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Talismanic Magic

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

On Monday in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom we explored the topic of Crystal Healing. Inspired by her own passion for crystals, ART YARD Artist Abby Johnson developed a sensational PowerPoint presentation sharing her own work as well as work by artists Wangechi Mutu, and Alexis Arnold, fashion designer Clio Peppiatt, and musician Jhene Aiko.

Alexis Arnold, Dancing On My Grave

Abby explains: “Crystal healing is a holistic and natural therapy that taps into the energetic power, using gemstones to bring balance to an individual's life and mind.

Crystals heal through the three following elements. Vibrational Balancing: Which means that they are able to move energy; Color Healing: Colors have been recognized for their healing since ancient times. Crystals add pops of color to spaces aiding in changes of mood and energy; and Talismanic Magic: When choosing to bring crystals into your life for specific intentions or goals, you transform that crystal into your personalized talisman. They’re also a reminder of those intentions and goals. Overall, the use of crystals and gems can help balance our lives, improve energies, help with healing, motivation, creativeness and so much more."

Abby presenting on zoom

Abby asked us to create an artwork in the materials of our choice based around crystal healing that the world may need -- environmental, social, political, personal, etc.

Abby’s two pieces address poverty, homelessness and life on skid row. During critique Maraya compared Abby's piece to the artwork of one of her favorite artists, Henry Taylor.

Abby Johnson, Crystal Healing, Skid Row I, digital drawing

Abby Johnson, Crystal Healing, Skid Row II, digital drawing

Henry Taylor, Untitled painting

Vera’s digital drawing tackles the topic of justice, with each element filled with particular crystals.

Vera Tineo, Crystal Healing, digital drawing

Ifeoma who zoomed in from her office got very creative with her materials using crushed Jolly Rancher candy to represent crystals. The arrows direct the energy flow in or out.

Ifeoma Emeh, Crystal Healing, mixed media collage

Both Marilyn and Maraya chose to work with new materials and in unfamiliar styles. Marilyn’s abstraction is reminiscent of the work of master artist, (one of my favorites!), Beauford Delaney, while Maraya created a lovely oil pastel drawing of a row of healing stones.

Marilyn August, Crystal Healing, rock salt and watercolor on paper

Beauford Delaney, Scattered Light, 1964; oil on canvas, 39 by 24 inches

Maraya Lopez, Crystal Healing, oil pastel

Imala started with the personally significant talisman of a symbolic heart. Her collage is a layer of heart shaped crystals selected for their individual properties and her hands.

Imala Davenport, Crystal Healing, digital drawing

Meridith depicts a rock given to her by her great aunt (who explained it had been a gift from Meridith’s mother). Fellow ART YARD Artist Marie Roberts identified the piece as Apatite a gemstone believed to enhance insight, creativity and learning.

Meridith McNeal, Crystal Healing, cut paper, watercolor, glitter and Jade glue

Kevin shares: "I remember visiting a beach in Long Island on a school field trip. It was so clean that the water was transparent, and I could find whole sea shells. So I wanted to capture that same memory, and drew glowing crystals in the sand, as well as washing up in the shore. I felt that the radiating energy that crystals emit, as Abby described, adds to the scenery".

Kevin Anderson, Crystal Healing, oil pastel

Karla writes: “I was most inspired by the works of Mutu and the way she incorporated faces and the human body in her organic compositions. Also, the tones of the crystallized books by Alexis Arnold. I cut circular and organic patterns in ivory paper; then selected handmade paper with fragments reminding me of the crystal surfaces and cut pieces from old medical journals with crystal type surfaces. Great lesson Abby and such interesting pieces!!!”

Karla Prickett, Crystal Healing, collage on handmade paper

Abby sums up the session: “The Crystal Healing session went just as expected! When discussing crystals and engaging in crystal healing I feel grounded and refreshed. This is what the session felt like in a therapeutic setting, as we discussed topics of healing all together. Connecting Crystal representation with topics each individual highlighted or resonated with was interesting to see as it gave a glimpse of our hearts and whats important to us. I admire how brave the class was to express and open up! Moreover, sharing the work created in this session felt like being in a beautiful crystal shop; when you see a gem, then read the description/healing properties of it. We shared our images, inspiration and our chosen crystal - enchanting."


On Tuesday, April 11, Teaching Artist Iviva Olenick led an Advanced Studio in person session as an AYB collaboration with Iviva's ongoing Stitchcraft project centering people with wombs and the environment by reviving handcrafts and plant-based medicinal and folk knowledge. Stitchcraft emphasizes the role of contemporary craft in social activism, and the importance of reviving traditional forms of making and materials within the context of communal circles – psychic and physical spaces where women and people with wombs have traded health- and life-saving information for centuries, often plant- and folk wisdom-based. Sessions include all-genders and forms of craft with introductory embroidery lessons.

Home Brew Healthcare. 2022. Embroidery & beading on fabric dyed & printed with marigolds & indigo leaves.

Iviva explains: “In this session, I led students in creating a basic stitch sampler and demonstrated how to use these to write letters and words, and make linear and more voluminous drawings. The class met in person in BWAC's Red Hook lofts with people simultaneously zooming in from around the country. We were thrilled to greet some new faces from Brooklyn and beyond.

Iviva demonstrated techniques simultaneously in person and on zoom.

Mei Gian-Nguyen, Stitchcraft panel in progress

Meridith McNeal, Stitchcraft panel in progress

Vera Tineo, Stitchcraft panel in progress

Taeja Chin, Stitchcraft panel in progress

Karla Prickett, Stitchcraft panel in progress

Iviva Olenick, Stitchcraft sample panels

While on zoom, participants shared other craftworks in progress, including a quilt documenting senators' abortion attitudes incorporating early 1900s quilt block patterns from each state. I also introduced the performance and quilting work of artist Georgia Lale, and shared a history of embroidery samplers from her years of teaching.

StitchCraft Artist Ethany Uttech is making a quilt documenting senators' abortion attitudes using "heritage" quilt patterns from a 1976 book. The editors compiled quilt patterns which were selected from quilters' submissions from each state to Hearth & Home magazine in the early 1900s, and published each month in the magazine from 1907–1912. As Ethany and I discussed on Tuesday, the quilters were never identified. They would have been readers of the magazine, and were likely middle class white women (although we have no documentation for this).”

Ethany Uttech, Quilt detail in progress

Marilyn adds: "Living in California, I have been unable to participate in the Tuesday evening, in-person ART YARD classes at BWAC. What a bonus it was to be able to join Iviva’s embroidery lesson that she streamed live from Brooklyn! With Iviva’s projection camera, she was able to demonstrate stitches and narrate the steps so that viewers could learn and have a close-up view. I thought it worked really well, and Iviva was very receptive to repeating the demos. I hope there will be more opportunities for “distance learning” at ART YARD. It is a great way to learn new skills."


ART YARD Managing Director Dennis Buonagura reports: “NYC and Jersey City public schools were closed for Spring break this week and I took the opportunity to plan out next week's lessons. Teaching Artist Fatima Traore and I are developing ART YARD Art Matters partnership lessons on perspective (using Van Gogh's "Bedroom in Arles" as a teaching sample) for The East New York High School of Arts and Civics - and a lesson called Nature In Flight for our next cycle with PS 6.

At PS 17, in Jersey City, 7th and 8th graders are working diligently on creating backdrop designs and logo/poster ideas for their school production of The Lion King. Licensing with Disney prohibits us from using their logo (yellow background - lion face - Lion King text) so I show students examples of other theatrical productions for inspiration. It's important for the students to find various components associated with the story in order to develop original ideas and images. Text is not always required - and I'd personally prefer to not have any text. This could be a bit of a challenge for those students who have never seen a Broadway production and only associate with ads for movies. For this week, I chose images from Camelot (current Lincoln Center Theatre revival) and Champion (a new opera at The Metropolitan Opera) for different reasons.

Camelot 2023 Playbill & current Lincoln Center Theatre Review cover

The cover art for the Camelot playbill (principal poster artist: James McMullan) depicts the castle high atop a hill with King Arthur and Queen Guenevere's royal domain below - bits taken from the show's lyrics and overall an audience member's vision of what Camelot might look like (well, at least, mine!). The Lincoln Center Theater Review magazine has a cover design by Nick Psomiadis with a different point of view - the interior of a castle or an abbey. Text helps - yes - but once seeing the show, totally not needed.

The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Champion (Terence Blanchard's contemporary opera about a boxer) has several 'logos' seen around town. The cover to the Playbill is simply a photograph by Zenith Richards - which characterizes a pivotal scene and character development. The poster hanging outside the opera house is by artist Chase Hall - even without the text, one would recognize the production. Inside the opera house, the scrim (seen before the curtain goes up) is by set designer Allen Moyer - once again illustrating the story before even a note is heard.

Designs from Metropolitan Opera's new production of Champion

I intend to also show some of Paul Davis' works - his posters became iconic images for theatrical productions - most especially his work for the 1976 production of "Threepenny Opera '' showing actor Raul Julia as Mack The Knife.

Paul Davis, Threepenny Opera poster

I am open for suggestions for other images that you think might be helpful in my quest to help the students create unique and hopefully one day iconic designs.

Here’s to a successful next week!"


Other Art News

George Floyd Memorial Square – Minneapolis, Minnesota, 13 April, 2023

by ART YARD Artist Ed Rath

"It’s hard to believe almost three years have passed since George Floyd was murdered in front of Cup Foods in South Minneapolis. Immediately following this atrocity, community protests spread like wildfire all around the world, even as Covid-19 ravaged the planet. Activists in Minneapolis, outraged at the injustice of it all, commandeered the intersection where the dastardly deed took place, and erected a spontaneous tribute to Mr. Floyd. Comprised of murals, portraits, floral arrangements, political writings, sculptures, complete with prayer kneelers at the centerpiece, the activists created a unique body of artwork, poignant and raw, that expresses unequivocally the pain of a people too long mistreated.

When I first saw the Memorial in October of 2022, I was struck by the intensity and sheer volume of artwork on display. The images were heartbreaking to behold - shocking, somber, and unreal. They express well the suffering endured, the nonsensical, and unnecessary cruelty that the community witnessed, their sadness and grief. The frustration that things never really seem to change.

George Floyd Memorial Square, October 2022. Photos by Ed Rath (use arrows to scroll)

As the bitter winter of 2022-23 comes to an end, people are adding new artworks to the array, keeping the memory of George Floyd and countless other victims of racial injustice alive. May we all find the strength to fight for justice, and do our part to make the world a better place.

George Floyd Square, April 2023. Photos by Ed Rath.


ART YARD Artist Quentin Williamston enthusiastically recommends Myself When I Am Real, an exhibition featuring renowned artist Barkley L. Hendricks’ photographic work on view at Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street, Chelsea, NYC through May 26, 2023.

"Barkley L. Hendricks was known to wear his camera around his neck like an extension of himself. Most people associate the artist with his paintings that gracefully embody the Black experience in America." Briana Ellis-Gibbs, Hyperallergic

Barkley L. Hendricks, Untitled (Self-Portrait), 1975

Quentin writes: "To be honest, this exhibition is iconic and not to be missed."



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