: “After a few months of not being able to work in my studio at the beginning of the pandemic, I was exploding with ideas when I finally returned. Over the past year, the studio has filled up with lots of new work, including a few 6 x 6 foot paintings, which are the largest I’ve ever made. Please come see these paintings and others at my solo show “Still it Grows” at Rick Wester Fine Art (526 W 26th Street) opening on January 27th and running until mid-March.”

Rachael Wren, Studio View December 2021

Golnar Adili shares image of works in progress for her upcoming exhibition at CUE Art Foundation.

CUE Art Foundation is pleased to present Golnar Adili: Found in Translation: A Story of Language, Play, and a Personal Archive, a solo exhibition by Golnar Adili, curated and mentored by Kevin Beasley. Adili’s work is a formal investigation of language, spanning 14th century Persian poetry, didactic Iranian texts, and the artist’s own family archives. Featuring artist books, photographic and textual prints, and an installation of modular wooden sculptures, the exhibition embodies a multidisciplinary exploration of diasporic identity. Opening January 13 (6-8pm) on view through February 16, 2022.

Father Gave Water/Baabaa Aab Daad: An Homage to Childhood, Persian, and Process is a presentation of an artist’s book and its iterations by Golnar Adili. Center for Book Arts (28 W 27th St, 3rd Fl) from Friday, January 14 through Saturday, March 26, 2022. Artist talk on Saturday January 22nd.

Wasn’t that a treat to get a peek into our studios!?!

Don't forget to mark your calendars to see Rachael and Golnar’s exhibitions!




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