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Oblique, Indirect, & Direct Strategies

From investigating photography’s influence on us as consumers in Advanced Studio on zoom with Maraya through to today’s gorgeous eclipse paintings with Dennis at the helm at PS 6, we’ve had an abundance of superlative artmaking experiences at AYB this week!


We began the week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom with a session entitled Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me lead by Maraya Lopez.

Paul Outerbridge, Ide Collar (Advertisement made for Geo. P. Ide & Co.), 1922

Maraya goes into detail on her inspiration, process and the results of this fantastic session: “This week I took the class on a journey through the history of product photography! We learned how artists used and continue to use abstraction, design, and juxtaposition to create compelling pictures and how artists persist at pushing the boundaries of this genre today. We also learned how artists play with order and familiarity in their pictures, to form images that are often, ambiguous, and unfamiliar. Their end products are meant to be compelling and resonate with consumers so that they make a purchase.


What about a picture makes us want to consume a product? How often do you look at and reflect upon advertisements for products? How does product photography influence us as a culture and on a personal level? These are some questions we considered while making our art works.


Screenshot of a bagel from Maraya's presentation

After the lesson students embarked on creating an image inspired by product photography. They brought to class 2-10 items or images that seemingly did not go together. Using abstraction, design, and juxtaposition they constructed artworks that pushed our visual perspective, while at the same time, enticed us as consumers. Students were asked to consider what message they wanted to convey when selecting their items and making their piece.


Inspiration: My lesson was inspired by Unpackaging Product Photography”, now on view at The Met Museum in NYC, as well as the artwork of Brooklyn based artist, Sara Cwynar. Cwynar is interested in the way that images amass, persist, and change in value over time. Her conceptual photographs and films involve constant chronicling and re-presentation of collected visual materials, layering diverse imagery with references to art theory. Her works recall advertisements and retail catalogues. Cwynar's artwork explores the consequences that consumerism has on forming subconscious ideals of beauty and self-image that have become ingrained in society, especially in women.  

Sara Cwynar, Detail of tryptic collage exhibited in Gilded Age at the Aldrich Museum

See the work!


The class agreed that Vee’s image was very effective as an actual advertisement. The juxtaposition of the sterile, domestic background with that of the baby and mother covered in golden bullets makes for a creepy, powerful, and timely image.

Vee Tineo, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me 

Karla surprised us with 3 images! Her use of repetition recalled the product photography of Paul Outerbridge (see image above). Is the image of sewing pins an actual constellation?!


Karla Prickett, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me I, II, III, IV


Karla adds: “I really enjoyed Maraya's product photography lesson! Was a great opportunity to look at composition in a more immediate way, and through a phone lens. Discussions about marketing and brand identity reminded me of the graphic design world my daughter works in every day. Not only does one consider immediate visual draw from a viewer, but the resulting buy-in from patron. Product photography has driven a consumer society. 


Everyone composed interesting imagery that left us wanting to hear the stories behind the objects featured in each!  Madison even composed while on the move...inspired while catching a few bites!!! Food photography is a huge industry!!!! I chose some items in my studio. Pins in a magnetic bowl I use for collage layout and my grandfather’s art tools! A challenge in composition! Thanks Maraya!!”


Madison utilized items she found in her pocket to make her image, as she was in transit without many materials to choose from. Her piece resembles an ad directed towards student life.


Madison Mack, sharing about her Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me piece while walking home.

We found out that Delphine LOVES LaCroix sparkling soda. I personally love the character her drawings embody. They don’t look like metal cans but more like soft sculptures of something she loves to hold and consume! Maybe LaCroix should commission her for a product design?

Delphine Levenson, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me

The class enjoyed Meridith’s juxtaposition of the hyper realistic photograph of her first image versus the seemingly analog collage of her second photo which included her Jackdaw sculpture from a previous Advanced Studio session. She captured Sara Cwynar’s color palette of pinks and purples in the first piece while the second alludes to the early history of product photography.

Meridith McNeal, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me I

Meridith McNeal, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me ll

Ed blurs the line between product design and fine art and between chaos and order. He nods to the history of still life painting by adding the orange which immediately reminds me of the paintings of Cézanne.

Ed Rath, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me l & ll


Paul Cézanne, Pommes et oranges(Apples and Oranges), 1899

We all agreed that Marilyn’s glamorized image evoked a sort of vintage movie star allure. We also noticed that her color palette worked perfectly with the Rose Gold theme from the video I shared at the start of the session.

Marilyn August, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me l & ll


Pat's humorous collage adeptly toyed with space and focal point, while its limited palette and re-copied images helped to create a timeless quality. In fact, many of us "read" the earbuds in the lower left as René Magritte's This Is Not A Pipe!

Pat Larash, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me

The class was thrilled that Jane Huntington, an Art Yard Bklyn artist & teaching teacher and an actual product photographer joined us for this week’s class. Her insight was welcomed and interesting. Her three images were like Ed’s in the fact that they were chaotic and orderly. Her use of personal objects evokes a sense of nostalgia combined with an uncanniness that is hard to pinpoint. She considers them to be symbols of memento mori.

Jane Huntington, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me l

Jane Huntington, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me ll, lll, lV, V, & Vl


I (Maraya) usually make a digital piece for the class but decided to go with collage for this lesson. I enjoyed the tactility of the cut-up newspaper while thinking about digital photography and graphic design, both of which are used for product photography. I started with a drawing of my bike helmet on its back, so that it was evocative of a skull. I added a drawing of a plant and a half-eaten banana. My piece serves as a memento mori.”

Maraya Lopez, Unpackage Your Life, Convince Me


On Tuesday in Advanced Studio in person in our studio at BWAC Sigrid Dolan challenged us to work outside our usual comfort zone!


Advanced Studio at work in the AYB studio at BWAC in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Sigrid explains: “We worked with Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's creative prompt cards Oblique Strategies, as well as  exercises in word association to create artwork. After each picking a card from a bowl, we wrote down our related thoughts while also keeping our chosen prompts a secret. 

The thoughts resulting from the prompt could be literal, or related only because of personal experiences. 

"Accept Advice" Meridith was secretly asking for advice throughout the session, and no one would give her any. She extrapolated on my explanation of the "lamp club" party invitation I received as a way of getting indirect answers. 

Meridith McNeal, Oblique Strategies: Accept Advice

"State the Problem in Words as Clearly as Possible" Evelyn drew their thought processes which reminded us of Mark Lombardi's work.

Evelyn Beliveau, Oblique Strategies: State the Problem in Words as Clearly as Possible

Mark Lombardi The UPI Saga, 1982-92

"Idiot Glee" Ariel's prompt led her to think about vices, and that brought her to the idea of ART YARD as a sort of support group.

Ariel Abdullah, Oblique Strategies: Idiot Glee

"The Most Important Thing is the Thing Most Easily Forgotten" Mildred walked us through her thought process and came to the conclusion that love is the thing most forgotten, with the help of the recently married conjoined twins. 

Mildred Beltré, Oblique Strategies: The Most Important Thing is the Thing Most Easity Forgotten (sketch)

Mildred Beltré, Oblique Strategies: The Most Important Thing is the Thing Most Easity Forgotten

"Consider Different Fading Systems" I (Sigrid) took the words of my prompt apart and got coin sides from "consider". I faded the size of the quarters on the table and the color of the table, considering change. 

Sigrid Dolan, Oblique Strategies: Consider Different Fading Systems

"Allow an Easement" Liv took easement to mean peace, embracing the flow of the paint and her prompt.

Liv Collins, Oblique Strategies: Allow an Easement (sketch)

Liv Collins, Oblique Strategies: Allow an Easement

"Towards the Insignificant" Ed felt that hair removal was insignificant. The plucking of an eyebrow or a routine haircut doesn't leave much of a mark in his mind.

Ed Rath, Oblique Strategies: Towards the Insignificant

The various ways we could have interpreted our prompts made for an interesting examination of where our thoughts were drawn to during critique.”



Dennis recaps: “At another Jersey City ART YARD Art Matters partnership school, PS 17, the Joseph H. Brensinger School, we commenced an after school program on Wednesday which will continue thru the end of the school year. Excellent participation from the 20 students who joined our group - made up of mostly 5th and 6th graders - and the teachers who oversee the program. Kind of like an art club - since all students WANT to be there. Exactly what ART YARD loves to hear.


The school's terrific principal has requested a mural project, an assignment which we have accepted. He'd like the design to be abstract and somewhat pop art (or at least pop art in color). As a prelude to this project, I met with the students and showed images and discussed public mural art around Jersey City and NYC including those of Marie Roberts, Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truh, Shepard Fairey, and Dennis RedMoon Darkeem (shown in that order below), how to find inspiration in creating an abstract, the history of pop art, deciding on color choices, and since students started creating designs (pencil and paper) we talked a lot about scale.  


Students were enthusiastic - shared details about murals they'd seen around town (their town!) and what inspires them to make art.  One student told the class that his dad takes him around in their car to view public art (wow!), while another wants to create a design in homage to her sister who loved butterflies and heart shaped sunglasses. Perfect! Many did, however, only associate murals with graffiti art on garage doors - which opened up bustling conversations.  

We've got A LOT more to do to prepare for the actual execution of the mural (it might even be 2 murals - if there's time, one for the school's library) - and we also start regular classes (during school hours - prior to after school) next week.


We are happy to be back at PS 17.”


A dream team of AYB artists Dede Lovelace, Liv Collins, and Aria Henry have been working with me to fortify and expand our social media presence. We met again (with snacks) on Wednesday for a superb brainstorming and planning session. Next week we will unveil our newest foray promoting the work we do!

Tarts and Salads made by Meridith!


Dennis recaps today's work: "At our partnership school PS 6, The Jotham Wakeman School, students used their newly acquired watercolor technique skills to complete their solar eclipse works.  I was assisted (greatly) by Gaby and Evelyn (both of FDU) and we three got our "steps" in by rushing back and forth to the teacher's lounge for water cup refills (many many times!).

There were many gloomy gray skies, dark moons, fiery suns, lots of cityscapes, and several rocket ships - and very proud artists.  It may have been a little late (the eclipse was 2 weeks ago) but students were given solar eclipse safety glasses (it pays to be a bargain hunter - I found a box of 100 glasses at an "after eclipse sale" for $5.00!) which they used to view each other's works (?) - they were all quite happy about that.  Most said they were going to keep them for the next eclipse in 2044!

While cleaning up the classroom and organizing work at the end of the day (when working with watercolor, we need to leave work all around the room to dry ... and then separate and sort it all out), I noticed that 3rd grader Isaiah marked the back of his painting with color codes - I love that he mapped out his ideas and gave lots of thought to the gradation process he was taught ("dark red sky to light red sky").  

During critique, students spoke about their own works and accepted questions from others - one student was asked "why did you choose those colors?" and he said that he was inspired by the colors and design on the special solar eclipse glasses. Excellent!!!!!

Students did a lot of work today - they only get an hour per class and there's so much to do ... and think about. 

But, as always, these kids at PS 6 succeed."


Other Art News

Check out our newest Redbubble items featuring the beautiful Eclipse Painting by PS 6 3rd grader Hattie Pasuco! You can support AYB with your purchase of all items featuring our artwork through our Redbubble store front!


Join me (Meridith) tomorrow Saturday April 20th 4-6pm for the opening of Hive Mind at Kentler International Drawing Space, 353 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn!




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