top of page

Occasions for Joy

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

ART YARD Advanced Studio brought drawing materials of their choice and a photo of any building or their home to use as a reference for Teaching Artist Sarah Gumgumji’s session entitled Spirit of A Place: Design, Imagination and Space.

Sarah summarizes: “I shared with Advanced Studio the work of Islamic Art, contemporary Arabic Art, as well as other parts of the world - all of which addresses my concept and artwork I feel to be very profound in its meaning.

The time and the bubble we live in makes us think about how we used to live before the pandemic and how we live right now with the unknown future that might differ from what we already lived in. In my opinion, we are trying to stick to what we have now and dream about something that makes us feel comfortable. I was moved when Claude's declared during critique - "sometimes we have moments in our life we pass by that could mean something or not mean something, we could all be connecting or not, there are so many questions we do not know about even when we are in isolation of each other."

Claude Viaud Peralta

Claude further explains his piece: “On the top right there are 3 faces in long exposure that layer a group of people crossing each other. Those 3 faces represent the moments/possibilities of what could have happened if we were to interact with each other. I made them identical because although we are all different I feel as if we could all be connected. There are bubbles and cubes that represent how we are all isolated in some way. The buildings represent New York City. I feel like astronauts represent the future as well as the flowers; although the space suit is also a reference to being protected during this pandemic. There is a skull in the bottom right that represents the fear of death or the future, but the flowers express hope.”

The piece I shared by Sarah Al Abdali titled Sukoon, which means "stillness". The absence of flow or tone makes us ask many questions and think about our lives and our future.

Sarah Al Abdali, Sukoon

ART YARD Artists put together such unique, fantastic stories with the symbolism of their own lives and what is going on in the world. They thought about their own life, things that happened around them, a place they traveled to, a unique story about a community, or their own homes that carry a passage of time.”

Zahir Prudent explains his piece: “The past are the 2 people with no mask the present are the people and TVs in the windows and future is the figures holding hands where it says peace everywhere.”

Zahir Prudent
Wayne Gross, Memories of Tunis

For her own piece Sarah describes: “My dream is in the sky, including sea animals swimming in our future, while drawing an old building from the past, including the new normal by showing people wearing different kinds of masks as we live inside a bubble of news at the beginning of the pandemic."

Sarah Gumgumji

Marilyn’s piece Let There Be Hope! was created in as she put itmy version of photoshop which is print the photo and then draw on it with colored markers. LOL 😹 I haven’t advanced that far!”

Marilyn August, Let There Be Hope!
Meridith McNeal, Spirit of My Place
Halli Beaudoin, Spirit of Red Hook
Akash Wilmont, The Bodega

Jacob Rath has a long explanation, but there's a lot going on in it – “I made a drawing of Minneapolis's 4th police precinct. In Nov 2015, a Minneapolis police officer murdered Jamar Clark. For three weeks after that, protestors occupied the street outside of the precinct. In my drawing you can see many people hanging around bonfires in the middle of the street, and a few tents set up on the lawn. There is a turkey in one of the tents, since Thanksgiving happened during that three week period, and protestors organized a Thanksgiving dinner for that space. The woman in pink heels at the bottom left corner of the page is Nekima Levy Armstrong; she is a lawyer/law professor/activist who ran for Minneapolis mayor two years after these protests.

In 2020, Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. The flames on the upper right corner of the building represent the burning of the 3rd precinct. The black power fist and the surrounding flowers represent the memorial built for George Floyd.

Before the 4th precinct was a police precinct, it was a community center. When it was a community center, it used to have an annual jazz festival, which is represented by the jazz musicians on the roof. The fourth precinct occupation created a space where people could hang out, talk with each other, and share food. In a sense, these protests were about turning an oppressive police precinct back into a community center.”

Jacob Rath, 4th Precinct
Eden Moore, Spirit of Hong Kong

Sarah concludes her summation of the session: “It was joyful for me to know and experience with everyone the art they shared and the stories behind it.”

Just as it was joyful to all of us to work with Sarah! I particularly loved getting to know the work of artists whose work was unfamiliar to me.


In the past few weeks I’ve read three fantastic memoirs. Memoir seems to me to be the written equivalent of what we’ve been doing lately in our studios – depicting our lives through the time we are living.

Riva Lehrer’s Golem Girl: A Memoir is a vividly told, gloriously illustrated memoir of an artist born with disabilities who searches for freedom and connection in a society afraid of strange bodies. I loved this window of insight into a fierce and talented artist.

Accomplished journalist Diane Cardwell’s ROCKAWAY Surfing Headlong Into A New Life breaths air into reclaiming ones joy as she recounts learning to surf in her late 40’s and creating a new life in gritty, eccentric Rockaway Beach and surviving the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy thrown into the mix.

My favorite vegetarian cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey’s Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India is a fascinating account of an unusual childhood in India in the final years of colonial rule. As the New York Times aptly pointed out: “the story is a testament to the power of food to prompt memory, vividly bringing to life a lost time and place. Jaffrey’s taste memories sparkle with enthusiasm, and her talent for conveying them makes the book relentlessly appetizing. A breakfast treat with a name that translates as ‘snack of wealth’ is ‘the most ephemeral of fairy dishes, a frothy evanescence that disappeared as soon as it touched the tongue, a winter specialty requiring dew as an ingredient.’”

In response to the National Art Education Association call to action to “work as allies with all those fighting against racial injustice by taking concrete actions that push art education to make structural changes toward becoming a field where all may thrive.” ART YARD Artists Vera Tineo, Eden Moore, Sarah Gumgumji and I are working together on a collaborative account written from personal knowledge about our work at ART YARD.


Congratulations to ART YARD Teaching Artist Marie Roberts who was featured in the November issue of Drawing Attention:


Opening tonight Nov. 13th, 2020 on view through Jan. 31st, 2021 at 601Artspace, 88 Eldridge Street in Manhattan is 49.5 A collaborative project organized by ART YARD Teaching Artist Susan Hamburger and Jessica Hargreaves.

49.5 installation view

As of the last United Nations census in 2018, women represented nearly fifty percent of the global population, yet held less than 24% of national political offices worldwide. Why do we, as a society, still seem to have so much trouble envisioning and supporting women in power? Examined through filters of class, privilege, race and sexual orientation, the work in this exhibition explores the contradictions inherent in participating in and working within a system while trying to change it.


We started the ART YARD Advanced Studio semester inspired by Helen Macdonald’s essay Vesper Flights, learning about Swifts and thinking about them as a metaphor for our times and the meaning of community. A few days ago my friend Katherine Kirby sent this video - the Swifts have made it to Rome!

We all have our defenses. Some of them are self-defeating, but others are occasions for joy: the absorption of a hobby, the writing of a poem, speeding on a Harley, the slow assembly of a collection of records or shells. “The best thing for being sad,” said T.H. White’s Merlyn, “is to learn something.” ~ Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights


I hope the week ahead brings you occasions for joy,

123 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page