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Provoke thought and reflection

Updated: Mar 4

It has been a fantastic week at AYB! Be sure to read all the way through the recap to read about all of our work -- At PS 6 today began a new cycle of portraiture inspired by the work of Shepard Fairey, the grid was our lens for artmaking at Advanced Studio in person and on zoom we explored the physical manifestations of emotions.


In Other Art News category you will find exhibition reviews, invitations to join us in person for several NYC art openings. 


ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom kicked off the week with ART YARD Artist Ajani Russell presenting “Physical Manifestations of Emotions” inspired by Manga, Ajani’s own work, and the work of Bill Plimpton. 


Ajani summarizes the session: “This week Advanced Studio Artists delved into creating images that represented emotions that they have personally experienced. I opened with examples of historical works that were imbued with the sensitivity of visceral emotions ie. Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica', Frida Kahlo's 'Wounded Deer', Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' and Van Gogh's 'At Eternity's Gate', highlighting the symbolism within each piece.

Ajani presenting on zoom

I then introduced contemporary examples of visual languages that express emotions including anime - an art form that utilizes theatrics and over exaggeration to depict different feelings and a few selections of their own work.

Ajani presents their own work

Students created a range of works in many mediums as the class materials this week were up to each artist.


Assata, Abriel/Bob and Meridith relied on color and line quality using the directions of the lines and layering to show varying degrees of annoyance, stress, overwhelm and confusion.


Assata Benoit, Physical Manifestations of Emotions

Abriel Gardener, Physical Manifestations of Emotions I & II

Meridith McNeal, Physical Manifestations of Emotions

Eugenie and Karla used textured motifs to abstractly allude to tumultuous feelings of confusion and the horror of the mass shooting in Kansas respectively.

Eugenie Chao, Physical Manifestations of Emotions

Karla Prickett, Physical Manifestations of Emotions

Karla writes: "Ajani’s lesson presented many excellent examples of the manifestations of emotions in visual art. The resulting works were fantastic! Symbolism, color and line along with figurative expressions and posturing brought narratives to life!

I wanted to express my anger and frustration over the lack of gun control in our country and a recent fatal shooting incident in Kansas City following  the Chiefs Super Bowl parade. I was watching the event on television as this tragic event unfolded. One of Ajani’s examples was Picasso’s Guernica. The powerful black and white imagery of the piece inspired me to fragment a black and white clipart drawing of a gun. Not only was the shooting itself horrible, but the Kansas, Attorney General Reece responded to it with this quote: “ the presence of a good guy with a gun is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun”, calling it essential!  I incorporated, quotation marks, question marks, and gun fragments in reference to my reactions." 

Vee and Marilyn used symbolic images to reflect people dear to them. Marilyn used a sheep in a pasture crying to reflect her own sadness at losing her friend and Vee used exaggerated proportions and perspectives in an image of their grandmother and a palm tree.

Vee Tineo, Physical Manifestations of Emotions I & II

Marilyn August, Physical Manifestations of Emotions

Marilyn writes in more detail: "Ajani presented a wonderful lesson this week, taking us through the symbolism of iconic artworks as an introduction. I understood that the task was to reflect on a specific experience and depict the associated strong emotion. My piece is a tribute to my best friend who lived in England and passed away a few weeks ago. On visits in the spring we often traveled the countryside, and I loved seeing the sheep and lambs on the hillsides. The sheep I painted reminds me of happy times together."

Ed created a portrait using contrasting, complimentary colors.


Ed Rath, Physical Manifestations of Emotions I & II

While many of the works reflected emotions that were not necessarily positive, the release of the art work and our supportive critique lifted all of our spirits.” 


Live in our studio at BWAC Advanced Studio worked with Mildred Beltré on a session titled “Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)” exploring the idea of repetition/ repeated motifs in art making. We created work by repeating and image, text, or both to create a singular work.


Sigrid recaps the session: “We explored idea of repetition in art through the work of Andy Warhol and  Glenn Ligon to further examine the use of the grid. We started by repeating an image or text from observation or imagination. 


Andy Warhol, 20 Jackies, 1964

Glenn Ligon, Untitled (I do not always feel colored), 1990; and Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Black Features’, ‘Self-Portrait Exaggerating My White Features’, 1997

We wanted to investigate the power of repetition and its visual emotional effects on the maker and viewer. When there is more than one of something you are really forced to contend with the subject matter.

During critique Mildred felt that all of the work made ended up referencing narrative and the passage of time;

Jules’ deer fading away,

Jules Lorenzo, Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)

Kazandra getting lost in the process of repeating of the 4,

Kazandra Bonner, Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)

Delphine’s finger which could appear to be in motion,

Delphine Levenson,Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)

Sigrid’s filmic shadow of light,

Sigrid Dolan, Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)

Ed’s waiting for the door to open,

Ed Rath, Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)

and Meridith’s bokeh-like dots.

Meridith McNeal, Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)

Mildred's piece was so obviously her work, it had us on a tangent talking about how we recognize personal style.”

Mildred Beltré, Do it again! (The song that I sing is part of an echo)

Today at ART YARD Art Matters at P.S. 6 it was another day of successes!

Evelyn reports: "This week at PS 6, we commenced a three-week lesson cycle on Poster Design, inspired by American artist Shepard Fairey. Dennis, Gabriela, and I (Evelyn) enjoyed meeting the three classes we’ll be working with for this cycle, including some familiar faces from years past. We are making posters with pencil and acrylic paint on mixed-media paper, incorporating a portrait of a recent historical figure and a single word.

Shepard Fairey, Hope and word bank list by Evelyn Beliveau

Evelyn demonstrates the process

In each class, we learned a little bit about Shepard Fairey (b. 1970), who creates posters, stickers, and murals, using street-art styles, bold color, and iconic imagery to advocate for his beliefs and start conversations about social, political, and legal ideas. We looked at images from Fairey's “We the People” and “Hope” poster campaigns and discussed how posters blur the boundaries between fine art and commercial art. Students had great ideas when asked how seeing posters during everyday life is different from seeking out art in traditional art spaces—a poster might catch your attention, suggest an idea, and stick in your mind even when you’re just walking around and going about your day, and many more people are likely to see posters in public than art pieces within the walls of art institutions.

Evelyn demonstrates propotion and placement of features

We discussed the power of an iconic image—bold, symbolic, and memorable—and of the use of a single word, as in Fairey’s well-known “Hope” poster. Students explained that boiling down one’s message to a single word can quickly catch viewers’ attention and convey the gist of a complex idea. This may prompt viewers to take action, consider a new perspective, or even do their own research on a topic, if the image and word are powerful enough to stick in their minds.

Student drawing in progress

Of course, we connected this conversation to this year’s ART YARD BKLYN theme: DO SOMETHING, the Year of Action. The goal of posters in the style of Fairey is to cause viewers to take action on a particular cause, or to provoke thought and reflection on otherwise unexamined ideas--one way or another, making a difference to viewers.

Student drawing in progress

For our project, I selected a range of significant people from the present or recent past, who all DID or DO SOMETHING in their respective fields, and a bank of corresponding words to inspire the viewers of students’ finished pieces. Students were randomly assigned a historical figure. Each received a printed reference image, edited to have stark light-dark contrasts (like many Fairey works), which they will use to create portraits from observation. 

Based on the general category of the historical figure’s work (artists, authors, scientists, and activists), students selected a single word from the word bank to pair with their portrait. Popular choices included “INSPIRE,” “CREATE,” “EMPOWER,” and “DISCOVER.” I instructed students in block lettering, and they successfully emblazoned their words across the lower portion of their posters.

Then, we dove into the most challenging aspect of this lesson: portrait drawing. I encouraged students to forget what they know about eyes, noses, mouths, etc. from emoji and cartoons, and instead look closely at their reference images to copy the specific shapes formed by light hitting their subject’s faces. Some students had drawn from observation before, and for others it was brand new— and students in all classes asked great questions when they were confused or stuck (a very important part of any art lesson). We began by marking the top of the head and the bottom of the chin, and then it was up to the students to sketch in the outlines of shapes of highlight and shadow.

Next week, students will finish their underdrawings and begin using acrylic paint to take their Fairey-esque portraits to the next level. I will unfortunately not be present for Week 2 due to a prior conflict, but I’ll be in close contact with Dennis and our wonderful volunteers during the week to ensure smooth sailing. I look forward to returning in Week 3 to see this fresh batch of bold, iconic, inspiring posters come to fruition.


Meet one of our two fantastic volunteers at PS 6,

our partnership school in Jersey City, Evelyn G. Ochoa.  

ART YARD Volunteer Intern Evelyn G. Ochoa

Dennis reports: "Evelyn is a junior at Fairleigh Dickinson University where she is studying graphic design.  She arrives each week with a big smile and always eager to begin our busy day by preparing the classroom and greeting the students at the door.  

Often, I tell new volunteers to "jump right in - I'm here to help you" but Evelyn didn't wait to hear that line.  She jumped right in as if she'd been working with us for years - and continues to participate with lots of energy during each class.  

It's a busy day at PS 6 - we host 3 classes with about 90 students in total - we manage our beautiful gallery located in the library, we clean brushes, sharpen pencils, support and encourage students, conduct critiques, review art work, patiently listen to students stories - all of which Evelyn takes part in...  and ends her day with the same smile she arrived with.  

Evelyn has volunteered before with fundraisers in the healthcare industry, speaks Spanish, and has extensive knowledge of Adobe programs.

If you're at PS 6 on a Friday, stop in room 314 and say hello to Evelyn!"


Other Art News


Last weekend, Vee, Evelyn and I (Meridith), joined for some of the day by Iviva went gallery hopping in lower Manhattan. With our well planned itinerary every stop was inspiring.  We started at Eric Firestone Gallery to view a large retrospective of work by artists from the Godzilla collective. I was thrilled to see the work of so many friends, and the eclectic range of style, medium and content insured there was something for everyone to love!

Works from both Godzilla installations


At Aicon Contemporary Gallery we were lured in by the hazy but precise painted portraits in Ahsan Memon / Shab.

Ahsan Memon, (left to right) Hope, 2023; Generous, 2023, Reawaken, 2024


Iviva and I noted that Seth Beckers paintings at Venus Over Manhattan Gallery were steeped in art historical references and highly skilled, while having a engaging sense of humor.

Seth Becker, (left to right) Batman's Living Room, 2023; A Dog's Dream, 2023; Acrobat, 2023; Antoine's Tiger, 2023



We finished the day a bit farther downtown in Chinatown at Helena Anrather Gallery LIMBO = Living Is My Best Option an excellent exhibition of paintings by Taylor Simmons, a friend of Ajani’s. We were pleased the artist was at the gallery and took the time to introduce ourselves and talk a bit with the artist.

Taylor Simmons, (left to right) Pull Apart, 2023; Black & Mild, 2024, Evelyn & Vee near Jessica at 3:00, 2024


Closing TOMORROW March 2, and well worth running uptown to David Nolan Gallery, (24 East 81st Street, 4th floor, Manhattan) see in person is Fort Marion and Beyond: Native American Ledger Drawings, 1865-1900 an exhibition of, as the press release explains, "over 100 works on paper that collectively demonstrate the preeminent importance of Plains pictographic art to the documentation, preservation and dissemination of the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the Native Americans of the Great Plains, and their essential but underrecognized contributions to the art history of the United States."

Ledger drawings, installation views and gallery staircase at David Nolan Gallery


Friday, March 1, 6-8pm you are invited to join ART YARD Artist Fatima Traore for the artist’s reception of her solo exhibition Vivid Lives at Rio lll Gallery, 898 St. Nicholas Avenue, 9th Floor, Manhattan.


Wednesday, March 6, 6-8pm!


Thursday March 7th join ART YARD Teaching Artist Mildred Beltré for the opening of Hit Me With Your Best Shot at Pen + Brush, 29 East 22nd Street, NY, NY!



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