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Into The Light!

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

It has been an inspiring week as we celebrate the solstice and welcome the light.

As we began our remarkable in person Advanced Studio at BWAC on Tuesday evening, I asked if the participating Artists had any thoughts to share with the group. Robin Grant talked about the honesty and integrity of what we do enthusing: “ART YARD BKLYN is a welcoming place that celebrates all artists regardless of age, color or creed! It is a safe environment where humans can express themselves through art freely without judgement! All created pieces by participants are appreciated in a loving, intellectual and respectful manner! The Teaching Artists are knowledgeable and helpful! Upon, joining ART YARD BKLYN, I have met so many interesting and creative people!!!”


This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom Teaching Artist Hawley Hussey provided us with the perfect session for Solstice Eve. Calling up Merlin, the Lady of The Lake, Pagan seasonal holidays, Tibetan Sand Mandalas and Plato. Really, all of that and more!

Tibetan Sand Mandala

Hawley summarizes: “I created many parts to this lesson and it was meant to head into a final MANDALA but the innovative class participants took all the parts and prompts and made the lesson so much more than I ever expected. This created a large variety of unexpected outcomes ranging from digital zoetropes to sculptural maquettes to sublime symbolism and storytelling in every image presented.

I began with a visualization and asked after to see anything that may have come to the participants and was instantly bowled over. This group is so open, so receptive, so articulate and willing. I was so curious about how the class would respond as we moved forward with each prompt:

· Make a doodle / drawing of the day you were born

While working on this I played a tedx animation illuminating the Hero Journey

The Day I Was Born by Ed Rath, Sarah Gumgumji and Madison Mack

· Next Prompt: draw or write a challenge or a fear that might be The Symbolic Cave you fear to enter. I played a claymation that was pretty creepy (!) illuminating Plato's Cave.

Plato's Cave by Robin Grant, Sarah Gumgumji and Pat Larash

Participants were sharing along the way after each prompt when Meridith let me know that the group was not usually so interactive or sharing after each prompt but more took time to work. I checked with the group to see if I could keep playing videos and images I selected while they worked or should I be quiet and all agreed I could keep going. So I stopped asking to see things or share and just re-created my approach in the moment.

It was an awesome experience!

I did introduce adding a super power to overcome your challenge. I also finished with a prompt for all not to forget to draw or write Solstice Wishes or Intentions for: yourself, your family and friends or the planet.

Solstice Wishes and Intentions by Sarah Gumgumji, Marilyn August, Madison Mack and Vera Tineo

Vera Tineo, Solstice Mandala Animation

Solstice Circles (Sculpture and Drawing) by Jacob Rath

Meridith collected work in the end and it was so wildly various and illuminating to me. I tend to over prepare for ZOOM and I'm glad I did as I was able to pivot when needed. I was so inspired by this group process and l learned many more tools for my own teaching tool kit!”

Meridith McNeal, Solstice Vision

Ed Rath, Shield

ART YARD Art Therapist and Artist Jenn Dodson drew our attention to the work of Joan Kellogg, an art therapist who was active in 1970-1980, collected samples of client artwork created within the mandala format. “After years of research, she organized the images into what she called The Great Round. The Great Round contains 12 images which Kellogg attributed to common developmental milestones amongst humans. Kellogg was very much influenced by Jungian psychology as well as archetypal imagery. Her theory is akin to Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” and development of the human psyche.”

Joan Kellogg, The Great Round


Together in person at BWAC in Red Hook, Brooklyn ART YARD Advanced Studio Artists and our larger community of teaching artists, friends, partners, and children celebrated the Solstice.

As folks arrived we feasted on a shared potluck repast of homemade empanadas, salads, beets, vegan savory muffins, homemade hummus, cakes, cookies, chocolates, washed down with hot drinks and toasted with wine.

I then presented the work of several artists as inspiration: Stuart Hoyt who draws wonderful portraits from live musicians. Terry Rosenberg who paints and draws the motion of dancers, athletes and other humans in action. We also enjoyed the jazz inspired abstractions of Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Stuart Davis. Oh, and I had to include a beautiful saxophone player by Romare Bearden (Images appear in that order below) as an introduction to my friend, talented musician, saxophonist José Carlos Cruzata Revé.

As we drew in the materials and methods of our choice, we split the time into three sets. José playing music, then posing as we engaged in a group conversation about his childhood in Cuba, music, artistry and life. Then back to the music.

Teaching Artist Reg Lewis explains: “The ART YARD session (of 12/21/21 - the winter solstice) felt more like a spiritual exchange between the advanced artists present and musician extraordinaire, José Carlos Cruzata Revé. He used his tenor saxophone, his voice, hands, a small percussion instrument, and even a Chinese folk wind instrument to create these achingly beautiful original compositions.

José Carlos Cruzata Revé with instruments

And although José performed as a soloist, the looping device José used allowed him to create these rich layers that sounded like several musicians engaged in harmonic and rhythmic communication at once; the sound filled the broad rustic industrial performance space of BWAC in a warm complement between emotional passion and structure.

This intimate presentation allowed the advanced artists to interact with the music and José both directly and indirectly. The results were stunning. The artwork produced by each artist moved upon every chosen surface as if fragments of José’s music were captured and transcribed seamlessly. In this way, the music and the artwork produced combined to create an artistic genre of its own: a marriage of expression and experience that I’m sure every participant will honor and cherish forever. All that is left for me to say in reference to my firsthand experience of that extraordinary session is the following: “I wish you were there!”

Pat gave many compliments: “I loved hearing José play and listening to him talk to us about his musical background and his upbringing in Cuba. Meridith’s lesson allowed for a lot of variety—some people (such as Melinda and Rachael) went for abstract representations of Jose’s playing, and others (such as Ed, Ijenna, and Marie) drew figurative representations of Jose as performer and speaker.

Melinda Lewis, Healing Music

Amelia went for a more emotional approach—she drew a vast, open stage that captured the experience of stage fright (with some very precise lines!).

Amelia Tineo, Healing Music

Nayarit did really interesting things with text--she incorporated Spanish lyrics from a song that José performed into her drawing that highlighted José's Cuban identity.

Nayarit Tineo, Healing Music

I loved Reg's "Loops" and his innovative and effective use of cutouts--somehow, by removing parts of the paper he actually made it feel bigger. I also liked the way Reg made the two "o"s in the word "Loops" look sort of like a heart, sort of like eyes.

Reg Lewis, Healing Music

Rachael Wren really captured the way José's playing moved around the room.

Ijenna skillfully combined different media and types of lines (and great color choices) to capture the motion and vibrancy of José's playing--I could feel the music!

Ijenna Duruaku, Healing Music

In her triptych of portraits, Robin Grant really captured José's range over the evening.

Ed Rath used deceptively simple lines to create effective portraits of José sitting and standing, with witty allusions to the context (a water bottle on stage, unobtrusive references to the large, shiny painting that was already hanging behind the stage when we got there).

One piece that particularly struck me was Sarah's painting that visually combined an allusion to the moon from an Arabic painting with the mouth of José's saxophone, and some elegantly-rendered stylized sound waves.”

I was fascinated to watch Diana at work – she painted as if she was dancing with her brush held loosely above her paper making elegant marks.

Diane Collins, Healing Music

Jacob used limited color and a variety of directional and lovely mark-making in his portrait.

Jacob Rath, Healing Music

Vera Tineo made great use of color. She had a close vantage point that facilitated a close up piece.

Pat Larash (left) and Randall Harris (center and right) captured the motion with their use of repetitive contour line.

Marie Roberts worked with the ease and pace of a seasoned artist who works regularly from live performance.

Seven year old Emma Eichler created a trio of beautiful pieces all of which incorporate text and profound thinking!

Pat adds a general observation on in-person ART YARD Advanced Studio in comparison with online ART YARD Advanced Studio: “the ONE thing I found easier on Zoom is viewing everyone's pieces and keeping track of who did what when we move into the compare/contrast and critique parts of the evening, because Meridith displays each piece one at a time and I can look at it up close on my computer screen. In person, I realized that I got to know much better the pieces that were closer to where I was standing, and (for example) I could appreciate Emma's observant rendering of José on stage and Melinda's deeply cool "album cover" pastel from the start, but couldn't really see Marie's or Randall's amazing figurative drawings until much later! But that's also part of the experience of being in space (as opposed to cyberspace)--embracing nearness and farness. Nothing beats the nearness of being able to see my fellow YARD artists in person, especially connected by the golden thread of José's music and conversation, in an inspiring space, with great food and the best company.”

Finally, José himself responds to the session: “Being inspired by others artists is a beautiful and honest way to create. But as a musician, being the inspiration for others to create is even more exciting. That is what’s happening at ART YARD Advanced Studio Artists.”


Other Art News:

ART YARD supporter and editor Lisa Peet and I went to see Robert Gober “Shut up.” “No. You shut up.” through January 29 at Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea. Lisa reviews the exhibition: “I very much enjoyed the Gober show, and how immersive the pieces were without being obvious about hooking the viewer. He is really skillful at playing with the persistent desire to look, or move, past the plane we’re given—every one of his pieces, whether in two dimensions or three, made me want to push past the frame to see what was on the other side. I found one of the window assemblages was lit so that I could hold up my hand and see my shadow on the inside of it, and that gave me a disproportionate pleasure: I had succeeded! But mostly the joy came from being set very firmly on the outside, letting my eyes do the traveling and my head do the wondering.”

Robert Gober, Untitled 2020, Wood, glass, epoxy putty, fiberglass, oil and acrylic paint, archival paper, archival tape, silver leaf, aluminum


I came across an interview with artist Harry Roseman about his time as Joseph Cornell’s studio assistant. Knowing of ART YARD Artist Karla Prickett’s interest in Cornell, I forwarded the article to her.

Harry Roseman, Love Letters Jennifer Jones, October 27, 1971

Karla’s reply clearly illustrates that wonderful leap-frog of artistic thought which is so inspiring: “Thanks so much for sending the link to the interview with Cornell. WOW! This was so very interesting and I could just picture everything that was described about his house/studio/and the ways he went about things. It really reminded me of a very good friend/artist who passed away a year ago. He had a home/studio and had parts of things here there and everywhere because he wouldn’t throw anything away! It has been an interesting journey working with artists for so many years. I learned soon, as did the photographer, that you observe and listen more than you suggest or direct for fear of interrupting an important thread. Each artist is a separate personality with different sensitivities and eccentricities. I always enjoy and admire that individualism.

I have done three residencies at the former studio/home of a very amazing artist from Lindsborg, KS This space is somewhat magical. The artist residency room is at the back of what was his studio and home. The entire structure was built by the artist. The room where I worked had a huge multi-pane window facing a brick courtyard surrounded by a masonry wall all built by the artist. There was some kind of vibe about the place that I could just become lost in time and inspirational energy. It is in the little town of Lindsborg, KS, a small Swedish community about 15 minutes from Salina. When you are there, time is not the same…everything is slower and quaint. I was also reminded of this space when reading the interview. I actually met Lester Raymer in the 80’s when he was still alive and the studio visit was I’m sure a bit like the feeling this photographer had walking into Cornell’s space. A world where what happens there…only happens there!

Red Barn Studio photo by Jim Richey

I also thought about my own studio and how I have these little stashes of things that I find visually interesting and set aside on shelves and in drawers for the day they take on a role within a composition. I went on a cleaning spurt the other day and it’s always a way of reacquainting oneself with what one amasses. There have been many times I’ve read the pre-lesson information and pulled out a few things that resonated. Sometimes they are used and sometimes not depending on where the actual lesson takes me. Since I’m not used to working quickly I am always amazed at the aftermath!!! Cut paper everywhere, pencils, paint, paste, matte medium, rulers, etc. The one thing I have noticed about my own creative space is that I must straighten before beginning a new work. I also like to have pressing obligations taken care of so I can devote several hours at a time to a work. Some people work with music and some work in silence…I seem to do a bit of both! I remember my visit to your studio as a very special day. Everyone’s creative space is so personal and sacred whether a room, loft or a kitchen table!"


I am so pleased to have my Tiny Map Dress featured in new product images by Naturopath, homeopathic herbalist, artist, chef, and sorella: Catherine de Zágon! Visit at Etsy store, these products are wonderful!!

Catherine de Zagon, Libera with Tiny Map Dress by Meridith McNeal


And now, into the light!

💫 💫 💫 💫 💫 💫

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