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Into the light-side of the equinox

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

“…Alley-oop and here we go

Into the froth, my life,

Into the flames!”

Sandra Cisneros, Little Clown, My Heart


We began the week with ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom with Signs of our Times and New Meanings taught by Maraya Lopez - inspired by the text based work of Ed Ruscha.

Ed Ruscha, Ripe, 1967

The conversation was of such a high caliber, we could have sold tickets to critique! I am in awe of this remarkable inter-generational community of artists. The level of thought, the deep dive into ideas, the willingness to listen carefully, all while making fantastic art is unparalleled.

Maraya details the flow of the session: “The Christmas Season, Black Friday and the objects and language that feed into our daily lives, influenced my lesson Signs of Our Times and New Meanings. However we started by taking a look back in time to my Look at the Wallpaper More class, given in October.


Work created in Look at the Wallpaper More 

The class consisted of two parts. In October, students created art about the mundane in their daily lives, thinking about the significance found in doing mundane activities such as, raking leaves, washing one’s face at the end of the night or staring out the window. We looked at the paintings of Polina Barskaya whose paintings focus on mundane scenes from her daily life and often include her husband and child. For part two of the lesson, students were encouraged to work in pairs throughout the month of November and support one another in goal setting and putting their goals into action.  The goals could be small or big, the idea was to strengthen our Art Yard community and to trust one another.


Here’s what happened. Ed and Kevin were very successful in meeting weekly over Zoom. Ed recommended Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist Way” for Kevin to read. Kevin found the book to be very helpful. The act of daily writing is freeing up his thoughts and he is reflecting on the things he wants to achieve. Ed’s goal of getting organized and into his art studio more has started with meticulous list making. Both Kevin and Ed hope to continue their weekly meetings. Meridith, Marilyn, Karla and I had a group meeting over Zoom. Our goals consisted of Meridith sleeping more, Karla making more art, Marilyn minimizing household things and me, keeping my plant alive. Karla and Meridith had an excellent zoom follow up session this week. We have all been slowly but surely making progress and hope to continue our weekly meetings as well!”


Kevin expounds upon this process: "In addition to this lesson, Maraya assigned partners to each student randomly, assigning us to work together towards our personal goals. I was partnered with Ed; while he would work on scheduling, animation, journaling, and movies he was in collaboration with, I would work on creative writing and practicing French. Duolingo is an app that uses a variety of games and quizzes to help you efficiently learn different languages, which I would use a few times a week. Simultaneously, to learn more about writing, Ed suggested I purchase a book titled The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It requires a daily form of journaling that the author calls “Morning Pages”. Whenever I had the time in the morning I would jot down my thoughts, whether something in my life had happened or I was just writing what I was thinking. The book also discusses the importance of fixing creator block, specifically by taking chances when you are afraid to. Another important thing is making sure to take time away from the daily stressors of life, by indulging in things I enjoy. Overall, I’m feeling more confident to explore things that I thought I would not have the time to do." 

Maraya moves on to describe Signs of Our Times and New Meanings: “In the 1960’s Ed Ruscha started implementing words into his paintings. Interested in using text as images, he liked the fact that words had no scale. His text paintings gave new meaning to words and phrases by scaling them up, down, giving them form, color and dimension. The final images evoke humor and often, sound. Like his other works of art of the everyday, like his gas station series and gas station signs, his work asks us to examine repeatedly, what is being seen. For instance, an image of a Spam can is no longer simply associated with the pink mystery meat but becomes a flying emblem of the everyday. His painting, “The End” alludes to cinema and film but is recontextualized, asking the viewer to think about the various meanings of the phrase. The end of a film, the end of time and the end, in terms of life, all come to mind.”

Ed Ruscha, The End, 1991

I asked students to reflect on the language and everyday objects of our times. They selected one to deconstruct the meaning of and gave new meaning to it. Students were encouraged to think about objects and words from a personal, global, and cultural perspective. I chose to use my iPhone as an example for the assignment.  I associate an iPhone with communication, loud and as an imposition to my daily life. If I were to give an iPhone a new meaning, how would I portray that through an artwork? If I want the new meaning of an iPhone to be let’s say, quiet, not an imposition and like phones from the past (landline telephones), I may use a small font and subdued colors or colors that are nostalgic of my childhood from when mom used to talk on the landline phone to family and friends.”


I (Meridith) am thrilled that several AYB Artists contributed their musings on the session for this recap!


Ed writes: “Compliments to Maraya for presenting an interesting group of images by Ed Ruscha featuring words spelled out in different fonts.  These included paintings of various words, such as: HONK, Drawn in a bold, bright sharp font, Ripe, drawn in a gooey, strawberry-like thick paint, DOOWYLLOW (Hollywood written for the rear view mirror,) Picasso, Picasso 1912 (written in Picasso's script,) SPAM painted in the very font used on packaging of this staple of Minnesota cuisine, and THE END, written in the same font used as the masthead of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Ed Ruscha, Back of Hollywood, 1977

Maraya declared that Ruscha's work embodies the axiom, Language and Visual Art are the Foundation of Humanity, and challenged us to deconstruct the meaning of a familiar object and re-construct it in a way that has meaning for you personally. 


At critique we presented our work, and a discussion of how language influenced our subject matter ensued.


Kevin created a shadowy cyborg character whose head has morphed into the back of a cell phone.  He explained that social media, Instagram etc., are supposed to connect you to people's lives, but it's not exactly working that way.  Kevin then proclaimed, "Selfies are hollow." His character, with its cell phone camera eyes, personifies this dilemma, having transformed himself into a self-referential, naval gazing selfie automatron.

Kevin Anderson, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings

Kevin gives additional insight into his process: "My piece aims to unravel the true, hollow intentions behind social media. I was inspired by Maraya’s example of unraveling the importance of iPhones in our society: she described them as a distraction despite how she constantly uses it to stay in touch with family. Hearing this made me think of Instagram; although Instagram is a popular platform where people can post moments from their lives and share information, oftentimes it feels shallow. This is because--at least from what I have experienced--you do not fully know the person, but only the glamorized parts of their lives. The idea of Instagram is to connect with others, but it does not fulfill the gaping holes of loneliness. These gaping holes are what I depicted literally. I took a picture of myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror, and turned it into an Instagram post (as many do). However, the man in the picture has several holes appearing all over his body. So regardless of how people see the image, it does not substitute the necessity of actual human interaction. I hope that social media can eventually overstep this barrier so that people can learn to know the whole person as opposed to what we want others to see." 


Maraya pipes in: “Kevin’s piece is evocative of an android, part man, part iPhone. It immediately brought to mind, the 1989 Japanese science fiction horror film, “Tetsuo”, where a businessman slowly morphs into an iron man.”

Poster from the film, “Tetsuo”

Marilyn's deadpan drawing of a broom with the word BROOM attached to it, reads both literal and ironic.  We all agreed that any image of a broom is loaded with symbolism, representing things like Manual Labor and Class Division.  For Marilyn, the broom represents things she has to do.

Marilyn August, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings

Marilyn writes: "I selected the broom for my image as a representation of manual labor. Cleaning staff may be in hotels, restaurants, homes, public spaces—spanning all socioeconomic levels."  

Sigrid compliments: “Marylin for the pencil marks left on the letters, and the shadow the paper cut-out of the dustpan makes on the broomstick.” 


Next, Maraya talked about how the ubiquitous Cell Phone has commandeered a place of importance right next to, Food, Clothing, and Shelter.  Maybe Kevin is on to something?


Maraya then relayed her experience of going to the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, where she fell into a very calming, meditative state, free from cell phones, computers, and clocks - just a pure, perceptual experience of art. Maybe this is something we all need more of?


Mark Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas

Maraya Lopez, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings I, II, III

Maraya describes her work: “My three drawings were inspired by the Mark Rothko chapel in Houston, TX. My ideal meaning and function for my iPhone is to be a mobile mediation device with an ethereal light illuminating from it, projecting a feeling of calmness.”


Karla created a collage type piece which featured new words that have come into use as cell phone prompts, proving once again that language is constantly evolving and mutating, like Kevin's automatron.  Most the words in the collage were unknown to Ed, but Meridith knew almost all of them. However, Ed did know the answer to Karla's burning question, "Where is the Cloud?"   (Per Jeremy Winter: The Cloud is someone else's computer.  Ed then asked a question of his own: Does anyone know what the "i" stands for in "i phone?" Sigrid answered that one: I think it stands for the personal pronoun, I, because Apple wants you to feel personally connected to your devices.  Again, I think Kevin is onto something…..)

Karla Prickett, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings

Karla explains the ground of her collage: “It’s a “star chart” of some sort. My mental reference was to the ambiguous nature of “the cloud” and imagining it might have such a thing and a physical location!”


I (Ed) then talked about my drawing of a re-purposed tractor tire, which my grandmother painted white and used as a flower bed on the farm.  I mentioned repurposing has an old history.  The book of Isaiah says, They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.  Oh yes, back in the sixties we had such hopes for peace and love as we protested the Viet Nam war and prayed for peace.  On the other hand, maybe Clint Eastwood got it right; in The Good, The bad, and The Ugly: while pointing his rifle his nemesis, he said: There are two kind of people in the world: people with guns, and people with shovels.  Now start digging.  I always remember how my grandfather's tractor tore up the earth, crushed and cut up weeds and roots and anything in its path.  So the repurposed tire represents a change of direction, perhaps to a gentler, more beautiful world, where we can preserve and nurture the gifts of nature, in peace.


Ed Rath, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings

Meridith created a strange image of Honey Dripping onto a Pillow.  She explained she has a newly installed thermostat keeping her house warm made by Honeywell Home, and deconstructed the word into disconnected images. This technique is similar to that used by Rene Magritte in some of his more nonsensical paintings.

Meridith McNeal, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings

Sigrid did a marvelous deconstruction of the word, Technological, as follows:

> "Tech," is Learning;

> "Log," is Recording;

> "No-Logical," is an approach to re-imagine the internet as a fun space, a place to play.  


Sigrid Dolan, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings

Maraya adds: “Sigrid was interested in the history of the internet and how information was stored and shared prior to its invention. She gave examples of how it could be updated and organized. Her drawing of a notebook with blue tape collaged onto it reminded me of Basquiat’s composition notebooks.”


Jean-Michel Basquiat, “The Notebooks” 1980 - 1987

Lastly, Vera created an amazing video of a head turning in space.  Perhaps this character is looking back at what we learned from Maraya's lesson, and double checking to see how Kevin's character is evolving. 


Vee Tineo, Signs of Our Times and New Meanings



Tuesday ART YARD Artists, parents, and supporters celebrated together with an absolutely delicious meal at Locanda Vini e Olii. Owner and our great friend Rocco Spagnardi organized an outstanding meal of the highest quality! Plus he and the crew were ultimate service professionals even when faced with our, ahhhhem, exuberance (!!!).


Ajani and Vee

Some feedback via texts:

Blaze: Meridith, I had a blast today and it was so wholesome seeing everyone again omg thank you so much !🤩🥰

Fatima: Thank you for putting that together. It was great to see everyone over that wonderful meal.

Jane: What a wonderful event.

Al: What a great affair! I had a wonderful time talking with you & everyone!

Evelyn: It was a lovely evening!! Thank you and thanks/compliments to Rocco as well! I am thrilled to have received Delphine’s work in our Art Exchange!

Delphine's art now hanging near Evelyn's Klee calendar.

Sigrid: Thank you for a wonderful dinner last night Meridith I am so grateful to be a part of this community! 

Ardelia: Amazing thank you Meridith for a wonderful night! It was so lovely looking forward to more moments with you!

Candy: Thank you for such a great evening! It was food for the soul 💕

Assata: I’m so glad I came. I loved seeing everyone! And the food was so good!

Photos by Jacob Levenson

This one totally sum things up perfectly:

Mildred: Meridith. Last night was beautiful! We are going to find the perfect place to hang Candy’s work. Thank you so much for organizing all of that and thank you for including me. I know I already said this but you have built an incredible community.  I am in awe. Also my gratitude to Rocco for the delicious dinner. What an incredibly generous gift! Happy holidays!!


Alley-oop and here we go!


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