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Featuring expressive works by four self-taught artists,Visionary Voices: Portrait Works by Chloe FimianoAnthony ColemanSusan Wallack, and Jaither West, continues through February 23 at Philadelphia Magic Gardens, a visionary art gallery and community arts center in South Philly. The image featured above, Fight Back, was fashioned on canvas by mixed-media artist Susan WallackWhat follows are several more images I captured while viewing the delightful exhibit on my recent visit to Philly:

Philadelphia-based Chloe Fimiano, Third Step, Ink and marker on paper 

Philadelphia-based Anthony Coleman, E.T., Colored pencil on paper

Another portrait by Susan Wallack, Tasting Rain, Mixed media on canvas

Philadelphia-based Jaither West, Rittenhouse Square, Acrylic on canvas

Located at 120 South Street, Philadelphia Magic Gardens is open six days a week, Wednesday-Monday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Admission also provides access to Isaiah Zagar’s uniquely intriguing mosaic art environment.

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Born in Guyana and currently based in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, self-taught multidisciplinary artist Shayne Bovell fashions an extraordinary range of elegantly raw art on a a variety of surfaces. I recently had the opportunity to find out a bit more about one of my long-time favorite artists.

When did you first start drawing?

I was in the first grade at PS 181 in East Flatbush. I never did any schoolwork. I was always bored in class and wanted to kill time. I needed something to do, and I feel now that I always had an innate need to create. It is something I must do.

What were your some of your early inspirations?

I was into all these comic book superheroes and characters…Spiderman, Batman, GI Joe. I was also inspired by the Alien Legion science-fiction comic-book series and the Star Wars comics.

Who are some of your favorite artists these days?

Among them are: Frank Miller, Jae Lee, Tom McFarlane and Mark Rothko.

What about cultural influences?

Besides comic books, skateboarding and Thrasher Magazine.

How has your art evolved through the years?

It has more definition.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

On average, about a month.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

All the time! When I’m not creating something, I’m thinking about it..

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes! I’ve exhibited in a range of spaces — from hugely informal ones to official galleries.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Yup!

Is the viewer’s response to your work important to you?

No! Everyone is entitled to one’s own opinion.

What is your favorite setting to work?

I like working at home.

Have you any favorite media?

Acrylic.

Have you a formal art education?

I studied graphic arts at NYC Tech, but I’m largely self-taught.

What is your main source of income?

A range of freelancing – from making props to designing sets.

What’s ahead?

The possibilities are limitless – from Hollywood to the moon.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

A commentator, somewhat like a news reporter, but with a grasp of fantasy tinged with reality.

Note: A selection of Shayne Bovell‘s works remains on exhibit in “Unbound: Authentic Visions and Voices” at The Local NYC, 13-02 44th Avenue, in Long Island City through February 27.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Eight walls and three loading docks on the exterior of Yoho Studios now have a new look. Described by the artist as New Earth Hieroglyphs, the art brings Michael Cuomo’s distinctly abstract, black and white spiritual aesthetic into the public sphere.

On our recent visit to Michael’s studio, the artist gave us a tour of his newly created public art work, and we had the opportunity to pose a few questions to him:

When did you begin working on this project?

I began in mid-August. I’ve since spent 78 hours on 181 square feet.

How did the opportunity come your way?

I was commissioned by Yonkers Arts, a first-rate organization dedicated to promoting local art, artists and cultural organizations throughout the City of Yonkers.

How did you decide on the theme?

I wanted to share with others the power of high vibrational frequency that these designs offer. I am honored to be able to present my artwork to the community on a main street, 578-540 Nepperhan Avenue, where thousands pass daily.

Your studio is one of my favorite spaces anywhere! How long have you been here?

It will be ten years this May. And in the course of these ten years, I witnessed this community develop into a focal point of creative energy.

You work mostly in your studio. What has it been like to change your working environment to an outdoor one?

It’s great to be out in the elements. And I love the interaction with the people here. Many stop by to talk. Others honk their horns from their cars and give me a thumbs up while I’m working. I love it!

How do you feel about the final results?

I’m enthralled!

Interview by Lois Stavsky and Fawn Phillips

Photo credits: 1 & 3 Lois Stavsky; 2 & 4 Fawn Phillips

Note: A selection of Michael Cuomo‘s artwork will be on exhibit in “Unbound: Authentic Visions and Voices” at The Local NYC,13-02 44th Avenue in Long Island City, Opening with a reception on Thursday, January 9 at 6pm, the group exhibition continues through February 27.

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Pure Vision Arts, Manhattan’s first specialized art studio and exhibition space for self-taught artists with autism and other developmental challenges, is currently showcasing the talents of over four dozen artists in an exuberant  exhibition at the Pure Vision Arts Pop-Up Gallery at 824 Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side.

The image featured above “Spirit of Summer” was fashioned by Queens-based artist Roy Gabbay. Several more images of artworks on view through Saturday follow:

Susan Brown, Rockefeller Center, Mixed media on canvas

Mexican native Carmen Esparza Sanchez, Holiday Scene, Mixed media on wood

Brooklyn-based Dennis Yee, Lincoln Center, Mixed media on Masonite

Rockland-based William Britt, Untitled, Oil on board

Pure Vision Arts was founded in 2002 by The Shield Institute, a not-for-profit human-service agency that educates and supports New Yorkers with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Photos for this post by City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago with research by City-as-School intern Sage Ironwood

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On my recent trip to Washington DC, I had the opportunity to visit Art Enables, an art gallery, studio and vocational program committed to creating opportunities for artists with disabilities to create and market their original artwork. Established in 2001, Art Enables works with artists who experience a wide range of developmental and cognitive disabilities, as well as mental health challenges. Its huge studio space showcases an extraordinary range of works in a variety of media created by the largely self-taught artists who have found a home in Art Enables. The image featured above, Tribal Visit, is one of the many narrative-driven works fashioned with watercolor and markers by Nonja Tiller.  Several more artworks created by Art Enables artists follow:

Egbert “Clem” Evans, Train Station, Watercolor and marker on paper

Gary Murrell, Murky Waters, Mixed media 

Raymond Lewis, Scotland, Watercolor and marker on paper

Payman Jazini, Happy Greetings, Mixed media on paper

And from the outside

Located at 2204 Rhode Island Avenue NE, the Art Enables gallery is open Mon-Fri: 9am – 4pm and the first two Saturdays of each month: 9am – 5pm. It will be closed for vacation beginning December 23 through January 1,

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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I came upon George Mannouris’s distinct visionary aesthetic while visiting Arts Educator Fawn Phillip’s Fresh Art NYC class at St. Margaret’s House earlier this fall. I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview him.

When did you first start drawing? And what inspired you at that time?

I was about 7 and living in Cyprus, where I was born. I was inspired by nature. Beautiful mountains, beaches and fields of golden grain surrounded me. And the sky at night was spectacular!

Do any early art-related memories stand out?

Yes. When I was 12, Turkey invaded Cyprus, and war broke out. I witnessed a massive explosion. The Turkish army was dropping bombs on civilians, and – at the time – I was in front of a glass door that exploded into a million pieces and knocked me over. I landed on my back. My hands and face were bleeding, and I had to flee for my life. I could not look back. That day I became a refugee. I soon began creating art — much of it abstract — that reflected that incident. It was my way of dealing with the intense trauma.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Van Gogh, Picasso, and Dali are among my all-time favorites. I also love Hilma af Klint, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keefe, Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Giorgio de Chirico, Jackson Pollock, and Alex Grey.

Wow! That’s quite a huge range. What about cultural influences?

I’m strongly influenced by indigenous cultures throughout the world. Ancient Egyptian, Indian, Chinese and Japanese aesthetics – along with my Greek culture –are also strong influences.

How has your art evolved since you began to seriously work on it?

My art has taken on a fantastical bent. I am better able to express my creative energy. I continue to work with some wonderful art therapists like Christen Meyer.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Anywhere from two hours to two months.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

Just about every day, I do something artistic. I’m also into photography.

What are some other activities that interest you?

Singing, composing music and writing poetry.

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes! I’ve shown my work in a variety of spaces including the Buddhist Culture Center, the New York Public Library and the James Cohan Gallery. I’ve also exhibited in alternative spaces in London and in Aukland, New Zealand and in a special exhibit following a workshop at MoMA.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I work until I’m happy with it.

Is the viewer’s response to your work important to you?

I’m interested in how others perceive it, what it evokes in them. What’s important to me is that they react to it.

What is your favorite setting to work?

Any space with good lighting.

Have you any favorite media?

Watercolor inks, acrylics and metallics.

Have you a formal art education?

No. I’m self-taught.

Where are you headed?

I’d like to attain more recognition and eventually exhibit in museums.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

The artist’s role is to speak truth to power…to express realities and to liberate our personal realities.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photos: 1, 3 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 2, 4 & 5 courtesy of the artist

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Currently based in Washington DC, self-taught artist Matt Sesow was born in 1966 in rural Nebraska. When he was eight years old, he was struck by the propeller of a landing airplane. As a result of this accident, Matt’s left hand was severed.

“My paintings are the emotional response to a traumatic past, the road to healing, and the confidence of finding a new language to express feelings felt but never shared,” he explains.

Matt Sesow’s paintings have been exhibited in a range of spaces throughout the globe. I recently visited several on view at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Featured above is “Identical Twins.” Fashioned with oil and acrylic on canvas in 2016, it was inspired by a photo of twin girls. Several more images of paintings — reflecting the artist’s infectious outsider art aesthetic — seen at the AVAM follow:

A Choice, 2016, Oil on canvas

Marine Biologist, Rachel Carson, 2017, Oil and acrylic on watercolor board

Border Crossing with Edward Snowden, 2013, Oil on canvas

A Simple Game of Spud, 2016, Acrylic and oil on canvas

Photos of paintings: Lois Stavsky

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Speaking With Living Museum Artist Robert Chin

I discovered Queens-based artist Robert Chin‘s intriguingly diverse artwork awhile back at the Living Museum. I was delighted to finally meet him and find out a bit about him.  

When did you begin to draw?

I was in 3rd grade when I started. I drew an Easter bunny for a class assignment, and I decided this is what I want to do the rest of my life…draw!

What inspired you at the time?

I was terrified of everything else

And what inspires you these days?

It is my way of expressing my vision of the world. It is how I can best express my thoughts.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Van Gogh, Picasso, and Jackson Pollack are among my favorites. When I look at the art of the masters, I see what’s possible.

What about cultural influences?

Rock music and art films are among my main influences.

How has your art evolved through the years?

It changed dramatically five years ago when I started doing caricatures. My main inspiration was Philip Burke.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Anywhere from a month to six weeks.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I work on my art about five hours a day.

What are some other activities that engage you?

I like to write and I like to sing.

I was introduced to your work here at the Living Museum.. Have you exhibited elsewhere?

I’ve shown my work at Hofsta University, at the Queens Museum and in a group exhibition in Korea.

Is the viewer’s response to your work important to you?

Not at all. I don’t care what others think about what I am doing.

Have you any favorite media?

I like working with acrylic.

Have you a formal art education?

I attended the High School of Art and Design. I, also, studied art at Pratt for three years.

What was that like?

It was horrifying.

Where are you headed?

To bigger and better things.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To reveal all of society’s hypocrisies, mistakes and treacheries.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; images of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Yesterday afternoon, we joined ARTBreakOUT co-founder and art educator Bonnie Astor, along with a group of young artists supported by AHRC, at the American Folk Art Museum. It was our second visit to the wondrous exhibition, “Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler,” featuring dozens of intriguing artworks form Audrey Heckler’s personal collection. On her passion for outsider art that she had begun collecting after a visit to the Outsider Art Fair in 1993, Audrey Heckler told ARTnews: “All this art speaks to me, a lot more than other forms of art.”

The image featured above is the work of the late noted English visionary artist Madge Gill (1882-1961), whose artwork often references a longed-for daughter who was stillborn. A small sampling of our favorite works follows:

Japanese visionary artist M’onma, one of several otherworldly, often unsettling, surreal artworks created with graphite, ink and colored pencil

One of the first artists to be identified with the outsider art movement, the late Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930) created thousands of intricate drawings of imaginary adventures while confined to a psychiatric hospital in Berne. As the one featured below, they picture a fantastical world created from the artist’s imagination.

Czech artist Anna Zemánková (1908-1986), one of her many striking botanical images that she created to help her cope with her depression

French artist Augustin Lesage (1876-1954), one of many drawings inspired — according to the artist — by voices from invisible spirits, including that of his dead sister

Wide view of one segment of the sprawling exhibition featuring a range of artworks in different media

Linen tapestry fashioned by the late English visionary artist Madge Gill, with City-as-School intern Sage Ironwood to its left

“Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler” continues through January 26, 2020. Located at 2 Lincoln Square (Columbus Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), the American Folk Art Museum is open Tuesday–Thursday: 11:30 am–7:00 pm; Friday: 12:00–7:30 pm; Saturday: 11:30 am–7:00 pm and Sunday, 12:00–6:00 pm. Admission is always free.

Research for this post: City-as-School intern Sage Ironwood;

Photo credits: 1-5 Sage Ironwood; 6 & 7 Lois Stavsky

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What began in November, 2005 as a month-long gathering at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center during Puerto Rican Heritage Month, BORIMIX has since evolved into a vibrant city-wide project showcasing Latinx artists working in film, theatre, dance, music and the visual arts. Among this month’s festivities is sierra/COSTA — a gallery exhibition spanning two galleries at The Clemente featuring an eclectic range of works by over two dozen artists. The intriguing image featured above is a close-up from Mazmorra, fashioned with ink on vinyl in 2018 by Ecuadorian artist Ivo Uquillas. Several more images of artworks — many by Ecuadorian artists — captured during my recent visit to the exhibition follow:

Jersey City-based Athena Toledo, For My Village, 2019, Mural

Ecuadorian artist Toofly, Close-up from “Free Spirit Remix” — a huge mural painted onto the wall

Puerto Rican artist Carlos Dávila Rinaldi, Naranjito, 2015, Tar gel

NYC-based Argentine artist Julia Justo, Altar for Sylvia Rivera, 2019, Installation

Ecuadorian artist Carla Torres, Lord of the Flies, 2006, Mixed media on Masonite

Colombian artist Edwin Salgado, Green 2018, Oil on canvas

The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center is located at 107 Suffolk Street on the Lower East Side. Its gallery spaces are open Wednesday-Sunday 12PM-7PM and by appointment, 212-260-4080.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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