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In 2000, the self-taught German artist Hans Langner aka birdman began the transformation of an old farmhouse in Bad Tölz, Bavaria, Germany into a riveting art installation featuring hundreds of birds. Rendered in a range of styes and media — often on repurposed objects — the birds startle with their sumptuously simple lines and curves. The effects of time and weather add to the intrigue of the “birdhouse” that was completed in 2013, as its appearance is invariably changing. The remarkable assemblage has since made its way onto the premises of the Art Brut Center Gugging. What follows are several more images of it that I captured while visiting Gugging:

Another huge segment from the front of the Birdhouse

The doorway to the Birdhouse

The Birdhouse, closer up

And another close-up

Photos by Lois Stavsky


A hugely significant cultural center on the outskirts of Vienna, Art Brut Center Gugging is dedicated to showcasing and promoting Art Brut or Raw Art. Among the distinctive buildings on its grounds is the Haus der Künstler, the House of Artists. Home to the Gugging Artists since 1981, its exterior is fashioned with artworks by an array of talented, emotionally challenged residents — current and former — including Oswald Tschirtner, August Walla, Johann Garber, Philipp Schöpke. Johann Korec, Johann Fischer and Arnold Schmidt.  Pictured above is a small fragment of the intriguing building as seen from the outside. Several more images I captured of the House of Artists on my recent visit to Art Brut Center Guggin follow:

Another segment of the building’s exterior

And several close-ups

And off to the side — Johann Garber

The House of Artists provides its residents with a supportive living environment, allowing them to create independently and thrive as artists.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky


Featuring an eclectic range of art in a variety of media, Roadside Attraction continues through January 2, 2019 at the Self-Taught Genius Gallery in Long Island City. Drawn from the American Folk Art Museum’s extensive collection, the art on exhibit reflects the curious roadside attractions that proliferated along mainstream American highways and backroad byways in the first decades of the 20th century.  Several more mages from the magically intriguing exhibition — curated by Sarah Margolis-Pineo — follow:

Ralph Fasanella, Workers’ Holiday-Coney Island, 1965, oil on canvas

Howard Finster, Delta Painting, 1983, Enamel paint of wood panel

Clarance and Grace Woolsey, Untitled Figures, Mixed media with bottle caps

Purvis Young, Untitled, Paint on found wood

Mary T Smith to the right of Purvis Young, with train by Howard Finster

Located at 47-29 32nd Place in Long Island City, the Self-Taught Genius Gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 11 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.

Note: The huge doll prominently featured in the first image is the work of Calvin and Ruby Black 

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


Ty Stephano’s infectious raw aesthetic has recently made its way into a huge range of places — from the streets of NYC to the interiors of Lower East Side businesses to a variety of alternative spaces and established galleries. An interview with the self-taught, self-desribed “American fashion designer and contemporary artist” follows:

When did you begin to draw?

Since I can remember. As a young child, I was always sketching on newspapers, magazines — on any surface I could get my hands on! My teachers would get mad at me, as I would draw on every piece of paper that they had handed to me.

Yes! I notice you are sketching now! Have you any early art memories that stand out?

When I was in the second grade in Beacon, NY, one of my pieces was selected to be on exhibit at a nearby children’s museum.

What inspires you to keep creating art?

It’s my way of communicating. And I want to impact others, especially the youth.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Among them are: the contemporary American artist Jesse Hazelip and the late French artists Dubuffet and Matisse.

And cultural influences?

The underground — in all its aspects and forms.

And what about your particular raw aesthetic?  Can you tell us something about it?

I often work with multiple layers — anywhere from 15-34 — simultaneously to attain the texture that I want. And within the texture are encrypttc messages signifying times and places or numbers. I like my pieces to feel “old.”  And there is a message to all that I do, further reinforced by my splatters. Not everyone is perfect, but each one of us is unique.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

It varies. Some I do rather quickly. But I can often spend as long as four weeks — working three hours a day on a piece. And I spent six months on one of my recent pieces, working with oil and maximizing its texture.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished product?

I am!

Have you a favorite piece?

I particularly like my masked self-portrait. it represents the phoniness and misconceptions way too prevalent in society. it’s about seeing through the facades that people have created for themselves.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

My whole life is an art piece. I even dream about art.

What is your favorite setting to work?

A studio of all white walls overlooking a city — while listening to jazz, with palo santo burning.

What about favorite media?

I like mixed-media. I particularly like burning images and working with repurposed materials.

What other activities engage you?

Roaming the streets and looking for inspiration.

What is your main source of income?

My creations.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

At first they didn’t like the madness of my of only living off my art, but now they accept it.

Where are you headed?

Everyone will know.

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

To uplift people. To show them life from a different perspective. To spur them to think and question.

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


Under the direction of Dr. Janos Marton, the Living Museum — on the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Middle Village, Queens — is an enchanting oasis of creativity. Serving individuals under psychiatric care, it abounds with wonderfully intriguing artworks in a range of media and styles fashioned by former and current patients. I recently had the opportunity to visit it, along with AHRC Art Specialist Bonnie Astor and members of the AHRC family. What follows is a small sampling of what we saw there:

Unidentified artist

John Tursi, Wire sculptures made from coat hangers (two of several)

Einstein painted on straightjacket against backdrop of painting by Issa Ibrahim

Unidentified artist

Graffiti by James Kusel, Homage to the Living Museum and its director, Dr. Janos Marton

Unidentified artist, close-up of huge work

Keep posted to the ARTBreakOUT Instagram feed and Facebook page for additional photos of artworks from the Living Museum .

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


Thoroughly intrigued by self-taught artist James Fisher Smith‘s energetic, abstract figurative art, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview the young artist at Con Artist Collective, his current residency, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

What are some of your early art-related memories?

Making a dwelling for fairies in my backyard in Nevada City, California. I was about 4-years old at the time. I also remember finger-painting in pre-school. My mom would tell me it’s beautiful, but I would continue to work on it until it fell apart. And when I was in 1st grade, I illustrated a Goosebumps comic book. I would also spend long afternoons making elaborate fleets of starships out of geometric blocks that would face off each other.

Gee! You were quite precocious! What inspired you to continue making art?

The feeling I have when I do it. I feel as though I’m in a transcendental state, connected to myself and to the universe. It is my way of expressing myself…of making myself feel that I am worthy of life. I see my drawings as relics from a particular time and place.

What about favorite artists? Who are some of your favorite artists?

There are many. Among them are: Egon Schiele, Zio Ziegler, Miró, BasquiatAdolf Wölfli, Dubuffet, David Park, Francis Bacon, Giacometti and Lucien Freud.

And how about cultural influences? What are some of your cultural influences?

Backpacking, nature, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Gary Snyder, Utah Phillips and the stories I’ve heard from my dad, Jordan Fisher Smith.

How has your artwork evolved during the past several years?

Within the last two years, I’ve become quite serious. My art has become a means for me to communicate with others, rather than a narrative which I play out for myself.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?


How long do you usually spend on a piece?

As little as two minutes or as much as 15 hours.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About 90%.

What are some of your other interests?

Writing narrative nonfiction, reading artist biographies and going to museums, I especially love the Guggenheim. I also perform and draw caricature at UNDER St Marks Theatre in the East Village every Tuesday.

Have you exhibited your work?

I’ve shown in several spaces including: the Con Artist Collective, 49 Wyckoff, the Unruly Collective, and I participated in a group show called Ready Made Art Fair on White Street in Tribeca. Also, every time I ride the subway. I draw portraits of the passengers across from me and tape the paper up on the window behind. I love watching the portrait zoom away from the platform. I receive a lot of enthusiastic messages in response to these drawings. I think Keith Haring inspired me to put my work up on the subway in such a public way

How important is the viewers’ response to you?

It depends. I want my work to leave an indelible print on people. I am interested in opening my heart to a stranger. I’m not interested in hearing a critical assessment of my work from someone who focuses on just one aspect of it and ignores the whole.

What is your favorite setting to work?

I often like to work in complete isolation while sitting in a park or somewhere close to nature. I also like my work to reflect the site that inspired it.

What are your favorite media? Which tools do you prefer to work with?

Ink on paper.

How has your family responded to your artwork?

 They love it! My grandfather comments on all my images. He sees me as the prodigal son.

Have you a formal art education?

Not a formal one. I attended weekly art classes as a child and I studied art for one semester at Reed College. 

What’s ahead?

I plan to release an art book of selected journal works in the next year. I’m already speaking with publishers. I love collaborating with artists of different schools, especially musicians. I’m designing several album covers and hope to do more of this. My scale is often small, but it’s been getting progressively bigger. I did two large murals this fall and my process translated beautifully. I think painting is the next frontier for me.

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

To communicate to the public the intensity with which one can see and feel.

Note: You can contact the artist at his email jamesfishersmith@gmail.com or reach out via his Instagram.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky and Bonnie Astor


On view at Fountain House Gallery is Domicile, a beguiling group exhibition featuring dozens of artworks in a range of media – all addressing the concept of home. Organized by independent curator Audra Lambert — who aptly defines home as “the space that matters most to us in reality and in memory, in fact, and in the fictions we create” — Domicile continues through October 24. The image above features the talents of multimedia artist Ella Veres. Several more images from Domicile follow:

Davida Adedjouma, The Beautiful Woman in the Picture, Mixed media shadow box

Alyson Vega, Mixed media installation

Bryan Michael Greene, Cigar Box Diorama Two (Hoosiers), Multimedia cigar box

Linda Bienstock, Welcome to My World – Come on In, Actylic and felt on canvas

Mercedes Kelly, Mother Cat in Living Room, acrylic on canvas

Barry Senft, Studio, Acrylic on canvas

And from the outside looking in

Providing a supportive setting for artists living and working with mental illness to share their talents with others, Fountain House Gallery is located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan. It is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday: 11am-7pm and Sunday: 1-5pm

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky


In his consistently brilliantly bizarre fashion, Brooklyn-based RAE has ingeniously captured the almost-apocolyptic frenzy that characterizes Coney Island. After spending some time at his current exhibit, “The End Starts Now,” we had the opportunity to speak.

Why Coney Island?

As a child, I used to venture into Coney Island, and from early on, I was captivated by the way two distinct worlds collide in this same space. Known principally as a place of fun, Coney Island also has a very dark side. Some of the destitute people I’ve seen here have never even made their way into Manhattan. Tourists who come here don’t see them. They are easy to miss. But they are part of Coney Island’s fabric.

Yes! Your images seem to perfectly reflect this juxtaposition as they exude both a sense of playfulness and a sense of sorrow. Your sculptures on view here are all made from found objects, as are the many that have made their way onto our streets. Can you tell us something about that? Why do you choose to work with these materials?

I always try to find beauty in what so many others find worthless. I’m drawn to what others cast away.

And where did you find the materials that you repurposed for this exhibit?

I found most of them on the nearby side streets and behind the amusement park rides. I salvaged objects that even the homeless folks had discarded.

I’ve noticed several references to dice in both your sculptures and your works on canvas.

Yes. The dice are a commentary on the precariousness of it all. So much that we experience happens to us by chance.

And your references to money and politics are a perfect metaphor for the larger story of our country at this time! When did you begin working on “The End Starts Now?”

I started in the spring.

Are you satisfied with the outcome?

I am! It is very different from my last year’s exhibit “The RAE Show,” that was held in a storefront on the Lower East Side, where I was visible to the public just about all day every day for an entire month. But, yes, I had always dreamed of having a show in Coney Island, and we’ve had a steady stream of visitors. It would be fun, though, to do something again in a storefront!

How can folks still see the exhibit? It’s too much fun to be missed!

It will be on view one more time — next Saturday, October 13, from 1 – 4pm here at 1220 Surf Avenue, floor 3.

Congratulations on another amazing show! I can’t wait to see what’s next!


  1. Face Fears, Mixed media on canvas
  2. The System, Mixed media on archival paper
  3. Odds, Reclaimed object sculpture
  4. Red Glare, Mixed media on canvas
  5. Syntax #2, Mixed media on canvas

Interview with RAE conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos of images Lois Stavsky


On exhibit through October 13 at BronxArtSpace is HUMBLE, a thoroughly captivating exhibition featuring the works of 15 contemporary artists from various tribal nations across the US. Organized by Cougar Vigil and Eva Mayhabal Davis, HUMBLE is titled after an interdisciplinary network of Native American artists who attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Mexico in the mid-2000’s. Featured above is the title piece HUMBLE, fashioned by Cannupa Hanska in collaboration with Micah Werewulf Wesley. Several more images —  representative of the range of techniques and styles presented in HUMBLE — follow:

Michael Two Bulls, Historical Document, Paper collage, silkscreen and acrylic 

Marty Two Bulls Jr, Midnight, Mixed media

Douglas Miles, Woman on Fire, Customized Pizza Box

Marty Two Bulls Jr in collaboration with Hoka Skenandore, He Supa (Black Hills) Mixed media

April Holder, String Theory #2, Acrylic and embroidery floss on canvas

And from the opening reception:

Located at 305 East 140th Street in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, BronxArtSpace is open 12 to 6:30pm Wednesday through Friday and 12 to 5pm on Saturday.  Check here for information regarding upcoming events related to the exhibit including: artist talks, an artist market and a studio visit with artist Brad Kahlhamer.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky


On view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 23 is History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift, a rich and varied collection of 30 paintings, sculptures, drawings and quilts by contemporary self-taught African American artists. Pictured above is Locked up Their Minds — fashioned iwith commercial paint on plywood in 1972 — by the late Missouri native Purvis Young. Several more works on view in this historic group exhibition follow:

Alabama native Lonnie Holley, African Mask, Repurposed automobile tires, welder’s mask, electrical outlets, electrical cord, door lock and lace fabric, 2003

The late Alabama native Lucy T. Pettway, Housetop and Bricklayer with Bars quilt, Cotton and acetate, ca. 1955

Alabama native Loretta Pettway, Medallion quilt, Cotton and rayon acetate blend, ca. 1960

The late Alabama native Ronald Lockett, The Enemy Amongst Us, Commercial paint, pine needles, metal and nails on plywood, 1995

The late Alabama native, Thornton Dial, Powder Plant, Sheet metal, sawdust, commercial paint and adhesive on wood, 2013

Also by Thornton Dial,, History Refused to Die, Okra stalks and roots, clothing, collaged drawings, tin, wire, steel, Masonite, steel chain, enamel and spray paint, 2004

The exhibition can be viewed through next Sunday, September 23, at the Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 918-919, Lila Acheson Wallace Wing.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky