top of page

The Whole Megillah

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

As the title of this recap suggests, it has indeed been a chock-a-block week of particularly entangled and intricate arrangements. I hope you enjoy the long, complicated saga as retold below. It really was a lot of fun!!


On Saturday afternoon several ART YARD Advanced Studio Artists visited the Brooklyn Museum where we began by viewing DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash a comprehensive exhibition by artist and environmental activist Duke Riley.

Kevin and Vera reflected in the frame of a wall of lures made by Duke Riley

We were impressed with Riley's commitment, ingenuity and attention to detail. We loved peering at the recreation of his studio desk in the corner of the Jan Marten Schenck House (built in 1676, it is the oldest architecture in the Brooklyn Museum's period room collection)!

From there we looked at Mel Chin’s installation Fundred Reserve, 2008-2019. Which inspired Kevin's recent Advanced Studio lesson. We noticed that the text along the base included the word omnibus, which we discussed a few weeks ago in Eden's lesson about liminality.

Conveniently this lead us directly into Oscar yi Hou: East of sun, west of moon

Looking at and discussing work by Oscar yi Hou

Jane writes: “I love having a major museum close by offering "pay what you wish" for NYC residents.

This Saturday, I met up with ART YARDers Meridith, Vera, Kevin, and Marie Roberts to look at the work of Oscar yi Hou. I had a workshop, so I missed the Duke Riley Show, which I have already seen twice before and have the book! Thank goodness for being a local–I didn't have to feel obligated to take in the entire museum all at once.

Back to Oscar yi Hou. Hou, a young artist of Chinese-British heritage, says, "Even though I am barely an American, I am resolutely an Asian American." This show comprises 11 portraits of his friends–many, like him, who identify as East Asian and queer. The work is intimate while often appropriating traditional white masculine roles.

His sitters look directly at the artist, reminiscent of the intimacy of Alice Neal's work. Surrounded by what he calls "Chinese cowboy" iconography–American flags, yin-yang symbols, etc.- these works describe the complexity of identity in these polarizing times.

We had a lively discussion regarding the process–like Neal's use of the blue line drawing underpainting, Hou uses a signature color–orange–to sketch the subject. We talked about the directness of the subject's gaze and the immediacy of his brushwork. We discussed the symbols framing the subjects and the concept of chosen family.

After we finished looking at Hou's work, Vera and Kevin made their way to see the Thierry Mugler show, and Meridith and I made our way to see Marie, who was sitting on the first floor sketching a Rodin figure, which she had drawn many times before and keeps revisiting.

Meridith and I then went to Five Myles to measure some doors for her upcoming show (details below in the More Art News section ) before settling down for some pizza and conversation. A great afternoon!”


On Monday ART YARD Artist Sarah Gumgumji presented Echoes of Our Existence: Exploring Memory and Legacy, Essence through Art inspired by artwork by Dr. Kate McLean, Karen Margolis, Haroon Gun-Sail, Sarah Al Abdali, as well as a poem by Mahmoud Darwish for ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom.

Installation by Haroon Gun-Sail, drawing by Dr. Kate McLean,

mixed media piece Karen Margolis, and installation by Sarah Al Abdali.

“In exile you choose a space to tame habit, a private space for your journal. So, you write: Place is not the trap. We can say: Here we have a side street, a post office, a bread seller, a laundry, a tobacco shop, a tiny corner, and a smell that remembers …

Cities are smells: Acre is the smell of iodine and spices. Haifa is the smell of pine and wrinkled sheets. Moscow is the smell of vodka on ice. Cairo is the smell of mango and ginger. Beirut is the smell of the sun, sea, smoke, and lemons. Paris is the smell of fresh bread, cheese, and derivations of enchantment. Damascus is the smell of jasmine and dried fruit. Tunis is the smell of night musk and salt. Rabat is the smell of henna, incense, and honey. A city that cannot be known by its smell is unreliable.” ~ Excerpt from Mahmoud Darwish, What is Lost

Sarah asked us to focus on how memories, senses, and legacy shape and incorporate the concept of leaving a mark or impact through our existence while still emphasizing the importance of memory and identity in shaping who we are and how art can be used to explore and express those memories.

Sarah summarizes the session: "It was great seeing how everyone interpreted how memories, senses, and legacy shape and incorporate the concept of leaving a mark or impact through our existence while still emphasizing the importance of memory and identity in shaping who we are and how they used art to explore and express those memories.

Artists reflected excitingly on significant memories and experiences that contributed to their sense of self and used art to represent those memories and their emotional impact visually. The lesson's final result involved various mediums, such as watercolor, collage, colored pencil, and photoshop.

We thought about the relationship between memory, legacy, and creativity. Express and explore our experiences of existing in the world, and how do we exist? How do we use our art to explore and express our experiences of existing in the world, and how do we hope it will resonate with others? How do we hope our art will be remembered or contribute to our legacy? What role do we believe creativity plays in exploring and expressing our experiences of existing in the world?

My art (Sarah) is about existing by being a student, having inspiration from the artist, and the rocks are the heaviness of life. Watercolor washes are about the busyness of life, and the black lines are my way into life. However, the small dots are my life marks, inspired by the study art of Dr. Kate McLean.

Sarah Gumgumji, Exploring Memory

Meridith's artwork can transport you to Italy by looking at the stones, and I can feel the smell of Jasmine's flowers.

Meridith McNeal, Exploring Memory

Ed's artwork gave me the feeling of clean breath, the fresh sky, and having a purpose in life by going up and down the ladder.

Ed Rath, Exploring Memory, Legacy Ladder

Zeke created a masterpiece of us as humans struggling to come up with ideas and thinking of a new way to be creative and make something that will exist.

Zeke Brokaw, Exploring Memory and Legacy

Sigrid, just by looking at her art, I can hear the raindrops, feeling the effect of it, and the smell of the garden.

Sigrid Dolan, Exploring Memory I

Sigrid Dolan, Exploring Memory II

Abby's artwork made me think of our healing process in life and that we want to heal to exist and make a mark in life.

Abrielle Johnson, Exploring Memory and the Legacy of Uplifting (in progress)

Mohammad's artwork took me to a great story of following the smell of the palm trees, the feeling of a cool breeze in warm weather coming from palm farms in Medina, and immortalizing our mark in life, then dying and being cherished.

Mohammad Aldahlawi, Exploring Memory and Legacy

Karla's artwork brought back her grandfather's handwriting. Collaging her studio and how art impacted her life, then adding windows where she sees the outside of the studio is a next-level work.

Karla Prickett, Exploring Memory and Legacy

Karla adds: “When I received the pre-lesson email, read the poem and Sarah’s projected outcomes it really captured me into a thinking and reflection mode. I tried to conceptualize content for a composition and it wasn’t immediate to grasp. Actually, pondered in the studio till 2:30 am Monday morning to which I finally thought sleep and a fresh mind might be best! I applaud Sarah for presenting a lesson which brought each artist’s personal experience to the works.”


Tuesday and Thursday at ART YARD Art Matters at East New York High School of Arts & Civics students continued working with Dennis and Fatima on painted portraits in celebration of Black History Month.

Dennis summarizes: “After a week of mid-winter recess, students returned (together with Fatima and Dennis) to their art/making schedules on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Fatima demonstrated the usage and application of gold leaf (sheets requiring adhesive) which Inez used to embellish the jewelry on her portrait of rapper Pop Smoke and which Joshua plans to use for his portrait of Louis Armstrong playing his trumpet.

Fatima teaching gold leaf application

Two new students joined our class - both enthusiastic and both went right to work. Kurt started a portrait of artist Kehinde Wiley (we’d been hoping someone would chose him as a subject) and Amaya worked on a piece with activist Angela Davis as her subject, in celebration of both Black History Month and Woman’s History Month. Amaya’ is also working on a portrait of dancer, choreographer, and DJ, Stephen “tWitch” Boss simultaneously.

Tiara felt a bit more comfortable creating a grid to complete some details in her piece on a James Baldwin and it became a spectacular drawing and now gorgeous as a painting.

Zian pondered about adding a design element to the background of her Viola Davis piece but ultimately chose to add shadows instead - and we all agreed that this was a very smart choice.

A successful “back to school” week.”


Today was a lively day for everyone participating in ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6 with ART YARD Managing Director Dennis Buonagura at the helm!

Dennis writes: "Another EXCELLENT Friday at PS 6 - our partnership school in Jersey City with Teaching Artists Fatima Traore and Sarah Gumgumji.

The kids at PS 6 are amazing - and we say THANKS to all the teachers. At the start of every class, I ask a student to stand up and tell us (in a loud voice) what project we are working on and what they learned last week. Every student who volunteered to speak, not only gave a detailed explanation of the lesson but also properly pronounced the artist's, name - Hokusai - correctly. We practiced it phonetically the week before - but who'd think they'd really remember? I should have known - their teachers continued our lesson back in the classroom!

I searched for a video about Japanese woodblock printing but time ran out and we didn't get to view it. TEACHERS to the rescue! I sent the video to each teacher who will show it to their students before our next class.

The variations of The Great Wave are taking shape with lots of color now added - watercolor and/or colored pencil, and a tiny bit of acrylic mixed with water for the white foamy parts of the waves.

It was 'dress as your favorite character from a book' day and lots of students were in costume. I tried guessing who they were - but failed miserably. I thought Kamakshi was Maria von Trapp from The Sound of Music (yes! she wrote a book!!) when in fact she was Little Red Riding Hood without the red riding hood because it was bothering her neck so she took it off. I did get The Cat In The Hat correct tho.

And - more about Kamakshi - she was inspired by our lesson on Japanese woodblock art last week that she brought in a painting that she did at home to share with all of us. Great work!

Diyanah completed her work quickly - and we were amazed because she used colored pencils. Generally, those who paint finish up faster than those using colored pencils. Diyanah, when asked during critique, explained her process of making long straight strokes with the pencil to cover large spaces quickly. Everyone learned a new technique from Diyanah today.

London's wave is breaking from behind the Eiffel tower - so, her piece is appropriately now known as "Paris, by London".

Our inspiration board was a great help to students - altho no one chose to recreate The Great Wave as food (I was hoping one would!) - we all had a laugh at the Oreo and the lettuce waves.

Our weekly recaps apparently are quite popular with their parents - as several students asked "will I be featured in this week's recap?". I felt like a roving reporter for People magazine!

Once again, we thank the teachers of PS 6 for their enthusiastic participation in our programming - which helps to make each week a great success.


This evening ART YARD Advanced Studio met in person at the Whitney Museum of American Art in lower Manhattan where we were lucky to view Edward Hopper’s New York just two days before closing (and with sold out tickets!)!

Ed Rath reviews: “Edward Hopper’s New York – Whitney Museum October 19 2022 – March 5, 2023

Edward Hoppers’ influence - iconic and pervasive, still holds the American imagination fifty-five years after his death. This show focuses on his New York City imagery. Herein he explores New York’s pedestrian architecture, tenements, roof tops, theaters, restaurants, interiors, bridges, street scenes, and hotel rooms – the whole megillah.

Hopper started out as an illustrator. The show includes many early graphic works, including magazine covers, and illustrations of stories. Not familiar with this part of his work, I was fascinated by his visual choices in depicting narratives for such mundane, subjects. On their own, these works are visually striking, but what makes Hopper a great artist is how he transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Starting with drawings done from observation, Hopper transfers the drawings to canvas, and then begins editing. First, he removes any bits that do not add anything to the symbolic narrative. Next, he reinforces the pictorial expression by simplifying and flattening out the forms and shadows, abstracting the shapes into an air-tight composition. His high contrast colors create drama, tension, and mystery, not unlike the early Metaphysical paintings of Giorgio De Chirico. And like De Chirico, Hopper’s paintings emit a Surrealistic feel.

Hopper’s figures, self-absorbed and introspective, do not look out at you. They are busy New Yorkers, anonymous, and unconcerned what others think of them. I was delighted to see included in the show, Office at Night, 1940. I spent many hours studying this painting as a student in Minneapolis. The sole Hopper painting in the Walker Art Center collection, it remains an important influence on my work.

Edward Hopper, Office at Night, 1940

Final note: Kudos to Maraya Lopez for her superb ART YARD Advanced Studio lesson, Edward Hopper and the Cinema, on December 5, 2022, which opened our eyes to another aspect of Edward’s Hopper’s influence on American culture."

We also went up to the 7th floor to view selections from the permanent collection. There are so many great works on view!

Very special thanks to ART YARD Videographer Artist Scott Greenfield and his friend Armando Jaramillo Garcia for making this trip possible!


Other Art News

As Jane mentioned above, my exhibition Inside Out will be on view in the PlusSpace at FiveMyles Gallery, 558 St. Johns Place, Crown Heights, Brooklyn from April 1 – May 7, 2023. At the same time, in the main gallery will be work by Mildred Beltré and Elisa D’Arrigo.

FiveMyles logo, painting by Meridith McNeal, print by Mildred Beltré

Save the date & please join us for the opening reception Sat., April 1, 5:30-8pm.



180 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 comentario

What an amazing week! Congratulations to all of the artists, and a special kudos to the teachers at PS 6!!! Fabulous teamwork

Me gusta
bottom of page