Things That Matter
Updated: Jan 30, 2021
ART YARD Advanced Studio Artists were thrilled to participate in this week’s session with Teaching Artist Quentin Williamston. Even as a young student many years ago Quentin was a thoughtful artist with a profound sense of compassion, a strong connection to our Brooklyn neighborhood and community of creative people. I see these essential Quentin traits as the core of his fantastic lesson entitled What can’t we live without in 2021?.
Quentin begins his synopsis of our session with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”. If you look carefully you will notice those words appear in the Barclays marquee in Quentin’s piece.
"ART YARD Advanced Studio Artists looked at the exceptional artwork of Titus Kaphar. In particular the work on view in his recent show From a Tropical Space at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea which provoked a thoughtful dialogue about his use of technique to convey sociopolitical messages throughout his body of work. We engaged in a lively discussion about the ideas and emotive responses we as viewers have to Kaphar’s work in which subjects are missing which focuses on the fear and trauma of the modern black mother in America in 2020.
I asked the group to stop and think about the things and/or people that helped each of them to make it through this difficult time of the pandemic. Then we continued to look at Kaphar’s paintings. In Analogous Colors, 2020, oil on canvas, 66x60, the background with the glove revealed the time the painting was set in and the uncertainty that Kaphar aimed to display.
Then using the materials of our choice artists created work about the important things/people/beings that helped us personally through challenging times of the pandemic. We were given a choice to do two related pieces with different materials -- one with the subject depicted, the second with the subject omitted a la Titus Kaphar or to simply create one work with a missing subject.
At critique we displayed our work, compared/contrasted and gave compliments. Everyone produced work that captured the lesson in distinctive, personal and emotional ways. It was very powerful to see how everyone was able to express their love and appreciation for the things and people in their lives. I am so pleased with the art work created and the discussion with ART YARD Advanced Studio participants!”
Quentin worked along with the group on a piece based on a photo he took in front of Barclays Center while out walking with his dog Shake:
Like Quentin, Halli, Marilyn and Maya all concentrated on animals. TJ in an excellent use of a split paper focused on her teddy bear. (Image to follow)
Marilyn’s work tells this tale: “Over several months of the COVID pandemic, a young, feral cat would often appear in my garden, and I enjoyed watching it hunting or playing with another neighborhood cat that spends time in my backyard. One day “Puma" visited at my patio doors and I was able to take a photo from inside through the glass. Unfortunately, Puma doesn’t come any more, and I miss the little visitor that brought me joy.”
Several people addressed technology – the good, the bad and the ugly of it all...
Sarah explains her concept: “My phone is my escape during this time of quarantine. Back in July 2020, my whole family gets the Coronavirus, but my dad and my grandfather were the ones who got it hard; both were hospitalized for months, so the phone was always on my hand to check on them and ask about their health. Checking my phone was my first thing to do in the morning, so I could know what was happening back home. Walking in my neighborhood surrounded by trees and birds was helpful, and making art and crocheting as well.”
Jane’s “pieces are an ode to my Zoom community. It’s allowed me to connect with various political campaigns in 2020 before becoming a text leader of Working Families. My meditation group, connecting with family and far away friends, met some celebs (Elizabeth Warren and Stacy Abrams). Lifesaver for working remotely and meeting new clients. And of course, spending Mondays and the summer with, ART YARD.”
Jacob presents his two portraits: “The first one in pencil shows me without my phone, which represents internet access. The second drawing made in crayon shows me with my phone (internet access). When I do not have access to the internet, I am more aware of myself and my surroundings, like in the first drawing. The first drawing incorporates the moon, and some of the trees across the street from my house. When I spend too much time online, I lose sense of myself and my surroundings, which is why my second self-portrait is much blurrier.”
Some artists focused on important people – Vera on her mother, Ardelia on her grandmother, Ed on a beloved professor, Eden and Kevin on friends (Kevin’s images to follow, please check back!).
Ed shares this poignant story behind his work: “During the extreme social isolation we endured during covid-19, I corresponded weekly with one of my favorite high school teachers, Joel Kelly. During this time Joel was suffering with ALS and was no longer able to chew or talk. He and I were both looking forward to meeting up at my 50th high school reunion in June of 2020. The reunion was canceled because of covid, and Joel died in July. After he died his sister found one last envelope with some poetry and a letter addressed to me. At first, upon receiving it, I was overwhelmed with sadness, but later felt better knowing we had been able to communicate during this awful time.
My ink drawing shows Joel lying peacefully on his death bed, a mere shadow of his old physical self, but still alert and thinking about the goodness of life.
The second image shows just his glasses lying on his pillow. He is gone, but not forgotten. He remains a great role model for me in these turbulent times.”
Wayne’s pieces are a celebration of nature with “The tree outside my bedroom window which provided me with the hope of renewal and an indicator of the seasons passing as life in 2020 continued.”
Jenn tells us: “Music is a source of inspiration and hope for me. Since quarantine I have deeply missed the experience of live music with other people. The pandemic has changed the way I enjoy music but reiterates the necessity of it in my life. This piece represents my relationship to music during this time. It was created using cut paper, watercolor, and colored pencils.”
August and I both went into the more esoteric and symbolic respectively. August with a fantasy character and world (work in progress).
I still had in mind Flavia’s session where we were thinking about symbolic meaning. My image is of my desk in my newly organized work space. The objects I omitted are a rose bloom to symbolize beauty which is sitting in an egg cup which stands in for sustenance. Two essential touchstones for me during this strange time.
In other news:
Congratulation to ART YARD Teaching Artist Marie Roberts -- her Brooklyn studio is featured in the HYPERALLERGIC series on artists’ studios during quarantine.
Marie writes: “I have a lovely studio in Coney Island above the Freak Show and behind the Coney Island Museum. Since March, quarantining for health reasons, a corner of my room with natural light has become my studio, and I have gone from painting very large sideshow banners to obsessively filling sketchbooks with drawings and paintings. I join online model sessions from around the world, working with global models and artists to draw from the figure. Before COVID-19, my drawing materials went everywhere with me in a backpack; now they travel room to room much like an itinerant painter in a microcosm. This corner also serves as a classroom studio for my Fairleigh Dickinson University studio classes, which are online for COVID-19. Anywhere I plop down to work becomes a studio for me; my challenge in COVID-19 is translating the studio experience to my students. At the end of this fall semester, a student wrote to me and said how she loved when my cats visited the “studio” during class. It made me happy that the students feel like they are in a studio in COVID-19.”
I was pretty excited this week when a big thud on my front stoop heralded the arrival of the oversized and heavy print catalogue for USA 35x35 Art Project of works in the permanent collection (including mine!) of Copelouzos Family Art Museum, Athens, Greece.
Detail of the essay, in case you'd like to brush up on your Greek.
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