top of page

Love in Return

Updated: May 4, 2023

We began the week with a Mother Earth / Earth Mother themed ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. After a short introduction ART YARD Artist Ajani Russell read the poignant first chapter from the book recounting the Sky Woman story, shared by the original peoples throughout the Great Lakes, asking us to allow our thoughts to wander with the words.

Ajani reads to us on zoom

“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer

We then discussed the ideas a bit and Ajani instructed us to begin artmaking in the materials of our choice as we felt moved to do so. But Ajani also let us know they would be reading the passage again as we worked.

Ed Rath, Sky Woman Falling

Sigrid Dolan, Sky Woman
Chloe Kaas, Sky Woman

Ajani Russell, Sky Woman, Creatures on the Way

Marilyn August, Sky Woman, with Creatures

Jules writes: "Our classes have already helped me to grow as an artist, I’m so thankful to be a part of ART YARD! I think watercolor was the perfect medium for what I was trying to capture in this piece. I’ll definitely make sure to send you the completed work! Im super excited for how it’ll all look at the end but I’m having fun getting there ❤️."

Jules Lorenzo, Sky Woman, Creatures on the Way

Abby Johnson, Sky Woman, Love in Return

Meridith McNeal, Sky Woman, Growing Clematis: The Earth Loves in Return

Kevin Anderson, Sky Woman, Turtle Island (in Progress)

Carolyn Baird, Sky Woman, Sweet Grass

Karla Prickett, Sky Woman, Sweet Grass

Eden Moore, Sky Woman, Turtle Island


From PS 17 in Jersey City, Dennis reports, “I placed the order for the 22' x 10' muslin as we are ready to begin painting the backdrop. Once received, Teaching Artist Fatima Traore's composite of the afterschool students' designs will be projected onto the muslin and painted. All hands on deck - as art teacher Ralph Przyanowski will have students work on the backdrop even on the days we are not at the school. This will give us the much needed time to get masks and props made. The muslin is being made with grommets 12 inches apart across the top for hanging.

PS 17 Lion King backdrop design

PS 17 Lion King backdrop design

Lower grade students - those that worked on African patterns - created cut out masks using templates made by Fatima (who also helped with the cutting) and 7th and 8th graders continued with their mask paintings, soon to be used for "mass production" for the entire ensemble AND as an exhibition of The Art Of The Lion King. Time is flying by so quickly and we've still got lots to do. Everyone is participating at a level of 100%.

At work at PS 17

PS 17 Lion King mask design

PS 17 student at work on Lion King mask design (in progress)

PS 17 Lion King mask designs (in progress)

We were joined by Ms. Murphy's class during afterschool and discussed various types of insects - designs are needed as the first step to creating props for the production. Lots of ideas are thrown around when discussing how to create such 'bugs' - foam? cardboard? felt?... and how to stuff them? We discussed scale and sizing, taking into consideration the sizes of the performers and audience members being able to see them from the rear of the auditorium.

PS 17 Lion King bug props design (in progress)

Mr. Pryzanowksi created a Scar foam mask sample - which is excellent - and will be used as an idea for other masks. Sizing; durability; weight; etc. all come into play so several prototypes need to be made. Additionally, Pride Rock is nearly complete (now with a safety measure in place) and Chani climbed up to try it out.

Scar foam mask (in progress) and testing out set piece

I met with Ms. Reyes, the director of the production, and attended (as I do weekly) a bit of the rehearsal. Things are coming together extremely well.

PS 17 in rehearsal for Lion King

Also - it was FATIMA day at PS 17 this week. In one particular class, we had students named Fatma and Fatimatu so together with OUR Fatima, I was OUT-Fatima-ed. And that was very nice!”

Fatma, Fatima, and Fatimatu!


Managing Director Dennis Buonagura reports in: “At the East New York High School of Arts and Civics, Teaching Artist Fatima Traore and I worked with several students to finish up previous projects and introduced the current project ("Remastering The Masters") to those students who missed the introductory lesson.

Fatima works with students at East NY High School of Arts + Civics

Amaya started her draft of Hopper's "Nighthawks" while Josh created a new spin on "The Scream" by designing a broken glass effect. Sabrina and Ines added their 'signatures' in Japanese to their Great Wave pieces and Kirk continued putting his finishing touches on his Kehinde Wiley portrait. Ines also developed further ideas for her Kahlo piece now known as "Ines and Hazel" and Elizabeth added content to her Bedroom in Arles work.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893 and Josh's version of The Scream (in progress)

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-1506 and Rah-nee's Mona Lisa Earth Mother (in progress)

Fatima's working on her "Girl With The Pearl Earring" piece. I brought lots of printed papers, wrapping paper, and magazines to class for those that chose to add a collage effect to their paintings making them multimedia. As always, Fatima's sample pieces set the tone for inspiration.”

Fatima Traore after Johannes Vermeer, Girl With The Pearl Earring, 1665 & detail (in progress)


"Why do birds suddenly appear .....?"

Fatima Traore, Owl

Dennis answers that question: "Nature Takes Flight" took flight at PS 6 in Jersey City - lots of images of birds, insects, swarms of bees, owls, flying squirrels, bats, hummingbirds, platypuses (platypi?) and ... basically anything that flies (keep in mind the word NATURE - since lots of students wanted to draw airplanes, rocket ships, and vampires) were shown for inspiration. One very engaged student told me that "Peter Pan flies" - and he's real, too".... so I should argue with a 2nd grader?

Fatima introduces the lesson

Our cycle this time around is 2 classes of 2nd graders and one class of 1st graders - all who either like to work VERY quickly (we often hear "I'm done" a few minutes after we begin) or V E R Y slowly (many want to achieve perfection - which is terrific but time is quite limited) so it’s Teaching artist Fatima Traore to the rescue.

PS 6 Students at work on Flying Creatures drawings

Fatima is excellent in keeping everyone at the same pace (1st and 2nd graders would also like to participate in 'taking flight' themselves so classroom management is vital - thank you to the PS 6 teachers for overseeing) and being certain that they all work in steps instead of rushing ahead (not an easy task with classes that are sometimes filled with 20 to 30 students). First day of the cycle, of course, is the pencil drafting stage but Fatima's plan is to add color next week for these cutout sculptures which will be suspended for exhibition.

Flying Creatures drawings were then cut out.  

(use arrows to scroll images)

PS 6 Student drawing of Flying Creature

We cut out some of the pieces (those that were ready) - and Fatima assisted students with holding their work up against the window in order to see through and trace their work onto the back side. These flying creatures will be 2 sided.

Sharing work during a lively critique at PS 6

Students viewed the works of artists John James Audubon, Meridith McNeal, and George Edwards and also lots of photographs. Images were hung around the room as well as projected onto a smartboard.

Flying Creatures reference picture wall in ART YARD classroom at PS 6


This evening ART YARD Advanced Studio met in person at The Shirley Project Space to view and work from ART YARD Teaching Artist Rachael Wren’s exhibition Site Lines.

Looking in to The Shirley Project Space from the street

Rachael speaking about her work

Rachael walked us through the exhibition explaining her work on view and prompting an exciting naturally flowing discussion about the show, Rachael's ideas and process. We were fascinated to see her work come into three dimensions as an installation with colored thread. The viewer activates the piece by moving ones view point. We agreed that Rachael’s abstracted landscapes fit our Mother Earth / Earth Mother focus in a fascinating manner.

Rachael Wren Site Lines installed at The Shirley Project Space

Rachael Wren Site Lines installed at The Shirley Project Space

Rachael then asked us to draw a place that is important to us from memory. First representationally, with as many details as we can remember. Then to create a second drawing that is more abstract and focuses on the feeling of the place.

Sarah drew a favorite landscape in the Catskills.

Evelyn envisioned a park in her childhood town in Vermont.

Rachael depicted the view out the window of her apartment (on the 9th floor).

Meridith the line of umbrella pines visible on the ride from Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport on the way in to Rome.

Rachael enthuses: "I loved having ART YARD Advanced Studio visit “Site Lines”. Since everyone who attended has known my work for a while, it was a wonderful chance to delve into the deeper aspects of my process and ideas. Our conversation about the paintings led into a related drawing exercise, with surprising and exciting outcomes."


Other Art News

We were thrilled to have an update from ART YARD Artist Eden Moore, currently in her second year of her bachelors degree studying film at The University of East London. Eden shared images of her recent on location shoot for her film “Imogen” at the White Cliffs of Dover, UK.

Eden directing her film shoot at The White Cliffs of Dover, UK. (use arrows to scroll images)


A superb exhibition deeply connected to our Year of Planet Earth as well as our spring focus on Mother Earth / Earth Mother is on view at The New York Historical Society through July 16, 2023. Nature, Crisis, Consequence looks at the social and cultural impact of the environmental crisis on different communities across America.

Installation view Nature, Crisis, Consequence at The New York Historical Society. Photo Meridith McNeal.

Beautifully curated by curated by Wendy Nālani E. Ikemoto, the exhibition is installed in such a way to get the viewer thinking and making connections. Historical pieces are hung next to contemporary pieces exploring similar topics or concepts, perhaps locations or resources.

Philip Reisman, Love Canal, 1983 and Louisa Davis Minot (1788–1858) Niagara Falls, 1818

Are on view in Nature, Crisis, Consequence hanging side by side.


ART YARD Artists Marilyn August writes: "I recently joined a gallery walk with Iranian-American multidisciplinary artist, Pantea Karimi, viewing her exhibition Saffron,Saint of Spices at the Triton Museum in Santa Clara, California. This special event was organized by Tony Misch, a friend of the artist and the President of “Let’s Look at Art”, a volunteer organization of the San Jose Museum of Art that brings art into Bay Area schools.

Pantea Karimi grew up in post-revolutionary Iran and was educated in science as well as in art. This show reflects her interest in botany combined with history, politics, religion, folklore and magic associated with the sacred spice.

Artist Pantea Karimi

As a scholar and educator, Karimi pursued her interest in botany studying its early history while Artist in Residence at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) from July 2021 to July 2022. She described the thrill of handling books dating back several hundred years, discovering fabulous illustrations and descriptions of saffron and its significance in Iranian culture, cuisine, and medicine. Since childhood, she was deeply influenced by the healing powers of herbal medicine and the importance of connections to the natural world. The artist is a great storyteller, including anecdotes and details of her heritage as we toured the gallery.

It was astonishing to learn that 90% all of the world’s fine saffron originates in the Khorasan province of Iran. It is harvested in cool, fall weather over a period of only 10 days when the crocus sprouts. This study and her passion and reverence for the saffron crocus and spice spawned the solo exhibition.

In one of my favorite pieces were images of the saffron crocus painted in gold on a background of hand-printed, marbleized paper, suggesting fragmented landscapes. The marbling also references the papers and bindings of the ancient books and manuscripts Karimi studied during her residency. I was mesmerized by the layers of lovely, swirling colors and the delicate gold flowers painted top. I also loved that the center image was framed by contrasting marbleized paper.

Pantea Karimi, Saffron Crocus, Tradition & Saffron Crocus, Lust, detail, 2022

In an installation located in the center of the large gallery, the artist represents a sacred site defined by the cube which sits atop a rug from Karimi’s childhood home. Saffron, diluted in different chromatic concentrations, is placed in medieval-style bottles within the cube. The bottles appeared almost like candles, glowing in the open structure. I also liked the shadows on the sides of the cube, extending the footprint of the site.

Pantea Karimi, Healing Chroma installation view

A central work in the exhibition is a triptych, A Divine Allegory, fashioned after an 18th century religious triptych. For this piece the artist used “digitized hand-pained marbling on paper, digital collage and print on wood.” The patterns and painting are very dark compared to other works on display, with black flowers referencing the absence of the proper attribution of saffron to Iran. The text painted on the panels in Arabic describes the healing powers of saffron for Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and depression.

Pantea Karimi, A Divine Allegory Triptych.

A beautiful and delicate construction of a crocus flower was accomplished after many trials using 3D printing. This illuminated flower is visible by peering through a wooden lattice—it is spectacular! There were other fascinating pieces in the show, all revering the saffron crocus. It was a privilege to meet Pantea Karimi and to have the opportunity to hear about the passion and energy she brings to her work."

Pantea Karimi, Sacred Threads (details)



149 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page