Renewed Passport

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

This week I taught a session called Renewed Passport for ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom. My theme of travel was spurred on by many things including Wayne’s recent trip to Rio, a conversation with Naya and Abby about places we have traveled to (Las Vegas and Paris respectively) and my own current conundrum trying to reschedule my big solo exhibition in Venice, Italy -- dates, schedules, finances, my expired passport in the unclearly timed renewal phase and uncertain world situation all factors in the puzzle.


Meridith McNeal, Renewed Passport, Venice

I started the session sharing images of vintage travel posters & souvenir maps, as well as travel related art by John Singer Sargent, Joseph Cornell, Maira Kalman and Carrie Mae Weems (examples in that order below).



Participating artists were asked to consider what place called to them with a siren call. Perhaps a place they hope to revisit or a new location all together. To think about images that might identify the place, and finally what obstacles they might need to overcome.


Ed Rath took his inspiration from Grant Wood’s painting Stone City Iowa, 1930. Ed’s collage created in our working hour fascinated all of us and spurred on a great discussion about how we all learn from other artists, and the significant power of creating your own version of a master work.



Then Ed worked an additional SIX hours on his piece! The results are simply stunning!!


Ed Rath, Renewed Passport, Stone City, Iowa after Grant Wood

Also staying in the U.S., Naya conjured up Hawaii. Which, as Vera pointed out in critique, evoked those alluring travel posters we viewed at the start of class.


Naya Jackson, Renewed Passport, Hawaii

Zeke drew a beautiful English seaside scene with elegant and deliberate line work.


Zeke Brokaw, Renewed Passport, English Seaside

Air travel featured in Abby Johnson’s depiction of Greece, Delphine Levenson’s mixed media Parisian work and Marilyn August’s collage of Italy. (Shown in that order below.)



Madison, Sarah and Vera are hearing the call to explore Japan. All three included images of iconic and delicious Japanese food.


Madison Mack, Renewed Passport, Japan

Sarah Gumgumji, Renewed Passport, Japan

Vera Tineo, Renewed Passport, Japan

Around the World in one hour – Wayne treated us to a beautiful travel log and Nayarit feverishly worked in her sketchbook completing eight pages of drawings.


Wayne Gross, Renewed Passport, Around the World

Nayarit Tineo, Renewed Passport, Around the World


I regularly send out Sunday evening reminders about the classes for the week ahead. Karla referenced this practice in her text about her completed piece which in a twist on the lesson explores the notion of Time Travel!


Karla writes: “I was a bit perplexed with the lesson prompt on Sunday. Then I thought about how people are now often saying, “I wish things (we) could go back to normal!” That phrase “go back” kept playing in my head and I thought it might be someplace desirable to go. Time travel was where I landed: 1915 and 1935 newspaper clip outs, a childhood pastel drawing aged from isolated attic display and an aeronautical flight map and its KANSAS graphic. I liked the travel posters and wanted to reference their poster-like format. The figures seemed dressed to go places!!"


Karla Prickett, Renewed Passport, Kansas Time Travel

What location are you dreaming of?!


 

While moving forward with their diptychs of healing and restoring oceans and protecting sea life, students participating in ART YARD Art Matters at Brooklyn New School acquired lots of new skills.


Welcome to the ART YARD classroom at BNS

Dennis reports: “Teaching Artist Fatima Traore demonstrated several watercolor painting techniques - and the students jumped at the chance to apply what they’d learned.



Dottie read our lists of sea creatures and items which are dangerous to them aloud to the class (for some students, it was their first day with this new group) and everyone came up with more new ideas.



Zoe was using black watercolor paint that just didn’t seem the right kind of black that she wanted ….. so, Fatima explained how water works with paint and let Zoe experiment for herself. Add more water? Use less water? Maybe just a tiny drop of water? No water? Zoe “tested the water” and found exactly what she wanted. Success!



Their pieces will ultimately become colorful watercolor diptychs - although a variety of color processes are being used (paint and brush, watercolor pencil and brush, watercolor pencils and wet fingers, and regular colored pencils for details).



Sophia (BNS), Underwater Creature

A discussion about the different blues, grays, greens, and browns found when painting water was lively and well participated. Max G. used a silver gray watercolor pencil with excellent results while Max L. tried several blues and greens.


Time flies by very quickly in this after school program - and each week, the works are enhanced while learning new techniques and having in-depth discussions about our theme.”


 

We reached a new depth of concentration and camaraderie this week in ART YARD Advanced Studio at BWAC!


Arriving for the evening at our home base in Red Hook:


Ed compliments and expounds upon the session, the artists involved and their work: "In her recent ART YARD Advanced Studio at BWAC lesson series Candy encouraged us to look for images where ever we may find them. To this end she had us working from photographs, memory, observation, dreams, reflections, and other artists' work, noting: "Nothing is off limits."


Advanced Studio Artists at work in our studio at BWAC

The instrument we use to gather and record ideas and images is the Artist's Sketchbook. Armed with this portable tool we jot down thoughts and pictures from that great oracle of creativity, The Stream of Consciousness. These bytes are later processed and composed into larger compositions. That's the process we tap into when making art.


The group observed how Abby, in a riveting new version of last week's drawing of the stone arched window, added reflections in dark tones which re-centered the focus of the picture to a mysterious miasma of shadowy origin. Her understated use of warm and cool tones transformed her unassuming rendering into a portal to the unknown.


Abbrielle Johnson, Watercolor from Sketchbook drawing, in progress

Likewise, Vera used multiple techniques of layering light colors over dark, followed by dark over light, to create a strange glow that pulls the viewer into her subway/bus phantasm.


Vera using a music stand as an easel

Ijenna's richly textured ink drawing, judiciously tinted with light blue watercolor, softly beckons the viewer into her timeless, dream-like space.


Ed explained how he uses the grid process to help him balance his large compositions. Candy add that using a grid helps with accuracy in transferring small drawings to larger formats. Ed noted that in architectural drawing, the use of rulers is allowed.


Ed Rath, Watercolor from Sketchbook drawing (detail)

Robin drew a scene of a crowd of people at the Museum of Modern Art, standing in front of a bold, calligraphic mural on the museum wall. Robin's composition utilizes a severe horizontal line to divide the composition into two zones: the painted wall at the top and the the floor space below. At the end of the session Robin mentioned she has been inspired by Franz Kline's black and white gestural works. She also mentioned that she often works through the night on her paintings with a feverish intensity. Robin is truly inspired!"


Candy reflects upon the session: "We continued the focus of investigating healing ourselves as artists. The activity is to create a watercolor/ pen and ink drawing based on images from our sketchbooks. We were reminded that artists are healers and are, therefore, designed to be more sensitive. It’s been a tough world, of late and we need to take especially good care of ourselves.


Several people expressed the ways in which they beat themselves up: “This work is not good. I’m not good enough. Other people are more talented than I am..” The focus this week was to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others! “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, put your oxygen mask on yourselves before helping others.”


Candy Heiland, Watercolor from Sketchbook drawing

The lesson continues to be on process, not product; developing skills to keep ourselves on our path. How do we find inspiration? Where do we gather images for our work? How do We record ideas? What keeps us moving? There was a lovely interchange of ideas and acknowledgement of the value of human interaction. This has been a series of lessons designed to compound on one another; to lure you into an investigation of techniques to create a lifelong commitment to your work; to keep your inspiration fresh and alive.”


Advanced Studio critique in action

The dialogue while we worked was both therapeutic and fun. So much so that our fascinating, erudite conversation during critique absorbed so much of my attention that I neglected to take photos of the work created in the session. Luckily Candy had a photo of her first piece, and Ed and Abby took working snapshots. Something to look forward to in next week's recap!


 

Other Art News:


Vera, Nayarit, Candy and I had an NYC ART DAY and we highly recommend all of the exhibitions we visited: Etel Adnan and Wassily Kandinsky at the Guggenheim; Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and their contemporaries in Modern Worlds: Austrian and German Art, 1890–1940 at Neue Galerie.


A highlight of this stop of the day was Vera squealing out loud and bounding towards Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (also called The Lady in Gold or The Woman in Gold), seeing it in person for the first time.


Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1903-1907

All of these exhibitions are exceptional, but most especially so is the large solo show Winfred Rembert at Fort Gansevoort Gallery. Three floors of expertly hung, deeply moving, carved and painted leather works. If this work is not a testament to the healing power of art, I don’t know what is.


Nayarit wondered out loud why the Winfred Rembert exhibition was not packed with viewers because it is THAT great. Head over to see it before it closes on December 15th!


Winfred Rembert, All Me, 2002; Dye on carved and tooled leather; 25 x 25 inches

ART YARD Artist Nayarit Tineo reflects upon our outing: “The whole day was a rollercoaster of emotions. Thrilled to see wonderful pieces among people that were in awe with it too. At the Neue Gallerie, all our reactions were just “wow” as we gracefully stared at the art work and being able to see it in person like never before. Looking at the pieces from the mediums, the textures and frames that they had, which are not seen in pictures. It was great as we were able to see inspiration in some of the pieces and compare some of the artwork we have done to those admired on the wall. Beautiful wallets, jewelry and kitchen appliances that I was captivated in wanting them all, if only we can buy them . Maybe one day, a girl can dream.


We left Neue Gallerie with our hearts full, wondering the history, culture and resilience of each piece we saw. We walked through Central Park with a rich conversation from Meridith have her schedule planned out to see as much art today to future endeavors to see art again. Vera saying it’s been awhile not going to galleries or Central Park and her desire to come back once again and Candy saying she was inspired by Vera’s artist instinct to take out a sketchbook in the gallery to capture her thoughts and ideas. We shared giggles the whole day, warming the heart.


(Meridith interjects: Along our walk Vera noticed this pertinent stickered and grafittied advertisement!)



Winfred Rembert’s pieces were beautiful and heart-aching to see. Powerful in storytelling and capturing his narrative, you can see the horror and cruelty in the pieces and Winfred’s journey through the system and himself. Brought me to tears as those wooden craved pieces takes you through his life, his experience, and his wounds. Captivating pieces that are thought provoking, horrific images that make you rethink more about the prison system and society.



We ended our day with a wonderful meal. We continued with our hearts filled with emotions at the table of what the pieces taught us today of the work, of ourselves and of each other. We were open to one another and everyone around us as we were so grateful to have the day with one another. We were open to what the day could bring us as we already had an amazing day so far. From a kind waiter that was an artist, himself to discuss our menu with us to two completely strangers to stop by and share their story with us. Roberto entertaining us with his clever jokes and charm and his passionate to the neighborhood to Randy and his sweet companion, Izzy, the dog, to talk about life and the kindness of people. The day ended great, even our last waitress appreciated Vera’s mini train print and was thrilled to have one. We realized how our choices in seeing the day through gratitude with one another and sharing art like we always do brought us a lot of joy to each other and an endless possibilities throughout the day.”


Vera, Izzy and Randy at Pastis

Candy puts her spin the day: “Meridith planned an absolutely magical day. We met at the Guggenheim to see the Etel Adnan. It was good, but it was the Wassily Kandinsky show that blew me away! I’ve only ever seen his work in reproductions and always loved it. In person, the subtle color shifts of the backgounds and the sheer variety of images left me in wide-eyed wonder!


Wassily Kandinsky, Little Accents (Petits accents), 1940

Next, onto the Neue Galerie. Possibly, my favorite artists are the German Expressionists - artists working as Hitler rose to power in Germany, specifically, the Neue Sachlichkeit, (new objectivity). Their works lined the walls. Vera had her sketchbook out and it inspired me to do the same. I didn’t draw, I made notes: What was touching my heart? What inspired me most? What did I want to investigate in my own work? I was especially moved by the Egon Schiele figure studies. In the bookstore, I was caught by a little sketchbook of his on display in a glass case. The sales girl saw me staring at it. “It’s an exact replica, limited edition. Would you like to look at it?” It cost $480 and I declined. She took a copy of this 4” x 6” book out of her drawer and handed it to me, anyway, not to sell me, but to share this thing she loved. I perused, transfixed. There were little thumbnail sketches, scrawled into little boxes to define the separate images and handwritten notes in the margins. They closely resembled the sketchbooks we are doing in the advanced classes.

Then, onto the Winfred Rembert show in the meat market. The tooled leather pieces bore deeply into my opened heart. His depictions of being in prison and having nearly been lynched were all the more powerful with his unique and untrained eye. His life story jumped off the walls as we walked through the exposed brick rooms on wooden plank floors of the 19th century house.

Lastly, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Pastis. Sitting in the outdoor dining, under heaters, we were warmed by our little, inspired group. We commented on the wardrobe of a man as he passed. He stopped to regale us with stories of his meetings with Mayor Bloomberg to enlist him to the cause of designating the meat-market an historic district. Doing so, prevented Hudson Yards from being built near this wonderful old New York neighborhood. His name is Roberto Monticello, “The Mayor of Meatpacking”. Look him up! He’s on a mission to turn the meatpacking district into an arts district. We started a conversation with another man named Randy, whose dog stopped to look for scraps. The little canine belonged to a woman, now in a nursing home, who he had met panhandling. She gave him odd jobs to do and he continues to care for the dog while other plans are being made. His warm and loving spirit added to the amazing day!

We walked to the subway, confessing that it was a perfect adventure. Back home, my husband asked how my day went. I responded with a one-word answer, Magical!”


 

Speaking of sketchbooks, ART YARD Artist Robin Grant shared a link to a video about The Sketch Book Project, a very cool collaborative public sketchbook library that you too can participate in!


Screenshot of Brooklyn Art Library website

 

Happy travels, in mind, art and imagination!



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