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Making Possibilities

Updated: Feb 14, 2023


“Making objects and marks is also about making possibilities, making choices—and that is one of the last freedoms we have. To provide that is one of the functions of art.”

~ Mel Chin


This week ART YARD Artist Kevin Anderson was at the helm of ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom. Which brings us to an entire month of sessions taught by students who have grown into the role of teaching artist. I am so pleased that all of these wonderful sessions were inspired by artwork viewed in person! In fact, we are talking about this very thing for the upcoming Advanced Studio in person sessions. We are compiling a list of NYC local exhibitions and evening hours, checking our schedules and getting excited. More about it soon.


Preparation is key to a smooth and successful lesson, and Kevin worked hard all week perfecting his PowerPoint presentation about the work of Mel Chin. His well-chosen images, video, and clear text got us on track to create our own money steeped in personal ideas - some critical, some hopeful, all interesting!


Kevin presents his lesson on zoom

Kevin summarize: “When I visited the Brooklyn Museum during the holidays, I saw an exhibit with what appeared to be large stacks of money encased in a glass barrier. After reading the excerpt describing the work, I learned that each dollar was an art piece, part of an initiative called Fundred. Artist Mel Chin created Fundred in 2005 in response to the lead poisoning that resulted from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. The people affected by the disaster drew on one-hundred-dollar bill templates, creating pieces to reflect on the tragedy. With such an inspiring message, I knew this lesson would be great for ART YARD Advanced Studio.


Mel Chin, Fundred installed at the Brooklyn Museum

I was initially worried about how everyone would interpret the assignment. I was glad that Meridith encouraged me at every step, reminding me that each artist had their style and would be up to the challenge. My goal was to make a lesson that reflected my passion for environmental protection--a sociological issue I care deeply about--and by extension, encourage the other members to create a piece based on an issue that they felt needed recognition. As I continued to edit the lesson, I felt I had gained more confidence in myself as an artist, as well as a teacher.


By the end of the lesson, I was blown away by everyone's art and the diversity among everyone's pieces. As I reflect on how it went, I feel more confident that I can use what I have learned to build more lesson plans in the future.”


Pat who is recovering from Covid and had a sore throat sent her compliments by text. This gives us a nice framework for sharing the artwork from the session. I will put Pat’s compliments in italics.


Kevin, compliments on the lesson--you gave an excellent introduction to an artist who was completely new to me, and walked us through key themes, concepts, and techniques in his art. The prompt that you gave us was focused enough to give us something to work with, but also open-ended enough that we could take it in any direction we wanted. Pat adds: Kevin's drawing of the fist is really powerful--I feel it coming out of the page at me.


Kevin Anderson, Fundred (two parts, in progress)


Kevin elaborates on his concept: "For my art piece I wanted to shed a positive light on black people. Written on the dollar bill are things I associate with being black: I wrote some of my favorite artists such as Alicia Keys, and Chadwick Boseman, along with other civil rights artists such as MLK. I also wrote some positve messages such as "all shades are beautiful" to spread some courage and joy. From the center is a clenched fist bursting from the Bill, as I have noticed that this is a common symbol in the Black Lives Matter movement."

Kevin Anderson, Fundred: Equality

Ajani complimented Kevin, Abby, Sigrid, and me pointing out that all of us brought a sense of positive hope and powerful manifestation to our bills.


Abby—Really effective use of color--celebration of variety of skin tones, and also the blue representing unity surrounding it all.


Abrielle Johnson, Fundred: Equality

Sigrid--Really beautiful idea and composition, especially the rose flower.


Sigrid Dolan, Fundred: Love, Peace, Harmony

Meridith--Excellent drawing, and I love the inclusion of the woodpecker silhouette. And may this manifest resources for ART YARD!

Meridith McNeal, Fundred: Full Funding for ART YARD

As I explained to Avan, joining Advanced Studio for the first time this week, I first met Pat in Rome while on an artist residency at the American Academy in Rome. Pat and I both loved his Roman themed piece on so many levels!! Ed added that in the hand calligraphy the word EMPIRE might be read EMPYRE which brings on a whole other level of meaning and context! [Welcome to the world of a tangential ideas found in a typical ART YARD critique.]


Avan--The Roman Empire money made me laugh, especially the exuberant colors of it--and the fact that it was so similar to actual US currency anyway.


Avan Jogia, Fundred: The Roman Empire

In his compliments Avan contrasted to Ajani’s shout out for the positivity of several works, to the spot on kudos to Ed’s intelligent and humorous cynicism!


Ed-- Hamilton looks like he's just nonchalantly shooting over his shoulder. I thought that was intentional! Really funny (darkly funny).


Ed Rath, Fundred: Second Amendment Forever

Karla explains her work this weekIn thinking about the current 18 degree weather in Salina, it brought warmth to mind and how many people suffer from lack of financial means to stay warm in winter, pay utility bills and have a roof overhead.” She used cut paper, images from 1947 health volume, transfer letters, stamps, old advertising slide calculator, ledger sheet, dad’s fifth grade math.


I love the way Karla can make even numbers look beautiful, and the way she finds subtleties of color even among things as dry as slide rules.


Karla Prickett, Fundred: Keeping Warm

A perk of zoom is that when we are visible we can bring our far flung locations which have spanned the globe and many wonderful mundane environments. Vera, participating from Queens College where she is enrolled in the MFA program, took us on a stroll into the Godwin-Ternbach Museum the museum at Queens College to share what appeared to us as a sculptural bouquet: Kissi Bundle of Pennies, Guinea or Liberia, 1800 - 1899, Iron, is in fact currency on view in the current exhibition Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures.


Vera complimented Kevin on his lesson and added that it really hit home for her and is a frequent subject of her work, as seen in the prints she shared.

Vera--LOVE the "bundle of pennies"--looks like a bouquet of flowers! I admire the variations you have among your different bills.


Kissi Bundle of Pennies and Vera Tineo, Fundred I & II


Ajani’s bill featuring a well-dressed goat had us discussing personal symbols and talismans. A wonderful perk of our many long standing collaborations! I love the text on Ajani's bill "United Hearts Two Notes"!


Ajani's goat in a suit made me smile--seems like a comment on the people we usually see depicted on money, somehow.

Ajani Russell, Fundred: United Hearts Two Notes

Marilyn writes:” Kevin’s presentation was excellent! He was very articulate in introducing an array of Mel Chin’s work. Kevin tasked us to address subjects we cared about using paper money as a format for our projects after the style of Chin. Many topics were represented through symbolism —addressing topics from public transit to Black history month to peace and harmony and more. Amazing results!”


I love Marilyn's use of paper dolls to represent community!


Marilyn August, Fundred: Community Bank of Good Will

When Pat shared her work during critique Kevin made the comparison to Eden’s piece last week. Both Pat and Eden referencing their local public transportation known as Omni – Pat in Boston and Eden while at university in London. Kevin also pointed out it is the name of our newest public transportation app in NYC. Pat, who teaches Latin and Greek, enlightened us: "The word "omnibus" was used to refer to a horse-drawn carriage that was a precursor to the motorbus. The name then got used for motorbuses. It comes from Latin "omnibus," meaning "for all," and then shortened to just "bus."


Pat Larash, Fundred: Omnibus

Ed tied a bow on this session by singing the praises of Mel Chin as a visionary artist who has been a inspiration for decades.

 

"You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile" ~ Martin Charnin, from the musical Annie


Dennis, who we can always count on to know and reference the lyrics from a hit Broadway musical, recaps today’s ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6: “While no student confessed to wanting to become a dentist OR to liking dental appointments, they ALL loved learning about teeth and representing teeth in art. Sounds like an odd combination? Teeth and art? It may - but we hosted 3 successful classes (4th and 5th grades) at PS 6, our partnership school in Jersey City, this week on THE ART OF THE TOOTH.


Teaching Artist Fatima Traore guided students through a presentation of photos of various animals with their teeth exposed, images of human teeth, X-rays of teeth, the anatomy of a tooth, and decorated teeth. She prepared stencils of teeth shapes for students to use or suggested they draw the shape of a tooth freehand. Very popular choices were shark teeth and tiger teeth.


Images shared with students


Throughout the lesson, Fatima offered various "Tooth Fun Facts" such as "which creature has the most teeth" - the answer can be found below.


Some opted to use watercolor paint while some chose colored pencils (and, of course, a few multimedia pieces were made too). Ella drew without the stencil - and created a broken tooth (still in process). Some students changed the orientation of their pieces - thereby altering a shark tooth which started out as a slice of pizza into a Santa hat. One candy-lover created a sweet tooth.



Fatima painted a gorgeous sample for students to be inspired by:


Fatima Traore, Sample painting Rose Tooth

Critique in action at PS 6

Fatima and I are quite often educated by our students. Aqsa told us how members of her family use a MISWAK as a teeth cleaning device - which is a twig from a very particular tree called the Salvadora Persica - and is the first documented form of dental hygiene.


Salvadora Persica

Now, back to the fun fact. The answer is quite surprising - the creature with the most amount of teeth is the SNAIL!"



 

On Tuesday and Thursday Dennis and Fatima were in East New York Brooklyn starting a new cycle of ART YARD Art Matters at the High School of Arts & Civics.


Dennis sums up: “Teaching Artist Fatima Traore's lesson in celebration of Black History Month, at our partnership school The East New York High School of Arts and Civics, began with a presentation of images of artists (visual, performance, design), activists, educators, athletes, and entrepreneurs.


Fatima presenting at Arts & Civics

Murals in the entry hall of Wast New York High School of Arts and Civics


After viewing Fatima's sample painting, a portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat, students discussed ways in which to capture the essence of the person they've selected for their piece. Fatima assigned them to research their lives and works at home, to give them a greater understanding of the person - but, while in class, first draft sketches in pencil were started.


Fatima Traore example painting Jean-Michel Basquiat

Preparatory sketches on canvases (press arrows to scroll images)


Final pieces will be on 9 x 12" canvas (some students felt confident enough to work directly on canvas from the start) with acrylic paint.



Our lesson continued with demonstrations of paint mixing to achieve skin tones - which will be ongoing through future classes."


 

Other Art News


Congratulations to ART YARD Artists Evelyn Beliveau and Fatima Traore who have work featured in "Grid," a show of 16"x16" works at St.HROUDA in Park Slope (227 5th Avenue). They invite us all to join them for the opening reception on Saturday, February 11 from 5-8pm.


invitation and painting Evelyn Beliveau, Mind Song


 

I am thrilled to have one of my cut paper sculptures included in The Crow Show an exhibition at Studio Door Gallery in San Diego, CA. Here is my page from the exhibition catalogue:



 

🐌 (!!!)


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