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This Breath, This Body, This Sky

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

Cold and Covid had us all virtual again this week. However, this did not put a damper on any of the ART YARD programs. ART YARD Artists of all ages were engaged intellectually, connected through thoughtful dialogue, and amazingly creative in their art making.

In fact, we had a new milestone in Vera’s Advanced Studio session when she wove all of those things into a brand new video piece. But let me start at the beginning…


This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom inspired by her experience as a participating artist in our recent sessions with Fatima and Aisha, Teaching Artist Vera Tineo presented a class entitled Reflecting As A Healing Process. Vera had us pondering the act of thinking about something as an expression of a profound experience.

For inspiration and to spur discussion we looked at work by Michael Jackson & Akua Noni Parker, Faig Ahmed, Evelyn Beliveau, Criselda Vasquez, Masami Teraoka, Eric Avery and Vera’s own protest pieces. (shown in that order below). We also listened to a clip from a podcasts by choreographer Jerome Robins and an interview with Lindy West about her book Shrill, an expose on fat shaming, from This American Life.

Vera asked us to think about a situation, event or experience upon which we did or could reflect as a form of healing. The resulting works were profound and spurred a fantastic dialogue.

Marilyn wowed us with her collage about the power and buoyancy of the community of ART YARD.

Marilyn August, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Wayne reflected upon the beauty of a butterfly alight on the cracked pavement during a solitary covid walk.

Wayne Gross, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Illness and recovery is the subject for both Abby thinking about her serious spine surgery and month-long hospital stay and Nayarit an intense debilitating childhood sickness that altered her perception of the world around her.

Abbriele Johnson, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Nayarit Tineo, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Delphine illustrates the Brain Squeeze of 6th grade and Madison the maturing experiences including school graduation of 2021.

Delphine Levenson, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Madison Mack, Reflecting As A Healing Process (in prgress)

Naya looks at the conflicting emotions of joy of bonding and the crushing sadness of the subsequent loss of her cat Foxxy.

Naya Jackson, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Location and community figure in to three artists work -- Karla looks at her connection to place, Sarah to travel and the conundrum the pandemic imposes on that, and Vera at her family in the Dominican Republic.

Karla Prickett, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Sarah Gumgumji, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Vera Tineo, Reflecting As A Healing Process - Source Material

Vera Tineo, Reflecting As A Healing Process (Proyecto)

Balancing the mundane with the profound, Pat contemplates a haircut while listening to the sound of helicopters during BLM protesting in Boston.

Pat Larash, Reflecting As A Healing Process

The intense fast response experience of text messages, and a recent challenging exchange was the subject of my own piece.

Meridith McNeal, Reflecting As A Healing Process

Ed looks at his daughter Rachel’s pandemic wedding.

Ed Rath, Reflecting As A Healing Process

At the end of the session Vera asked that each of us record an audio bit about the piece we created. Vera then used the images and audio to make a final video presentation.


Skirting the heat issue and frigid temperatures ART YARD Advanced Studio usually in person was once again on Zoom. Teaching Artist Aisha Tandiwe Bell instigated a discussion about Semiotics and really got us thinking in her lesson Read My Glyphs! We started out looking at work by Ayo Janeen Jackson, Martha Rosler, and Joseph Kosuth.

Ayo Janeen Jackson, works from TAR BABY CODE, An ABC Book for Grown Folk, 2021

Martha Rosler still from Semiotics of the Kitchen (video), 1975

Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs, 1965

Pat ruminates: “I loved Aisha’s lesson! The nature of language and symbols has always fascinated me. Aisha asked us to take a sentence and convert the words into symbols of our own invention, and then make those symbols into an artwork. For my own piece, derived from a passage by Anne Carson about parts of speech, I rearranged my ad hoc symbols based on visual aesthetic only to see what would happen—the symbols for “verbs” and the symbols for “adjectives” now look like hunting horns making sounds.

Pat Larash, Read My Glyphs

Some of the other artists paid more attention to meaning when they arranged their symbols. You can read Ed’s piece as a codification of the famous line from “Casey at the Bat”—“There is no joy in Mudville”—and I love the way Ed used his background, too, as part of the meaning (suggesting the “mud” of “Mudville”). And Ed’s romping man completely captures the essence of “joy.”

Ed Rath, Read My Glyphs

Robin used bold texture and color for her piece, putting the unruly expressionist colors of the middle panel in tension with the brooding, emphatically outlined, iconic monochrome symbols around them. We readily agreed with Meridith’s comparison of Robin’s piece to Robert Motherwell, not only in the forms of her glyphs, but in the presentation/feeling of grand scale.

Robin Grant, Read My Glyphs and Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 54, 1957-61

Vera refers to the body as symbol, reminding us how a simple gesture like clasping hands can say so much. Those eyes she created looking out from under the hands still haunt me.

Vera Tineo, Read My Glyphs

Nayarit also takes the body itself as her theme, confronting us with a crowd of symbols, each a complete sentence unto itself, about the ways in which society imposes external meaning on our bodies.

Nayarit Tineo, Read My Glyphs

Starting with the phrase “Every day I am thankful for this breath, this body, this sky. My Family.” Aisha assembles her joyfully colorful symbols into a new syntactical whole, inviting us to feel a new poem in it. The row of green chevrons is particularly compelling to me.

Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Read My Glyphs

Meridith also uses vibrant color to illuminate her unfettered squiggles. There’s something so freeing about this piece—not surprising, given the sentence with which Meridith seeded it: “In ART YARD I refocus my mind and spirit.” Rearranged here, it reads something like “refocus I my ART YARD mind in spirit and”—and I love the fact that it ends on “and,” pointing the way to yet to be discovered more.