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The Inner Landscape

In ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom this week Teaching Artist Maraya Lopez presented a session titled: The Inner Landscape: Reclusiveness versus Togetherness in which we explored the concepts of Reclusion, Solitude and Togetherness through the lens of late Seventeenth Century Chinese landscape painting and philosophy. We looked specifically at the landscapes of Gong Xian. Xian’s landscape paintings and poetry are part of a larger exhibition at The Met Museum titled, Companions in Solitude: Reclusion and Communion in Chinese Art.

Gong Xian, Landscapes and Trees, 1679

Gong Xian, Landscapes with poems, 1688

Maraya summarizes: “Our society places much emphasis on the idea of togetherness since the time we are born. People are around us at birth, growing up, there are family holidays if your family celebrates them and lots of family and friends are usually around to help celebrate. Then, most of us are forced into crowded schools for the next 10-15 years of our lives. After that, we join the job market where we are pressured to be a part of a team to obtain the most production for the company we work for. Then, most of us are expected to settle down and have a family to continue the family lineage. This is seen as the proper thing to do in America. Does the idea of “togetherness” belong only to the American ideology or is this a deeper quest for humanity at large?

We started the class in small groups discussing whether we saw ourselves more as reclusive or sociable beings. Most of the students said that they were both. At times they enjoyed being around people but there were moments where solitude was enjoyed. We also discussed what it might be like if we were exiled from our own country. Many talked about loneliness and aloneness and the difference between the two.

The class focused on the idea of reclusiveness as practiced by the Nanjing School of Chinese landscape painters in the late Seventeenth Century. The painters lived through the political fall of the Ming Dynasty and into the new ruling power of the Qing Dynasty. Gong Xian, one of the school’s leading artists was forced into exile and retreated into nature to live and paint in solitude. As a loyal supporter of the Ming Dynasty, he would live the rest of his life authoring Anti-Qing works and developing his “Jimo” (piled ink) technique.

For the assignment, students were asked to create a landscape painting based on the ideas of reclusiveness, exile, and their own inner feelings. Students studied the brushstrokes and marks in Gong Xian’s work and were encouraged to experiment with similar mark making to obtain a sense of melodic rhythm throughout their compositions. Watercolor or ink on paper were the preferred materials as were shades of grays in keeping with the look of traditional Chinese landscape painting of the time. Although, some students made fantastic works with pencil or pen.

Karla and Nayarit both combined architecture in their works. Karla’s piece alluded to a Piet Mondrian painting with a grid-like window in the center of the paper with tree branches moving in and out of the window, nature becoming one with the architecture.

Karla Prickett, The Inner Landscape

Nayarit’s architectural huts were reminiscent of those in traditional Chinese Landscape paintings. She said they were like those where monks live it. Her placement of several huts throughout her piece created a playful visual rhythm.

Nayarit Tineo, The Inner Landscape

Ed’s partial boat at the bottom right of the composition was a compelling means to suggest a human presence in his landscape of wavy lines.

Ed Rath, The Inner Landscape

Abby’s use of black dots was her vision of crops growing in her landscape which would keep her busy if she were to be exiled and retreat into nature.

Abbrielle Johnson, The Inner Landscape

Meridith captured the light and dark style similar in Xian’s paintings with her beautiful Italian umbrella trees starkly painted in black against a light background.

Meridith McNeal, The Inner Landscape

Jane’s cropped house was an interesting reminder of urban landscape as was Jacob’s painting of a memory he had of being in Minnesota at the banks of the Mississippi River. His use of the white paper as negative space added to the subtlety of his composition.

Jane Huntington, The Inner Landscape

Jacob Rath, The Inner Landscape

Marilyn’s interpretation was based on her idea of Manchu Picchu.

Marilyn August, The Inner Landscape

I (Maraya) had fun implementing text with small woodblock letters. One piece incorporated the word fracture because if I were exiled from my country, I would feel fractured in many ways.

Maraya Lopez, The Inner Landscape I & II


Teaching artist Reg Lewis began Tuesday’s ART YARD Advanced Studio in person at BWAC by outlining the theme of the session as a workshop continuation from his spoken word performances earlier this year included in the ART YARD exhibit, “The Way We See It.”

Reg then launched into his piece with the current working title, “The Attention Wars: How Reality Crosses the Mind Featuring Mr. Shhh and The RAILS,” which elaborates on his experience as a young English teacher in search for balance and coping mechanisms within the challenges presented in his 9th grade classroom.

Reg Lewis performing for Advanced Studio at BWAC

As Reg wound his way through the rhythmic, poetic text, the participating students and artists began creating artworks on paper that captured their raw impressions and interpretations of Reg’s narrative. It was great to have ART YARD Videographer Scott Greenfield at the session, doing his usual stealth work behind the camera as we worked!

Artists in rapt attention as Reg performs

Reg explains: “Ed created a piece that not only perfectly captured the colorful chaos detailed in the setting of the spoken word piece which opens during a vocabulary quiz, but it also featured a character that will forever gain a permanent seat in that narrative space - Quizimoto! The humor was a spot-on compliment of the text.

Ed Rath, The Attention Wars

Abby’s artwork almost served as a contrast to Ed’s work, by created a piece that featured a vibrant honey comb which represented her own calming solution for managing student behavior in the Brooklyn public school she works in by building community with creative projects.

Abbrielle Johnson, The Attention Wars

Melinda created a visual representation that captured the contrasting color coded streams of frequency created by “the courtroom in the head” while showing how the “Shhh” can slice through the middle of it all.

Melinda Lewis, The Attention Wars

Meridith’s piece borrows one of the direct image cues in the narrative that incorporates an internal Rubix Cube; it captures the complexity of this puzzle which sits in the “guts” of the narrator. Meridith’s piece also incorporates the many loops and circular motifs present within the frame of Reg’s narrative.

Meridith McNeal, The Attention Wars

Candy’s artwork is an intimate portrait of Reg in action during his monologue. The moment seems to captured him in reflection as he pauses briefly between transitions in the text.

Candy Heiland, The Attention Wars

Evelyn’s three pieces of artwork skillfully capture very specific moments in the narrative, from one in which Reg stands overwhelmed in the center of mayhem while a paper airplane heads for his head, another in which a homeless passenger upon a train is being harassed by mental bats, and a final one which features the many intertwined faces that constitute the voices dwelling in “the courtroom in the head.”

Evelyn Beliveau, The Attention Wars I & III

August did an effective, extraordinary job of capturing the nightmarish element of Reg’s narrative by showing characters not only haunting his classroom but also equally haunting his mind.

August Levenson, The Attention Wars

Delphine created one artwork that offered a sharp visually representation of the “Shhh” as it fills the mouth of the narrator in an explosive fashion; it captures the urgency and purpose of the “Shhh, while her second artwork featured the setting or else “the stage” where the narrator feels nonetheless invisible as he struggles to manage the classroom.”

Delphine Levenson, The Attention Wars I & II

We loved that Candy's sweet dog Bella joined us for class!

Bella joins us for critique

Overall, all of the interpretations nailed the complex emotions and moments presented in Reg’s spoken word monologue (still in progress). His follow up performance Tuesday June 21, at BWAC from 5:30-7:30pm will bring additional detail and dimension to his narrative which will ultimately present strategies and solutions for connection, healing and restoration. Hope to see you there at BWAC – all are welcome!


At our partnership school in Jersey City, PS 6, Dennis and Evelyn began the installation of the year-end exhibit in the school's gallery. While there won't be any official event this year due to pandemic protocol, the school has requested that work be on display for visits from Board of Ed members who plan to visit during these last weeks of the school year. While it's not the caliber of our usual 'openings', it'll be an excellent sampling of all of our projects under our theme of Heal and Restore. Additionally, the exhibit will be photographed and video-ed for virtual release.

Evelyn and Dennis install at PS 6

While installing, Ms. Carey's class (whose classroom is right next door to the gallery) came in to visit and see what was going on and their work (the Hilma af Klint project) being installed. They were offered a great opportunity to view all of the projects and learn about curating, installing, the use of levels, and why some pieces are chosen to hang beside or opposite others.

Installation preview

Dennis met with 4 docents selected by Mrs. Tolentino - Apoorva, Myra, Kashvi, and Agsa. Sadly, there won't be tours this year but these docents will be on hand for quick explanations and question-answering for those Board of Ed visitors - AND they will participate in voice-overs or video appearances for our planned virtual gallery tours.


Later in the week for ART YARD Art Matters at BNS, Teaching Artist Evelyn Beliveau introduced a new lesson for those students who were done with their previous projects. Examining Architectural Veduta, attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini, students learned about 1-point perspective. Evelyn tells us: “We talked about the horizon line, vanishing point, and objects receding into the distance. This is a useful tool for creating the illusion of a scene from the vantage point of one stationary viewer. Students readily piped up with their own ideas of how to "draw 3-D" and we dove into drawing from there!

Architectural Veduta, attributed to Francesco di Giorgio Martini

We encouraged students to think about the idea of an "ideal city" as they worked--not necessarily "ideal" in the Renaissance sense, but whatever that meant to the students. The resultant drawings were vibrant and varied! Charlie and Bear drew castles, Nathaly a New York tribute, Lucas a desert road, Mark a spinning structure, and Akil experimented with adding 3D-looking embellishment to block letter names.

Charlie, Ideal City

Bear, Ideal City

Lucas, Ideal City

We had a variety of projects on view at critique, including stained-glass-inspired collages, treehouse sculptures, and perspective drawings. Students practiced listening quietly while another student was talking. Lucas and Lionel in particular received compliments for achieving a 3D effect, many students complimented one another's hard work, and I complimented the group for some students' perseverance on the stained-glass project over the long haul or their flexibility to approach many different media over the past few weeks!”


Our partnership school in Jersey City, PS 6, recognized Juneteenth this week on Friday (NYC will do the same on Monday) and our teaching schedule changed to Thursday. Managing Director Dennis Buonagura reports: “No matter - thanks to our teaching artist, Evelyn Beliveau, students had success (and fun!) with the first part of their final lesson of the school year - ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS.

Examples of illuminated manuscripts

We thank the participating teachers for their pre-lesson assistance by showing Evelyn's slide presentation in advance (along with some examples of quotes) - and for helping their students select quotes or poems (or write their own quotes of poems) - and for explaining the meaning of the word ILLUMINATION. It gave us the opportunity to jump right into art making upon arrival.

Evelyn demonstrates techniques

Evelyn's presentation depicted various types of letter styles and designs (including many with "serifs") and she demonstrated several in different typography styles (bold, block) and designs (vines, flowers). Amongst the examples, Evelyn shared a gorgeous family treasure of her own - a jewelry box made by her aunt with an elaborate letter E (for Evelyn) in embroidery on its cover.

Jewelry box embroidery by Evelyn's aunt

Using book page templates made by Evelyn, students transferred their quotes of poems in manuscript style - and gave great thought to the images that will accompany the facing page. They all cheered when they heard that they'll be using GOLD markers to ILLUMINATE their pages next week.”

Evelyn shares that when asked what they learned, students responded enthusiastically: Even small things can spark inspiration! and Words and letters can be beautiful!

After classes, Dennis and Evelyn continued installing the year end exhibition and conducted a follow-up docent training class - and filmed a virtual tour for 'soon to be' release.

Exhibition preview and docent training at ART YARD Gallery at PS 6


Other art news:

Congratulations to ART YARD Artist Maraya Lopez whose work is on view through Sunday in the Art Work: Artists Working at the Met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!!!


Spotted on the Lower East Side!

We are!


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