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Ushering in 2020 at ART YARD!

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

Here we are in 2020! We are so excited for what this new year will bring for ART YARD BKLYN!!


This week at MS 226 in South Ozone Park, Queens our first cohort of students continued (and started, in the case of students who were absent on our last session) their mixed-media Hand Held Mirror observational pieces.

It is often said that drawing the hand is the most complex part of the body to render. While that might be true, these 6th, 7th and 8th graders rose to the challenge.

Observational drawing takes much concentration and focus. It also requires spending at least as much time looking as one takes drawing. The silence in our Gallery/Classroom indicated that all were fully engaged in the process. Students gripped a hand mirror in their non-dominant hand, then carefully drew their hand, wrist and the shape of the mirror.

The background area could be drawn by observation, abstracted or simplified. The view in the mirror could be any one available from their seat -- the room, art on the gallery walls, the ceiling, the view out the window, their faces -- or an imagined vista.

Most completed their pieces. All the artworks, even those in progress, are compelling and well executed. During our critiques it was evident to me and Dennis that these middle school aged artists are making the most of their ART YARD experience! They are thinking deeply, observing their own successes as well as those of their peers and they are enjoying themselves as they do this.

Big thanks go to our MS 226 liaison Assistant Principal Lucia Lengua who has impeccably organized our schedule, makes sure to check-in in person, and is a master at swift, articulate communication.


In a series of lessons inspired by the drawings, paintings, and sculptures of contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, students at our partnership school PS 6 in Jersey City took creating shapes to the max!

Yayoi Kusama and her artwork
Dennis views Yayoi Kusama's exhibition "Everyday I Pray For Love" at David Zwirner Gallery

5th and 4th graders worked with Art Yard teaching artist Sarah Gumgumji to develop organic shapes with meaning, representing their self-reflection. Students created keys to their shapes on the backs of their papers which help the viewer to understand the feelings the shapes represent. From those shapes, abstract designs were created - intentionally NOT in pattern formation. They were asked to think about the colors they'd like to use and also bring their ideas about curating their work for our next exhibition to class next week.

Sarah, assisted by Dennis and Art Yard intern Leslie Ramirez, taught 1st graders about Kusama's work (reflective sculptural shapes) and asked them to create ONE large shape to represent a feeling (ideas from 1st graders were 'hungry', 'excited', 'scared' and lots of 'happy'). They colored and cut out their shapes to prepare for upcoming classes using reflective paper.

Students viewed many pieces by Kusama and Dennis read to them about her early life in Japan - for inspiration. Discussions about the meaning of inspiration versus making art in the style of another artist as well as the difference between abstract designs and patterns were well received - and class participation in all grades was lively. Overall conversations about the literal meaning of reflection and the insights of self-reflections resulted in full comprehension.

Paintings by Yayoi Kusama

Sculpture by Yayoi Kusama
Drawing by Yayoi Kusama

Vocabulary words learned and used throughout the classes were: contemporary, geometric, organic, curate, installation, self-reflection, abstract, inspiration and unique.


Advanced Studio was postponed this week as artist Robin Holder was still hard at work installing her exhibition Access & Inequities: I Hear You. Do You See Me?. We are so fortunate to be able to conduct classes at Kentler International Drawing Space -- deep thinking, artistic community and artmaking surrounded by fantastic artwork is such privilege.

I encourage everyone to come see Robin’s show! In fact, come on down to Kentler (353 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn) for the opening reception on Sunday, January 12, 5-7pm.


And that brings me to that wonderful topic – More Inspiring ART in the world!

I loved David Ellis's exhibition Broken Glass Everywhere at Babel NY (92 Orchard Street, NYC) through January 31, 2020

Wall mounted sculpture by David Ellis, on view at Babel NY through 1/31/2020

“In his explorations of movement, change, and rhythm, multimedia artist David Ellis effectively combines his talent for visual representation with his passion for musical expression. The confluence of the visual and the aural typifies the wide range of his artwork, from stop-motion videos to kinetic sculptures to live painting performances. By utilizing various elements of music making—collaboration, improvisation, timing, repetition— Ellis enlivens his creative process and thus his viewer’s experience.” Excerpt from the curatorial essay by Carlo McCormick


Kudos to Candy Heiland for her inclusion in Identity Crisis at The Royal, 400B S. 2nd Street in Brooklyn. It was great to meet the curator Janet Rutkowski at the opening, and of course talking to Candy about her pieces on view was inspiring.

Candy Heiland with her work at the opening of "Identity Crisis" at The Royal

More Kudos to Maia Cruz Palileo for her exhibition and citing in Hyperallergic as one of the best of 2019 for her exhibition at Katzen Arts Center, American University Museum, Washington, DC!

Maia Cruz Palileo, “The Visitors” (2014), oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

“Maia Cruz Palileo untethers Filipino history from American exceptionalism in her vivid paintings, inspired by colonial-era public archives and family photographs from their immigration. Eschewing Western narratives, she recontextualizes the diaspora on its own terms, pulling customs from imperial clutches and realigning them in robust color palettes. Broad brushstrokes and thickly applied paints result in expressive scenes that exist somewhere between representation and abstraction, as if drawn from memory. In highlighting a history widely omitted from US textbooks, Palileo’s work challenges a collective ignorance, instead honoring the resilience of ordinary people and setting the stage for greater discussions of postcolonial heritage.” Hyperallergic, December 2019


Mark your calendars! I hope I will see you on Saturday, January 18, 6–8 PM at the opening of Cecile Chong’s _other Nature at Smack Mellon (92 Plymouth Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn) January 18–February 23, 2020.

_other Nature explores the deep-seated links between nature and culture and the damage caused by the imposition of social, political and physical barriers. As Chong puts it, “When we alienate ourselves from nature and brutalize its delicate balance, we cut ourselves off from our common cultural roots.” Her immersive, glow-in-the-dark installation evokes danger, fear, and risk in an environment that is simultaneously beautiful, disorienting, and haunting.


Happy New Year!

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