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Slow Looking, Taking Time to See

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

ART YARD Artist Maraya Lopez present a session titled Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets ( A closer look at the work of Sophia Narrett) for ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom in which we made artwork inspired by the hand-stitched embroidered work of Sophia Narrett, as well as actual birds’ nests.

Sophia Narrett, So Many Hopes, 2016-17, Embroidery Thread, Aluminum, and Fabric, 33 x 53”

Maraya recounts: “This week in Advanced Studio, I took the class on a journey through the meticulously, embroidered works of Sophia Narrett. Narrett’s exhibition, “Carried by Wonder” was recently on view at Perrotin Gallery in NYC. Each of the six works on display were hand embroidered by the artist over the course of one year. All are impressive through skill, composition and visual narratives that weave in and out of the work, leaving the viewer perplexed by the ambiguity of the open - ended stories. What is going on in each scene is a mystery, yet we know romantic relationships are involved. However, a deeper meaning or secret is intricately woven into the work, amongst the many floating nudes, roller skates, Victorian houses or haunted houses and lush scenes of floral gardens. The compositions are rich in color, line and movement. I agree with Ed who pointed out in our discussion the work is reminiscent of Van Gogh. Narrett pushes the boundaries of physical space and Western conventions of the square format of an artwork. Her pieces float off the wall, threads hang in every direction – and as such they reminded me of birds’ nests. They are imperfect in their form and perfect in their craft and execution.

Maraya presents work by Sophia Narrett on zoom

The largest birds nest made by a North American bird is the Eagle’s nest. They can weigh up to 1.1 tons!!

The class created artworks based on Narrett’s work and birds’ nests. I suggested that the piece should contain a narrative into their pieces that exposed a secret, but not necessarily personal. Questions I posed to help inspire the artwork were: 1) What does a nest mean to you? 2) What does a secret mean to you? 3) Should a secret be exposed or kept private?

Kevin showed us a picture he took of an actual birds’ nest he saw in Brooklyn. It was quite astonishing to see and looked incongruous on the busy streets of Brooklyn but birds will be birds. He tapped into the experience of seeing that nest for his drawing.

Kevin Anderson, bird nest photo & Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets

Ed’s piece was inspired by the story of Sinbad from his reading of “Arabian Nights.” His green and pink color palette calmed the scene of the petrified bird with panicked eyes being forced out of the sky by a much smaller human.

Ed Rath, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets, Sinbad and the Roc

Karla and Marilyn both employed meticulous line work into their pieces and were reminiscent of birds’ nests. Marilyn’s inclusion of gold coins added a playful and magical quality to her drawing. Karla’s use of plastic thread added an interesting sheen to the work, evocative of sun shining warm on a birds nest.

Karla Prickett, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets

Marilyn August, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets

Ifoema’s piece stole the show!!! Her use of mixed - media, including natural herbs brought to mind, Earth Mother / Mother Earth (this semester’s ART YARD theme).

Ifoma Emeh, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets

Meridith’s started her piece during the session which consisted of two cut and shaped paper forms, one of a paper bird and the other, a paper nest, had the class wondering how she would put it together. I can’t wait to see it!

Meridith McNeal, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets

My (Maraya) piece was an abstract nest, made from Brooklyn Rail newspapers, spray paint and tape. In the center of the composition is a braid made of paper, inspired by a secret my mother told me as she braided my hair as a child.

Maraya Lopez, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets

Sigrid’s graphite drawing blew me away! A little girl is seen at loom weaving the message, "Hidden In Plain Sight". Her piece captured the essence of the lesson like a dream."

Sigrid writes: "Hidden In Plain Sight depicting girl with loom weaving a secret message into the fabric is inspired by steganography which is “the practice of concealing information within another message or physical object to avoid detection” and the idea that “the letter is hidden in plain sight” (secret) and the weaving of fabric rather than a nest which have similar functions of concealing and protection! "

Sigrid Dolan, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets, Hidden In Plain Sight

Vera’s witty play on the word nest and the “Nest” surveillance product had the class laughing and sparked our intrigue about the product.

Vera Tineo, Slow Looking, Reveals Secrets

Karla adds: Thank you for the lesson, Maraya! I was inspired by the sewn surface textures and trailing root-like lines in Sophia Narrett’s works. Also, when you began the presentation you mentioned our common origins with the parallel to eagles’ nests and nests in general. I was intrigued by the deep vertical nest. I decided to incorporate an egg created with vintage postage stamps depicting mother and child, nurturing, and “caring for”. Also brought to mind the term “empty nester/s” when offspring begin their own journeys. This lesson brought memories of learning basic embroidery from my mother and spending hours with enjoy “sewing cards”


This week ART YARD Advanced Studio in person at BWAC was the first of a three-part series of sessions presented by ART YARD Teaching Artist Vera Tineo. Vera prepared a PowerPoint introducing us to mono-printing techniques, sharing the work of several artists as inspiration. Abby, Jules and I were particularly keen to see the mono-types by Degas! A surprising departure from his work with which we were most familiar.

Edgar Degas, La Route, 1878, monotype

Vera summarizes: “I really enjoyed teaching mono printing techniques to my fellow ART YARD Artists! Our group this week had a range of knowledge about the medium from novice to experienced. I found this range kept me alert to process and possibilities. My goal for the session was to encourage experimentation and exploration. In fact, I think it was the willingness of the group to experiment and adapt methods as they created that proved the most thrilling and ultimately successful part of the session.

There are two main process students used to explore the process of print an image: additive which is building color working like a painting and reductive the process of removing color from an inked surface to develop the image. I precut a large sheet of plexiglass to be used as plates, on those we worked with a limited color range. Artists were encouraged to make as many prints as time allowed, trying new methods and reacting to their previous pieces as they went. We discovered that we have fantastic color mixer in our group, and sharing palettes proved an excellent way to enhance that aspect of our prints.”

Evelyn Beliveau, Monotypes

Ajani Russell, Monotypes

Jules Lorenzo, Monotypes

Sade Keinu Austin, Monotypes

Meridith McNeal, Monotypes

Abby Johnson, Monotypes

Vera Tineo, Monotypes

In subsequent sessions on May 2 and May 9 we will use these techniques to create mono-types exploring the theme of Earth Mother / Mother Earth. For the upcoming sessions Vera has asked us to think about these questions:

· How does being in NYC affect how we see and interact with nature?

· What are parts of mother earth that are most vulnerable?

· What is your relationship to the non-manufactured world (nature)?

In the final session one of our pieces will be a large scale collaborative monotype. To enhance that project, Vera asks that we collect natural materials such as leaves and other flat(ish) items as well as fabric and/or paper which is printed with text.


Teaching artist Fatima Traore brought students on a journey from Planet Earth to Planet Art in her smart lesson "Remastering The Masters". Dennis writes: “At The East New York School of Arts and Civics, Fatima's presentation of works of the masters included "The Scream" by Edvard Munch (which everyone recognized - and loved), Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and "Bedroom In Arles", and the Vermeer "Girl With The Pearl Earring" amongst several others.

Fatima discussed perspective (mostly during the "Bedroom In Arles" viewing) and Seurat's practice of pointillism to create "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte" (the image was enlarged on the smartboard to show detail - lots of oohs and aahs from the class).

Sabrina and Anaya are working collaboratively on Starry Night - two separate pieces but will ultimately be combined. Rah-nee’s piece will be an updated Mona Lisa - and Elizabeth chose Bedroom in Arles and plans to spruce up the decor to a contemporary glam. Inez selected Frida Kahlo's self-portrait with her cat and is transforming it to a self portrait of Inez with her little Yorkie HAZEL (I was happy to hear her dog's name!).

This week was the drawing stage using only pencil and large sized paper. Fatima's lesson is set for completion with acrylic paint - but sometimes lesson plans take different turns during drafting stages. Fatima's considering having students create collages instead of paintings. Let's see what next week brings - and WE'D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR OPINIONS!”


"How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice."

Managing Director Dennis Buonagura tells us: “LOTS of practicing going on at PS 17 in Jersey City.

Lion King rehearsal in session at PS 17

Teaching Artist Fatima Traore and I sat in on another rehearsal of The Lion King at PS 17, one of our partnership schools in Jersey City, which proved beneficial all around. While in the mask planning stages, I thought it was important to see performers in action in order to understand how they move (and how WILL they move while wearing masks?). We chatted with director Maya Reyes and assistant director and dance captain Chani "Charles" Ouchani about placement of the backdrop, locations of props, and the choreography/mask matter. Fatima brought a very excellent question to light - she observed that during one dance segment, performers wave their arms over their heads and asked "how will this work with Julie Taymor style masks being worn ABOVE the head?". Everyone looked at each other thinking "we never thought of THAT!". This resulted in our need to create sample masks QUICKLY for try-outs. See what happens when you ask smart questions, Fatima!!

I went up on the stage with art teacher Ralph Pyranowski to survey the space to make final decisions about the size of the canvas needed. Neither of us are tall enough so thank goodness for old style metal tape measures (I know, I know - we should invest in one of those laser type measuring gadgets). Now to decide on the type of canvas and paints to use. Ralph and I made decisions on how and where the backdrop will be hung but needed to keep in mind where the action will take place as well as the ingress/egress of performers (who will use only one side of the stage for both).

Chani sent me images of the T-shirts and pants that were ordered for students to wear during the performance and asked that the colors of our masks coordinate. GREAT idea - we'd been working on colors already but now need to veer in a different direction.

Fatima created a gorgeous sample mask painting (keep in mind - all of the masks designs created by the students are being made into paintings/color-pencil drawings as well) to inspire students. Of course (as expected), one eighth grader asked if I was the model for Fatima's painting (ha ha - aren't eighth graders comical?). Fatima's sample also helped express the idea about logo design - meaning: every image need not be of a lion. One of our big challenges is getting students to NOT think of the animated Disney film and create designs suitable for a theatrical production. We're getting there - but it's hard to erase Disney from their minds.

Fatima Traore, Mask Painting

Higher grade students worked with Fatima on mask designs; lower grades continued adding color to their African pattern pieces (using brightly colored markers) and the after school students finished up their set design pieces. Once the canvas arrives, the after school students will start drawing and painting in large (very large) scale. Students work on their pieces even on the days that we are not at the school - the clock is ticking and the first performance of The Lion King is June 14th with still lots to do! Next up - prop design and execution.”


NYC and Jersey City schools were closed on Friday in celebration of Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan, marked by breaking the fast) - thus, no classes at PS 6, our partnership school in Jersey City. Fatima and Dennis took advantage of the time to further develop their upcoming lesson for entitled (well, it presently has 2 titles - we need to zero in on just 1) "Nature Takes Flight" or "Flying Powers". Students will explore Planet Earth through birds and insects that have the ability to take flight unlike other creatures that make up the majority of the animal world of our planet.

Dennis explains: “Preparation for our lessons involve selecting proper images for inspiration and guidance - and developing a PowerPoint or slide show as a presentation. We also often hang prints around our art room for further artistic encouragement. Additionally, discussions include decisions about types of paper to use, materials to use, "to cut or not to cut, that is the question" (understandably an issue with lower grades - meaning should Dennis and Fatima and Sarah do the cutting or allow the students to use up their valuable classroom time to do so?), and sending our presentation to the teachers and school administration in advance to prepare for the first day of a new cycle.

So much for a day off!”


Other Art News

Please join ART YARD Artist Maraya Lopez for her open studio April 22 & 23!


ART YARD Artist Delphine Levenson shares her latest drawing:

Delphine Levenson, Candy Mouths


Congratulations to ART YARD Artist Rachael Wren on a fantastic review in Art Spiel of her exhibition Site Lines on view at The Shirley Project Space 609 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn through May 12, 2023.


Georgia O’Keeffe: It Takes Time To See on view at MoMA through August 12, 2023 is not to be missed. I was astonished at her masterful use of materials as evidenced in the work on view – charcoal, watercolor, oil paint, chalk, and oil pastel! There is a vitrine of her materials that made it all the more visceral a response. A photograph of her at painting with the same paint box seen a foot-or-so away was thrilling to look at.

Georgia O'Keeffe's art supplies

Georgia O'Keeffe, Evening Star variations

In many cases the work on view was shown in variants which gives us insight into her process. Several pieces about the Evening Star enchanted me. However it was four portraits of Beauford Delaney that stopped me in my tracks. Gorgeous, lovingly rendered, seeming to capture his often noted sparkling personality, I felt like I was meeting two friends -- artist mentors who shaped the artist I am today.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Portraits of Beauford Delaney


I am pleased to have my exhibition at FiveMyles cited in Untapped New York’s piece: 10 Public Installations to See in NYC in April.

ART YARD Artist Emma E. (age 8) made a promo video for my exhibition!



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