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I first met self-taught artist Don’aë Tate last year at the Fountain House Gallery Open Studio in Long Island City. I was struck at once by her expressive, authentic aesthetic. Recently, we spoke:

What is your earliest art memory?

I was ten years old and at my foster mother’s daughter’s house in the Bronx. Her husband gave me a coloring book and crayons, and he told me to draw within the lines. I was angry because I wanted to watch TV. I didn’t feel like drawing. And so my first art memory was not a good one! But I did look forward to my art classes in elementary school. Only there did I feel free. I was always in trouble in elementary school. I was like a mix of Dennis the Menace and Bart Simpson. I remember having to write, ‘”I will not disrupt the class” dozens of times. My Friday art class was the only class that didn’t get me into trouble.

When did you start getting serious about art?

When I was living in Fortune Society’s transitional housing, I met Guy Woodard. When I saw his artwork and the attention it was receiving, I was motivated to create art. I discovered that it was a great way to distract myself from my surroundings.

What inspires you these days?

My environment. I’m particularly influenced by signs that I see.

Who are some of you favorite artists?

Basquiat, Picasso, and Klimt. I love everything about Picasso, and I love the way Klimt works with gold.

What are some of your cultural influences?

My principal cultural influences are Latino and African-American. I was also influenced by the predominant ‘white’ culture and West Indian one, as I grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods with West Indian foster families.

How has your aesthetic evolved through the years?

At first, I just did my own thing, but after I joined Fountain House, Miguel Colon – one of the artists I met there — encouraged me to learn about different artists, art movements, and art terms. During my second residency here, Fountain House Gallery Studio coordinator Karen Gormandy urged me to develop my own style. She told me to go inside myself and paint what I see and feel and become more fluent. I’m learning to trust my process.

Are you generally satisfied with your completed work?

When I finish a piece, I’m extremely happy. I feel like I’m waking up on Christmas morning to a bunch of presents.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

About a month.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About 25%.

What are some of your other interests?

I love singing, writing, cooking; I love doing anything creative.

Have you ever exhibited your artwork?  

I exhibited at The Bridge in Harlem and at Fountain House Gallery in Manhattan.

What is your favorite setting to work? 

I don’t have one yet. My favorite setting would be a permanent place. These days I mostly paint at the Fountain House studio space and my bedroom floor.

What are your favorite media?

Acrylic paint, paint sticks and chalk.

How important is the viewer’s response to you? 

It’s not important at all. What matters is that I like it.

Have you any kind of formal art education? 

No. I’m entirely self-taught.

Where are you headed?

Creating more art, of course! And I have a show coming up on April 16th with Sasha P.W. at Fountain House Gallery.

Congratulations! We are certainly looking forward to it! What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

To present the truth as he or she sees it.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky and City-as-School intern Basil Lyons

Photo credits:  1, 3, 5 & 6 Courtesy of the artist; 2 Courtesy of Fountain House Gallery and 4 & 7 (in collaboration with Sasha PW) Lois Stavsky


Jayne County, the first openly transgender rock performer, is also an intuitive artist who has been drawing since childhood. Her art has largely served as a coping mechanism and is often spontaneously created. It also reflects her trans identity.

“I think that my art serves as a way of putting out the fuse before it ignites and becomes a ballistic bomb of some sort. Some people are at odds with the world and they become serial killers; others become artists,” she expressed.

Her current exhibit, BASTET, Goddess of Wet Dreams, reflects both her fascination with outsider, mysterious, eccentric creatures and her affinity towards cats. Bastet, the Cat Goddess of Ancient Egypt, is — states the artist — “the epitome of cat worship and concentration. She protects me and my cats from harm and hostility from ignorant humans.”

The alluringly mysterious Bastet — a representation of fertility of both sexes — seduces and intrigues. The image featured above, Untitled 51, was fashioned with acrylic and oil on canvas in 2019. Several more of Jayne County‘s recent paintings on view at Marlborough Gallery’s Viewing Room follow:

Femme Bastet #2, 2019, Acrylic and ink on canvas

Untitled, 2019, Acrylic and ink on canvas

Elam 432, 2019, Acrylic and ink on canvas

Really Gold Goddesses, 2019Acrylic and ink on canvas

View of wall with 49 paintings — the centerpiece of the exhibition

The exhibit continues through February 29 at 545 West 25th Street and can be viewed Tuesday through Saturday, 10am-6pm.

Thank you, City-as-School interns Basil Lyons and Alyssa Torres for researching and contributing to this post; photos by Lois Stavsky and Alyssa Torres


Opening at 7PM on Thursday, February 13 at CCE Miami — a non-profit space that fosters cultural cooperation, dialog and exchange — is “The Magic of the Outsider Object,” an exhibition of artworks fashioned with everyday objects by 16 artists who have lived with mental illness.

The upcoming exhibition is presented in collaboration with NAEMI (National Art Exhibitions of the Mentally Ill), a  Miami-based platform dedicated to “discovering, studying, promoting, exhibiting and preserving” the art of people around the globe whose sensibilities have been affected by emotional disorders.

The image featured above is the work of Cuban artist Julián Espinosa Rebollido aka Wayacón. Several more images of works on view in “The Magic of the Outsider Object” follow:

Havana, Cuba native Damian Valdes Dilla, Assemblage art with repurposed objects

Georgia-born, California-bred Patrick La Fon, Intervened photography on recycled wood

Texas-based Roger Sadler, Found object sculpture

Havana, Cuba native Hector Gallo Portieles, A selection of objects collected and assembled by the artist

Havana, Cuba-native Jorge Alberto Hernández Cadi aka El Buzo, Intervened photography and recycled wood

Also on view are works by: Isaac Crespo, Misleydis Castillo, Mario Mesa, Federico García Cortizas, Candice J. Avery, Eric Holmes, Adriam Horta, Milton Schwartz, Ramón Losa and Julián Guillermo Marcos Cazola (Rigo).

Curated by Claudia Taboada Churchman, the exhibition remains on view at CCE Miami, 1490 Biscayne Boulevard, until April 13 .

Photos courtesy CCE Miami


Among the many treasures on exhibit at the new MoMA is a diverse selection of artworks by self-taught artists. The image featured above,The Congo Queen, was fashioned with enamel, oil and pencil on cardboard by the late Haitian self-taught artist Hector Hyppolite. Several more images of artworks by self-taught artists that I captured during my recent visit to MoMA follow in this first of an ongoing series:

The late Poland-born American folk artist Morris Hirshfield, Tiger, 1940, Oil on canvas

The late Scotland-born American artist John Kane, Self Portrait, 1929, Oil on canvas over board

The late PA-born African American painter Horace Pippin, Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, Pardons the Sentry, 1942, Oil on canvas

The late French artist Séraphine Louis, Tree of Paradise, c. 1928, Oil on canvas

The late Oakland-based Creative Growth Art Center fiber artist Judith Scott, Untitled, 2002, Found objects assembled and wrapped in twine and yarn

Located at 11 West 53rd Street, MoMA opens every day at 10:30 and closes at 5:30 — except for Fridays and the first Thursday of each month when it stays open until 9:00 p.m.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


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


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?


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?


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


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.


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


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


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