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Look at the wallpaper more

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom ART YARD Artist Maraya Lopez presented a wonderfully engaging and well thought out session entitled: “Unravel complexities through the mundane and look at the wallpaper more.” in which we created a self-portrait based on the everyday mundane experiences that take place at seemingly unimportant moment throughout the day.

Maraya summarizes: This week we looked at the paintings of my former classmate, Ukrainian born artist, Polina Barskaya whose paintings are now on exhibition at Monya Rowe Gallery in New York City.

The class learned about the artist group Les Nabis (The Prophets) (1888-1900) a small but important bridge between post-impressionism and academic art to abstract expressionism, surrealism, and other modern art movements. The group was interested in creating a “new art.” Les Nabis valued emotion, metaphor, symbolism and decoration over realism and the natural world. They were highly influenced by Japanism. Working toward a vision of art that was egalitarian and equal to other art forms, the group worked not only in painting but in costume design, ceramics, and graphic design. In 1900, the group went their separate ways as the world was already welcoming the radical onset of cubism and surrealism.

Paul Sérusier, The Talisman, 1888

Paul Sérusier spearheaded the Les Nabis group. His painting, The Talisman became the mascot for the group’s artistic vision of expressing feeling and emotion over realism and academic art.

Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, two of the group’s leading artists continued their vision through a personal and intimate approach, choosing to portray their everyday experiences that took place within their personal spaces. Their new approach was coined, Intimism.

Vera makes the connection from this work to Robin Kelley's expanded vision of surrealism (Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination)

More recently, the term that has been used to describe the paintings of Polina Barskaya.

Polina Barskaya, Giverny, 2019, acrylic on panel

Like the Intimists, Polina looks inward, giving us a view and a feeling of her life from within the structure of her home life. She photographs her everyday with her iPhone and then paints it. Her paintings are an autobiographical journey of her life that include images of herself, her spouse and child. The pictures are banal in nature and often evoke feeling of being alone. We see images of the family sitting together, getting ready for bed, and having a meal together. The paintings at Monya Rowe Gallery include the family depicted naked in the comfort of their own space. This is a departure from art historical references and a contemporary aspect of Polina’s work. Although Bonnard included nudes in his paintings, his nudes were often blurred and given the same importance as the color and space in the compositions. Polina isn’t showing us nude forms, she’s showing us a picture of human vulnerability through nakedness.

For the lesson, the class embarked on making self-portraits inspired by Polina’s work as well as, the Les Nabis and Intimism art movements. Participating artists were encouraged to think about the way formal elements could be pushed to express a sense of emotion instead of depicting a realistic self-portrait. I was very pleased to see how everyone interpreted the lesson and happy to know the class enjoyed learning about Les Nabis, Intimism and Polina’s work.

Marilyn’s small watercolor took us into her world of having a cup of coffee with the figure of her piece looking out into the world. The piece was evocative of the mundane, yet intimate and quiet.

Marilyn August, Looking out the Window (left: sketch, right painting)

Marilyn adds: “My image shows where I often start the day—in the dining room with my coffee and newspaper, gazing into the garden. There is always activity with new plants emerging, flowers blooming, squirrels playing, and wind blowing. Every season provides a different vista.”

Meridith captured the Les Nabis sense of decoration with her floral-patterned pants and green stripes.

Meridith McNeal, Relaxing with Rik

Karla’s initial reference photo evocative of Robert Gober’s work, banal and mysterious. She plans to continue working from this image. (I will update this recap with the image.)

Karla Prickett, Hand upon waking in morning light

Karla’s drawing of her morning coffee, surprised us all with it's expressionistic in color and great use of Mr. Sketchy markers.

Karla Prickett, Coffee in the Livingroom

Maraya’s interpretation of the mundane having tea and thinking of home (Texas) was rendered in mixed media over collage.

Maraya Lopez, Morning Tea, Not Quite Awake

Ed’s collage uses a swirly patterned paper and similarly hypnotic cut paper lines to convey the dreaminess for his piece.

Ed Rath, Ed Abed

Sigrid played with glow and light in composition as well as symbolic content, as the luminosity fills in for both lamplight and facial features for that moment turning on the light in a mysterious murky morning.

Sigrid Dolan, Morning Light

Pat’s painting of the mundane task of folding laundry is made compelling with a surprising point of view and excellent use of watercolor.

Pat Larash, Folding Laundry

Both Vera and Abby made videos. Referencing their own earlier digital drawing, V's piece is about looking at screens for news and the frightening state of the world. Abby created both a digital drawing and a video about her end of day rituals. We all really related to the sloughing off of the day!

V Tineo, Screen Time

Abby Johnson, Washing Off The Day

Abby Johnson, End of The Day Rituals


This evening ART YARD Advanced Studio in person met at The Whitney Museum to see Ruth Asawa: Through Line, Henry Taylor: B Side, and Fragments of A Faith Forgotten: The Art of Harry Smith.

Harry Smith, who I learned about reading Inside The Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York's Legendary Chelsea Hotel (a fascinating history of the building and its denizens), was conceptional artist inspired by music, esoteric ideas and theories. With our upcoming music inspired exhibition at The Record Shop it felt quite synchronistic to view this exhibition!

Installation views of Fragments of A Faith Forgotten: The Art of Harry Smith


"When you put a seed in the ground, it doesn't stop growing after eight hours. It keeps going every minute that it's in the earth. We, too, need to keep growing every moment of every day that we are on this earth." ~ Ruth Asawa

I have long considered Ruth Asawa a mentor in spirit and practice. This show redoubled that feeling! Over a delicious dinner after this magnificent art viewing experience we agreed that looking at the drawings, paintings, collages, and sculptures which are abstract, decorative and surprisingly even figurative we concluded that we were deeply inspired to go make art. Looking at this spectacular body of work, we knew in our bones that there is always something more to do.

Installation views of Ruth Asawa: Through Line


One can not help but take a gulp in awe over the scale of Henry Taylor's painted portraits of family members, friends, neighbors, celebrities, politicians, and strangers. These outsized figures are so filled with personality and well rendered, yet this is achieved with seemingly slapdash (but, in fact, not at all) strokes and drips and swaths of thick color-rich paint. Interestingly, Taylor has a series of works he calls Covers (yup, like our exhibition!) which refer to art history in pointed, at times poignant manner, other examples work with a humorous twist. Take for example, his portrait of renown artist & Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver referencing the Portrait of Whistlers Mother!

Installation views of Henry Taylor: B Side

This art viewing field trip was made possible by our friend Armando Garcia, we are quite grateful for his generosity!


Check out this week’s new addition featuring a painting by Abby to the ART YARD BKLYN collection at Redbubble and, Dennis is in Sicily using a medium sized ART YARD BKLYN tote bag featuring art by Elizabeth!


If you have not already done so, I encourage you to support ART YARD BKLYN programs by purchasing a ticket to COVERS an exhibition & party to benefit ART YARD BKLYN on Saturday November 4, 6-8pm at the Record Shop, 360 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn.

There are tickets to fit everyone’s budget on sale now at Eventbrite. Ticket buyers will receive art raffle tickets in thanks!

Covers Art Raffle pieces


Other art news

Vera and I braved the rain to go to Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, at Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island, NY to our opening Saturday October 14th.

The day captured in photos: The rain from the ferry window a new iteration of my Liberty Clouded series, the former "Home for Decrepit Sailors" as seen from the front gate, the gorgeous historic ceiling of the main gallery, my response to the first participatory artwork we interacted with, a close up of the installation (my piece is the black bird perched on a red stool, V's is a teetering stack of blue and yellow ceramic dishes), a boombox piece atop that display:


Experiencing Art Abroad...

ART YARD Managing Director Dennis Buonagura is going to the opera in Sicily!

Teatro Massimo Palermo

ART YARD Artist Kevin Anderson is at the Louvre Museum in Paris!

Kevin with the Mona Lisa!!!


Hope to see you soon looking at art, in class, on zoom or at our party!


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