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Visualize & Inform

Updated: May 27, 2023

This week in ART YARD Advanced Studio on Zoom we had a fantastic session led by ART YARD Artist Kevin Anderson inspired by the work of Mona Chalabi, an artist who uses journalism, statistics, and data visualization as a base for her artwork.

Mona Chalabi, The Gray-Green Divide, installed at the Brooklyn Museum, 2022

Kevin sums up: “I was really excited to teach another lesson on environmental science and stability. The artist I chose was Mona Chalabi, who uses her passion for journalism and statistics to create data visualizations. These visualizations consist of vibrant, playful imagery inspired by current events that Chalabi strongly believes should be conveyed. After reading an article regarding Cholabi’s creative process, one line stood out to me. Part of Chalabi’s creative process is to allow her audience to “ ‘ leave with a bit of insight into how to communicate your knowledge to other people, maybe even people that are totally different from you’ ”. With this in mind, I thought having the ART YARD Advanced Studio artists create their own visualizations would be an engaging experience.”

Ed complements: Kevin for his well-organized Power Point Presentation, including great examples of work by Mona Chalabi and others.

Chloe for her stunning Hourglass image, a case study in simplification of color, design and form. Plus – she colored the sands of time gold, adding extra symbolic power to this precious element of life.

Chloe Kaas, Visualize & Inform

Meridith for figuring out how to use a kaleidoscope effect in Photo-Shop to create a multi layered image combining words with a movie still image that expresses itself as a mandala.

Meridith McNeal, Visualize & Inform

Abby for her tender drawing of a mother rhino with baby. Her image of these majestic, endangered animals reminds us all how fragile life is on our crazy planet, Earth.

Abby Johnson, Visualize & Inform

Jules, for tackling the subject of sexual abuse, which, sadly, one out of three women in our society have experienced. Her drawing raises awareness of this insidious behavior, galvanizing us to fight for justice in our communities.

Jules Lorenzo, Visualize & Inform

Others noted that Ed’s drawing, Artificial Intelligence versus the Human Brain, pits a robot against a human in a contest to envision something new, looks like it could be a New Yorker cartoon.

Ed Rath, Visualize & Inform

All knowledge can be reduced to comparison and contrast; if only one thing existed in an otherwise void universe, we could not describe or “know” it. Much can be learned in dealing with any Greek problem if we turn to the analogous aspect of Roman civilization. The comparison – and even more, the contrast – between these two kindred but widely divergent societies is illuminating. (From the prelude to The Trial of Socrates by I.F. Stone.)

Kevin presenting on zoom

Kevin continues: “This lesson proved to be a learning experience regarding the issues that each student deemed important. Each piece was very diverse in color, composition, and inspiration. Behind each was a compelling story that was well articulated. I was in awe of how amazing they were and made sure to compliment how hard everyone had worked. Overall, in a community that focuses on drawing inspiration from one another to create more inspiring art, it has helped to inspire me. It feels amazing to be part of a community that encourages self-discovery through having a better understanding of our natural world. By the end of this lesson, I learned more about each of the artists, and what ART YARD BKLYN stands for as a whole.”


On Tuesday in the second of a three-part series of ART YARD Advanced Studio in person at BWAC taught by ART YARD Teaching Artist Golnar Adili we dove back into our exploration of our Earth Mother / Mother Earth theme.

Golnar shares: “I am thrilled that Saghi and Assia joined us for this session inspired by our theme of mother earth and art therapy.

We all thought of an earth trauma and symbolized it by giving it a simple geometric and large shape. We used our fingers to paint inside the shape with whatever color we thought was good. Then after we engulfed the shape with a light color. I came across this mode of art therapy through Cora Egger who practices the LOM METHOD solution centered art therapy. In this way, painting thick with our fingers alleviates stress by making new symbolic imagery."

Assia made an expressive oval, thinking about the sea turtles and how plastic is making them choke and gets into their bodies.

Assia Adili, Earth Healing: Sea Turtles

Saghi painted a metaphor for the Hormoz island, a majestic Iranian Island in the Persian gulf which has red earth, and bright green and white mountains, an archeologists' dream. This island has taken a lot of abuse from tourism, especially with trash.

Saghi Gazerani, Earth Healing: Hormoz Island

Inspired by the watery vista from our studio window Meridith did a lovely painting meditating on the earth’s water.

Water view from the studio window & Meridith McNeal, Earth Healing: Water

Golnar’s piece focused on the problem of plastic pollutants.

Golnar Adili, Earth Healing: Plastics


Mufasa says "we are all connected in the great circle of life" in The Lion King - and connecting is what it's about at PS 17, our partnership school in Jersey City. Dennis reports: “Teaching Artists Fatima Traore, Evelyn Beliveau and I are treated like "royalty" by an outpouring of cooperation and compliments from all school members involved in our programming and our participation in the school's production of The Lion King.

Fatima painting leaves on the backdrop now hanging on the stage at PS17

Thanks to the cooperation of PS 17's art teacher, Ralph Pyrzanowski, the gorgeous painted canvas of the African savanna, designed and executed by Fatima and the after school group, was hung on the stage using hooks and chains and it looks spectacular. Fatima made some (even more!) finishing touches to the trees - having the canvas hung made this process somewhat easier. I was lucky enough to be on stage (Ralph was adjusting the canvas to make it a bit more taut) when rehearsals started and got a different view (a backstage view?) of the action. All performers are excellent. They've begun using props and rehearsed the opening scene right on Pride Rock.

Rehearsal in action (stage view)

Fatima then left the stage and returned to the art room, where she worked with 1st graders and 4th graders - 1st graders finishing up some pre-cut masks using markers while 4th graders worked on mask-like paintings using African patterns and watercolors. The school plans to exhibit "The Art of The Lion King" in and around the auditorium during performances. Additionally, Fatima's new lesson plan was rolled out to those students who felt their masks were complete (complete as they can be for now - cutting, gluing, painting still required) - drawing then painting VERY close up (like macro style photography) natural patterns (leaves, snakeskins, grass, etc.) - this lesson will have an African theme as well to coincide with works pertaining to The Lion King.

Meanwhile, also in the art room, Evelyn designed and crafted additional foam masks for the central characters of the musical (about 8 in total). Not an easy task - using box cutters to get through thick foam and mold around a cap. She succeeded (of course!). She brought completed masks outside to spray with a fixative to act as a primer and to help avoid paint being soaked up by the foam. She then guided 7th and 8th graders in a lesson on creating cardboard masks to fit small caps - which will be worn by the ensemble. Some students used engineering skills (along with creativity and ingenuity) to craft masks (more like headdresses - but masks are what we're calling them) from previous works they made in earlier sessions.

Foam had masks (use arrows to scroll)

During the after school program, we all worked with the group to begin painting and decorating the foam masks. Sounds easy and fun, huh? Applying paint to the foam took several steps - and will require drying time (even with the fixative primer) so they've been placed up on top of the cabinets until next time.

Painted foam mask hat

We are very fortunate for the school's teamwork (the first performance is only about 3 weeks away!) - often Ralph works with the students to continue what we've started in order to continue momentum."


Dennis relates that: “Teaching Artist Fatima Traore worked closely with students - helping them finish their Remastering The Masters pieces - at the East New York High School of Arts and Civics.

Fatima offering individual student support

Ines, always striving for perfection, needed some guidance - she wanted her portrait of her dog Hazel to appear more like her Hazel instead of just a random Yorkshire Terrier. Discussions abounded about the shape of Hazel's eye vs other Yorkies' eyes; were Hazel's ears triangular or a bit rounded at the tips; did her ears flop over when her hair is longer or do they just generally flop? I compared a photo of Hazel to a photo of a Yorkie found on the internet and Fatima and Ines painted (and drew and adjusted and repainted ...). Now Hazel is looking like ... well, Hazel.

Inez, After Frida Kahlo and detail of Hazel

Joshua continued to select bits of paper to collage his Scream and even used pieces of a print out of the original art to add. Smart thinking!

Rose, Remastering the Masters, Modern Mona Lisa

Fatima and Inez work on painting details

Jacob finished his painting and considered my recommendation to add gold leaf in lieu of collaging which he accepted and began, using application techniques shown to him by Fatima.

Painting in progress by Jacob

Additionally, Fatima worked with students on creating artist statements relating to their Black History Month portraits for Career Day at the school.

Fatima Traore, Remastering the Masters, After Vermeer

I am happy and proud of the students' successes with this project and all others.”


Dennis reports in from Jersey City: "1st and 2nd graders at our partnership school, PS 6 finished painting their mer-people and underwater creatures paintings with great enthusiasm. After looking at mer-folks paintings by ART YARD Artists Candy Heiland and Marie Roberts, students added details like bubbles, jellyfish, sharks, and lots of flowing hair (yup - even for the mermen). They were thrilled with their successes.

Candy Heiland, Little Mermaid, 2023

Our critique revolved around those details - we asked students to be extra observant and look carefully for them. One happy student explained to me and Evelyn that her mother taught her how to draw natural looking underwater plants when she told her about this project. EXCELLENT - we love family participation in any form!

PS6 artists painting and critiquing mer-folk artwork

Teaching Artist Evelyn Beliveau demonstrated watercolor painting techniques to those who hadn't had much experience with the process - and the results are terrific. I particularly liked the artists who varied from the norm by creating seahorse and starfish people - but sad that no one chose to draw my favorite merman - Ethel Merman!

Evelyn demonstrated brush techniques

Dennis's favorite Merman!

The school had a 1/2 day early closing for Memorial Day but Evelyn and I took advantage of the extra time by sorting through all projects, taking down remaining pieces of art in the gallery, and mentally curating the next exhibition. We've made pretty big decisions and where to hang what - with a few little open ideas to be sorted out next week."


Very big thanks to ART YARD Artist Jules Lorenzo who got us up and running and will be our TikTok Queen!!!! Jules reports that we had 760 views in the first 2 hours we were live!


Other Art News

On Tuesday I was chatting with BWAC Arts Administrator & Artist Pat Dingan about the current exhibition and asked her what part of the current show she would like to let people know about. Pat recommends Recycle 2023 on view on the ground floor at BWAC (481 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn) weekends 1‐6pm through June 18, 2023. As we at AYB have been thinking about Planet Earth Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition’s national juried show of art crafted from cast‐off, discarded, and re‐purposed materials, is spot on our theme!


My nephew and I heartily recommend the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. We went to see Lois Dodd: Natural Order on view through May 28, 2023. With my own interest in windows and reflection, these paintings really spoke to me! The show is well installed and ranges perhaps 60 years of the artists work. I mentioned to Colin that I plan to write Lois Dodd fan mail. She is 95 and well deserves to hear from a fan!

Lois Dodd, Springtime Studio Interior, 1974

We were surprised that the museum has natural history objects including some stunning crystals, an impressive installation of 20th century artwork and an excellent show of Contemporary Black Art in America! The Bruce Museum is easy to get to on MetroNorth and well worth the trip.

Gertrude Abercrombie, Lonely House, 1938; crystal in a rainbow installation; Colin with a huge amethyst, and Alexander Calder sculpture installed on red plinth, all on display all at The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT.


BWAC President Alicia Degener invites us to join her for the opening of her exhibition on Saturday June 3, 2023 from 1-3pm at The Coney Island branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, 1901 Mermaid Ave. (Near, W 19th St, Brooklyn, NY.


💙 🌊 💙

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