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Tomorrow Is A Mystery

We began the week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom with our very own Kevin Anderson as Teaching Artist!! Starting with his own passion for Brooklyn’s green spaces, Kevin introduced us to the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. We then created a piece in the materials of our choice contemplating the effects of industrial pollution on places dear to us.

© Edward Burtynsky, Sudbury Nickel Tailings no. 34, 1996

Kevin reflects upon his experience teaching this session: “Although my lesson for this week was to conceptualize the effects of human progression on environmental stability, I struggled to come up with the idea at first. The first lesson I planned for ART YARD last year involved looking at nature-a leaves, flowers, and using any material to capture its shape, colors, and patterns. This lesson was more open-ended this time, focusing on a place that’s close to your heart, and capturing how that area has been affected by human progression.

Meridith suggested some environmental conservationist artists to help inspire me. The artist I ended up choosing was a photographer named Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky's pieces depict the negative effects of industrialization: how advancements in the way we live deform and malnourish the land around us, which I felt was an important topic to discuss.”

© Edward Burtynsky, Lithium Mines #1, Salt Flats, Atacama Desert, Chile, 2017

“New York, for example, grows larger each day with new buildings and infrastructures. With so many people living in one place, many resources are allocated to the people that need them. Therefore while our way of living continues to thrive the environment suffers, which will lead to greater repercussions in the future. However, many of these repercussions are not visible to us yet because several parts of the globe are disproportionately affected by climate issues (ex: California drought due to climate change). Therefore, I wanted to focus on conceptualizing what would happen to the places we love if they were affected by greater climate issues.

Overall, I learned that planning a lesson comes from a place you are passionate about. Although there is always room for improvement, I walked away from this week’s session knowing that everyone enjoyed the lesson, and learned about each other’s connection to the places they love.”

Kevin’s started work on a piece then, unsatisfied with the perspective, started a second with a more dramatic vantage point. Both in process images are shown below:

Kevin Anderson, Human Progression on Environmental Stability (I & II both in progress)

Alison created a multi panel drawing about the threat imposed by a nearby gasoline refinery on the precious forest landscape near her family home in the town of Luzinay which is near Lyon, France.

Alison Guinet, Human Progression on Environmental Stability

Vera’s piece Trash in paradise, Santiago addressed the endemic issue of garbage in the Dominican Republic.

Vera Tineo, Human Progression on Environmental Stability, Trash in Paradise, Santiago

Madison describes that her artwork “depicts the view of the West Side Rowing Club where I used to row but now assistant coach at. It’s just a rough draft of how worse it would be. The summer and spring months really show it’s beautiful blue and I created to look a murky green. Recently we had a chemical spill scare and the city was able to contain it and prevent it from coming to our side of the canal, where we row. So I more so wanted to capture what it would’ve been like if it wasn’t contained and left abandoned.”

Madison Mack, Human Progression on Environmental Stability (in progress)

Alison compliments Madison: love the composition, very well organized and give a feeling of security because of it ( feeling of security before knowing what is was about) » Pat adds: “My compliment is also a bit of a comparison. When viewing Madison's piece, I had a similar experience to my encounter with the Burtynsky pieces that Kevin showed us--at first, "wow, this is beautiful" and then dismay as it sunk in what the piece was really about.” I compared Madison’s piece to Albert York, “Farm Landscape” which I included in last weeks recap.

Pat’s own piece: Before and after --Google Street View of my street, and what it'll look like after the developers get to it.

Pat Larash, Human Progression on Environmental Stability

Jane graphically depicted rising temperatures in her fathers former neighborhood in Florida.

Jane Huntington, Human Progression on Environmental Stability

My quartet of images of Via Garibaldi in Rome is painted on diaphanous tissue paper to further express fragility of the landscape.

Meridith McNeal, Human Progression on Environmental Stability, Via Garibaldi, Rome

Karla’s collage Ogallala Aquifer, cut paper, colored pencil, 1902 catalogue graphics, printer images, shows us “The clock is ticking for changes in the applications of crop irrigation. The aquifer is depleting and it is the main source of water for two thirds of the state of Kansas. Lake levels are low and drought is common. It’s a serious issue. Since the invention of the wheel, humans have designed useful tools. Often, environment suffers from the monetary gains associated with industrial growth.”

Karla Prickett, Human Progression on Environmental Stability, Ogallala Aquifer

Ed, not wanting to sound like a Pollyanna, points out that sometime things improve as his circa 1985 depiction of DUMBO shows to anyone who has been in the area recently!

Ed Rath, Human Progression on Environmental Stability, Manhattan Bridge Park circa 1985


This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio in person at our studio in BWAC Teaching Artist Fatima Traore introduced the idea of an improbable meet-cute.

Fatima explains: "The term is typically used in film/ television as the initial and charming meeting of two characters that will go on to form a special friendship or a romantic relationship. Fatima was inspired by the plethora of animal kingdoms that dwell within planet earth's atmosphere and invited students to consider what it would look and feel like should two unlikely animals meet." For inspiration Fatima share the work of Cassandra L. Kim and Martyna Czub.

Cassandra L. Kim, Koala Blowing Bubbles

Martyna Czub, Running Felines, watercolor on paper

The results were highly improbable but surely charming. Ed illustrated a moose and a turtle character by personifying them with clothes.

Ed Rath, Meet Cute, Moose with Bells On Making Eyes at a Tortoise

Meridith combined an owl to symbolize a Minerva who is the goddess of wisdom with an oyster as a head nod to last week's lesson. Transforming her rather demented looking owl and less than clear oyster into a painted cut paper sculpture.

Meridith McNeal, Meet Cute, sketch

Meridith McNeal, Meet Cute, Owl & Oyster, watercolor on cut shaped paper

Meridith McNeal, Meet Cute, Owl & Oyster (detail with pearl)

Fatima created a nighttime scene with a flamingo entertaining a luminating jellyfish underwater.

Fatima Traore, Meet Cute

Maraya took the Meet Cute idea to a humorous nod to dating aps.

Maraya Lopez, Meet Cute

Equally funny is Rachel’s A New York Love Story! Rachel adds she was additionally inspired by Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, which Jacob gave her a print of as a gift.

Print of Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre by Utagawa Kuniyoshi in situ at Rachel's home

Rachel Rath, Meet Cute, A New York Love Story

Vera’s animals might have the added twist of meeting through a time machine.

Vera Tineo, Meet Cute

Each artist chose materials to not only bring a meet-cute to a life that only exists on their page, but also to activate the mood and feeling of those once estranged animals in that moment.


Once again in ART YARD Portfolio at LaGuardia High School we had a dual focus to the session. We started with a short presentation of masterworks and introduction to the artmaking for the day – a piece based on a photo taken by the artist of an interior space with a window and the visible space beyond.

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), from 100 Views of Edo

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (Danish, 1863-1935), The Artist's Wife Sunlit Room. Oil on canvas.

Henri Matisse, The Closed Window, 1919

Edward Hopper, Morning Sun, 1952

Sarah Gumgumji remained in the main zoom with the artists, as I met with each student in rotating one-on-one breakout rooms to review their college goals and aspirations, while getting a sense of the schools they are considering applying to. In some cases I suggested others they might look into. In some cases I asked questions aimed at helping the students prioritize their lists or think more deeply about their choices.

Sarah G. kept us on track for a timely critique of work created in the session. Here are some of the resulting pieces:

Roxannah, Interior with Window

Charlie, Interior with Window

Sarah B., Interior with Window (in progress I & II)

Elizabeth, Interior with Window

Jessica, Interior with Window

Liam, Interior

Clara, Interior with Window


Also this week, Dennis met with the principal of the President Barack Obama School in Jersey City, our next possible partnership.

President Barack Obama School, Jersey City, NY. Photo by Dennis Buonagura


Other art news

As anticipated Duke Riley’s ambitious exhibition DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash on view at The Brooklyn Museum through April 23, 2023 is spectacular!

I have long been a fan of Duke’s work. Some of you may remember seeing his work in Seaworthy, the exhibition I curated for our Year of Aquatic New York, and the cool life sized model of a Bathysphere we made in response. Or you may recall his wonderful drawing Belly of the Whale that adorned an MTA Art for Transit subway poster a few years ago.

DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash is a huge site-specific installation which includes video, scrimshaw-esque sculpture, drawings, maps, printed wall paper and more. Duke Riley's ecological concerns and historical references are important, compelling and humorous. I enjoyed the dialogue between his work and the historical objects in the museum. Tucked cleverly amongst the period rooms on the 4th floor of the museum sets up a sort of Where Is Waldo situation. While it is hard to pick a favorite piece, the working chandelier made of recycled mini-liquor bottles hanging illuminated in the 1676 Jan Martense Schenck House is outstanding!

Dike Riley, DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash. Photos by Meridith McNeal

Lisa Peet adds: "Riley’s work itself resonates strongly with me—the combination of repurposed objects, activist eco art with a punk sensibility, New York history, and a new take on old art practices was engaging and thoughtful, and quite beautiful. The Brooklyn Museum’s curation was spot on too. From hallway-length panels of custom wallpaper to panels of bright fishing lures made from plastic beach refuse to beautifully displayed vitrines of faux scrimshaw on bleached ocean trash, often side by side with historical objects from the museum’s permanent collection. In a standout series of displays, Riley’s pieces were seamlessly integrated into the 17th-century Schenck House alongside actual artifacts—a thoughtful take on what, exactly, history is and where we (literally) stand in it."


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