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Always showcasing a wonderfully eclectic range of art in a variety of media, the rotating exhibitions at the Renate Albertsen-Marton Gallery in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, intrigue and delight. The mixed-media image featured above was fashioned with recycled elements by the self-taught Nigerian artist Samson Akinnire.  Several more images seen on opening night of Intrinisic follow:

Also by self-taught multidisciplinary Nigerian artist Samson Akinnire

Yonkers-based multidisciplinary artist Michael Cuomo, Mask, Repurposed sculpture

Brooklyn-based Ben Tyree, “Star Gazer,” Acrylic on canvas

Queens native Domingo Carrasco (left) with Samson Akinnire to his right — above photos by Brooklyn-based Austrian native Ida Kreutzer

Domingo CarrascoSamson Akinnire and Brooklyn-based fiber artist A. Holly Sphar (left to right)

The exhibit continues through September 27 at the RAM  Gallery — housed within The aRt Cafe & Bar, 884-886 Pacific Street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Note: Also featured in Intrinsic — but not represented here — is Liberia-born, Brooklyn-based Trokon Nagbe.

Photo credits: 1-3, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 4 courtesy of the artist

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I first met Nazir Hedgepeth several weeks ago while I was walking along Broadway in Bushwick. He was sitting alongside several artworks that he had recently fashioned on a range of repurposed surfaces. I was at once intrigued by their raw outsider aesthetic. We more recently met up on the Lower East Side, where I had the opportunity to find out a bit about him.

When did you first begin to draw?  And what did you draw at the time?

I was seven or eight when I started drawing cartoons. I spent a lot of time watching Looney Toons on TV, and so I was always I drawing those Looney Tunes characters with crayons and pencils.

Did you share your art with anyone back then?

I remember sharing a drawing of me buttering toast. I liked it so much that I showed it to everyone.

Have you any other early art-related memories that stand out?

When I was nine years old, I broke my left hand while wrestling. While I was in Harlem Hospital, I met a painter who introduced me to sketching. He told me that I should paint or draw what I feel. I remember that vividly.

What inspires you these days to create art?

What I hear on the news and what’s happening around me. Just living!

Who are some of your favorite artists? Artists who inspire you?

Francis Bacon, Basquiat, Danny Antonucci

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

Skateboarding, 90’s films, Spike Lee and Instagram.

How has your art evolved within the past decade or so? 

Ten years ago, it was an expression of my sadness…my depression. It no longer always is. 

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Never!

What percentage of your time is devoted to art? 

All of it! Even when I’m skating and playing video games, I think about art.

Have you ever exhibited your work?  

Not in any kind of formal setting.

How important is the viewer’s response to you? 

I try to tell myself that I don’t care what others think of my work, but I actually do. I want those who see my art to walk away with a thought.

What is your favorite setting to work? 

I’d like to paint in my room, but it’s difficult. It’s small, and I like to throw the paint. I often end up working outside — in parking lots and just on the streets.

What are your favorite media?

I like painting with my hands, and I like working with acrylic.

What is your main source of income? 

Assorted odd jobs and selling paintings.

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

They’re happy that I’m doing something I love, but they’d probably prefer that I were studying to become a doctor or a lawyer.  My family is quite artsy, though. My father is a musician. My stepfather did graffiti, and my cousin is a painter.

Have you had any kind of formal art education?

No. But I had one teacher, Mr. Rorick, at Hudson High School of Learning Technologies, who encouraged me to follow my passion. 

Where are you headed?

I don’t know.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To tell a story. To provoke thoughts in others that they might not otherwise have.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky;  photos 1, 3-5 & 7 courtesy of the artist; 2, 6 & 8 Lois Stavsky

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The face pictured above, Incident #2 – Government Approved, was fashioned by the late self-taught artist David Wojnarowicz with acrylic and collaged paper on composition board. Following are several more faces in a variety of media that I’ve recently captured in a range of largely alternative art spaces:

Harlem-based Guy Woodard, Untitled, 2014, Ballpoint pen on paper — as seen at Howl! in the East Village

Yonkers-based multi-disciplinary artist Michael Cuomo, Untitled, 2018, Oil pastel & Indian ink on bristol paper — as seen in his YOHO studio

Queens-based Robert Chin, Untitled, 2005, Acrylic on vinyl — as seen at the Creedmoor Living Museum

NYC-based self-taught painter Erik Hanson, Underpass, Oil on canvas — as seen at Postmasters in Tribeca

Multidisciplinary artist John Tursi, Untitled, Mixed media — as seen  at the Creedmoor Living Museum

The late Pacific Northwest First Nations artist Beau Dick, Ghost of Christmas Presents, 2016, Mixed media — as seen at White Columns in the West Village

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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I met Rushane Brown several months ago at the Living Museum on the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. I was delighted to — more recently — have the opportunity to interview the talented young artist.

When did you first start drawing?  And what did you draw at the time?

I was about six when I started to draw. I was living in the hills of Jamaica at the time — surrounded by plantations with marijuana crops. I vividly remember the soldiers arriving on helicopters to destroy these crops. The helicopters fascinated me. They were the first things I drew.  

Why did you start?  Do you remember what motivated you to do art?

I thought it was cool to be able to bring things to life on paper. At first I imitated what I saw — like those helicopters. Then I began to copy what I saw in books, especially cars and trucks. I, also, loved cartoons and when I was eight, I began to draw cartoons,  Later on, I became fascinated by medical illustrations. 

Do any school-related art memories stand out?

All the stick figures I was drawing when I should have been paying attention!

Who are some of your current inspirations?

The other artists here at the Living Museum always inspire me. I’m also inspired by: the late American fantasy and science fiction artist Frank Frazetta; the amazingly talented, award-winning Tom McFarland and the late comic book writer and Marvel Comics publisher, Stan Lee.

What about cultural influences? Have you any?

Ancient Egyptian culture is an influence.

How has your art evolved within the past decade or so? 

Back in JHS, I was just imitating what I saw or what others were doing. I did not have my own identity as an artist. But when I started to attend Art & Design High School, I began to to develop  my own style after seeing so many unique ones.

Are you generally satisified with your completed works? 

It depends. Sometimes I look at something I did that I thought was finished, and I want to either redo it or add  to it.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Sometimes a couple of days, and sometimes weeks.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About 85% of it. When I’m not focusing on visual art, I’m often playing my guitar.

Have you ever exhibited your work? 

I’ve shown in exhibits here at the Living Museum and at Art and Design High School.

How important is the viewer’s response to you?

I create my art for myself. It is a means of self-expression. I don’t do art to please people, but I’m happy if someone likes it.

What are your favorite media?

I’d mostly been working with pen and ink, But I’ve begun painting with acrylic, and I’ve recently started repurposing discarded materials — such as wood chips —  into my art.

Where are you headed?

My dream is to one day own my own gallery.

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

Our role is to recreate the world.  We think outside the box. Nothing would happen without us.

Interview and photos by Lois Stavsky

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For “The Flâneur,” currently on view at Fountain House Gallery in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen, artists were asked to assume the role of a the flâneur, a passionate spectator, as they reflect on urban life. The widely diverse results range from the realistic to the fantastical — all distinctly alluring. Pictured above is Divina Particula Aurae: The Divine Spirit in the Human Person, a digital painting by Bryan Michael Greene. Several more images from the exhibition follow:

Gary Peabody, South of France, 2019, Acrylic and pencil on canvas

Issa Ibrahim, Dad Blast!, 2015, Acrylic and glitter on unstretched canvas

Nelia Gibbs, Wandering, 2018, Acrylic on canvas

Barry Senft, People, 2019, Acrylic on canvas

Curated by Adam Yokell, “The Flâneur” continues through August 7 at Fountain House Gallery. Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street, Fountain House Gallery “provides an environment for artists living and working with mental illness to pursue their creative visions and to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.” The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday: 11am-7pm and Sunday: 1-5pm.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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For twenty years Harlem-native Guy Woodard used his exquisite artistic talents pursuing a “criminal” career as a counterfeiter and forger. This career ended when he was sentenced to serve seven years in prison. With no oil paints or turpentine at his disposal, Woodward started to hone his skills and fashion artwork with a 25-cent Bic Pen. After he was released from prison, Woodard met with the head of The Fortune Society — a nonprofit organization that “supports successful reentry from incarceration and promotes alternatives to incarceration” — and is now sharing his talents with others as a teacher.

Currently on view at Howl! is We the People, a solo exhibition featuring Woodard’s ballpoint pen drawings, along with several forgeries of documents — such as Trayvon Martin’s diploma from Howard University — that spur dialog around issues of inequality, racism and social justice.

The artwork featured above, Poor, was fashioned with ball point pen on paper in 2001-2002. Several more images captured on a recent visit to We the People follow:

My Boy, 2002, Digital Print

We the People, 2002, Ball point pen on paper

Nightmare, 2002, Ball point pen on paper

Take a Knee, 2019, Mixed media

We the People is open from 11am to 6pm, Wednesday – Sunday at 6 East 1st Street. Guy Woodard will lead an evening of art-making as part of the free Vega Arts Workshop series this Wednesday, July 10 from 7–9 PM. Check here for information.

Images of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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I came upon Marlon Mullen‘s distinctly intriguing aesthetic at JTT on Manhattan’s Lower East Side earlier this year. A largely non-verbal artist with autism spectrum disorder, Marlon Mullen fashions paintings — primarily based on images from covers of art magazines — at NIAD Art Center, a Bay Area art studio that supports artists living with disabilities. I was delighted to once again view his work — this time at the 2019 Whitney Biennial.

Untitled, 2018, Acrylic on canvas

Untitled, 2018, Acrylic on canvas

Untitled, 2018, Acrylic on canvas

The 2019 Whitney Biennial continues through September 22 in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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After viewing his masterly works in several Fountain House Gallery exhibitions, I met the wonderfully talented artist Miguel Diego Colon at Fountain House Open Studio several months ago. Recently, I had the chance to find out a bit about him and view more of his artworks:

When did you first begin drawing? 

I was four years old and in Pre-K.  I was very shy —afraid of everybody. Drawing was how I could express myself, and everyone seemed to like my work. I still remember my Pre-K classmates imitating it.

What is your earliest art-related memory?

I saw an image of Thor, and felt that I, too, could do that. He was flying up to the heavens on a stormy day with his harness raised and his cape blowing in the wind.

And your first drawing?

I remember drawing Spiderman spinning a web and catching a spider.

Have you any favorite artists?

I have many. I especially like the American painter Eric Fischl. I like that everyone can read something different into his paintings. Other favorites include the European artists: Pierre Bonnard, Vincent van Gogh, Modigliani and Georg Baselitz. And the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera has been a particular inspiration.

What about cultural influences? Have any particular cultures or movements impacted or inspired your aesthetic?

I identify as Latino — as my family is from Puerto Rico — and I’m certain that has impacted my aesthetic. Among my primary influences are those people who fought against injustice — Martin Luther King…Malcolm X…Muhammed Ali. And movements of resistance such as Black Lives Matter.

How much time do you generally spend on a piece?

On the average — two to three months. I used to work on two to three pieces at once. But these days I tend to focus on one at a time.

What is your favorite work setting?

The Fountain House Studio I share with other Fountain House artists in Long Island City. I’m there three to four hours a day three or four times a week. I would spend more time in the studio if I could.

Have you any favorite media?

I like them all.

Have you any favorite colors? We’ve noticed you use blue a lot.

I like blue. It’s subtle — not too attention-grabbing.

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes. Among the spaces I’ve shown in are: SVA, NYU, the National Academy of Design, the Arts Students League, the Rush Arts Gallery,  the Emerging Collector Gallery and here at Fountain House Gallery.

How important is the viewer’s response to your art?

It is important. I paint with a sense of what my work will mean to the viewer. That is my responsibility as an artist.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

Not always.

Have you a formal art education?

I attended the High School of Art and Design, and I earned a BFA with Honors from the School of Visual Arts. I, also, studied at the Art Students League and worked at the National Academy of Design and New York Academy of Art.

Would you say your educational experience was worthwhile?

I have mixed feelings. I often felt that I was spinning my wheels trying to be a genius.

Do any particular teachers stand out?

Irwin “Greeny” Greenberg. While I was a student at Art & Design, I used to leave my house every morning — while it was still dark outside — to attend his painting class, the Old Hat Club that took place before the school day officially began. There I learned about light and dark and shadows. I became more interested in realism than in super heroes!

How has your aesthetic evolved through the years?

When I first began attending SVA, I thought about concentrating on animation. It seemed like a good career move — a way to make good money. But it wasn’t for me. I wanted to find my own voice, so I switched first to Illustration and then to Fine Art. Back at SVA, I experimented with figurative work and huge interiors with drips. Now my work is more community-based. My process is more thoughtful these days.

I first came upon your work at Fountain House Gallery. How did you hook up with Fountain House?

I was a patient at Gracey Square Hospital when I heard about Fountain House from one of the other patients there. That was in January 2018.

How has Fountain House impacted you? 

It opened up an entire new world for me, and it has provided me with a studio to paint and a gallery to show my work. It has also provided me with a supportive community.

A huge powerful mural of yours — “Stand Up” — is  now on view on a massive billboard on Flatbush Avenue near the Kings Plaza Shopping Center.  I remember when you were still sketching segments of it.  Can you tell us something about its theme? Its intent?

I was interested in creating a public mural that reflects the many forms of oppression that I have faced and observed in my community here in New York City. Among these are: the destructive forces of racism, sexism, inequality, and the stigma against those struggling with mental illness. It is my way of providing solidarity with others who are oppressed.

How were you able to access such a prominent space?

Betty Eastland, a peer-specialist and artist working at Fountain House Studio, had sent me a link to 14×48, a non-profit that repurposes vacant billboards as public art spaces. 14×48‘s mission is to create opportunities for artists to engage more with public art. I sent 14×48 a sketch, along with a proposal and examples of other paintings on the theme of social justice. I was amazed when I found out that I had been selected.

This was your first public mural. How have folks responded to it?

Everyone has been so supportive. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I would love to create more work in public spaces. I think of this project as an audition to do more public works.

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

To make a statement. That’s what art should do.

Where are you headed?

I don’t know. But I do know that I will continue painting. Painting is like prayer for me.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; Photos: 1 courtesy of the artist; 2-6 & 8 Lois Stavsky

Note: To find out more about the 14×48 billboard project, check here.

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Currently on view at the model, community-driven, Yonkers-based Blue Door Art Center is “Rainbow Connection – The Colors of Pride.” An homage to Pride Month and the LGBTQ community, the exhibition features an eclectic selection of works by a diverse group of artists crossing cultures, generations and backgrounds. While some of the featured artists are self-taught, others are graduates of prestigious art schools. And while some have approached the theme with the bright, bold colors of the rainbow flag, others have responded to it with subtle, muted tones. All intrigue! The image featured above, The Trans Civil Rights Battle, was fashioned by Westchester-based Anton Pollard aka Anton Modern Art. Several more follow:

Neil Lavey, Spike, Oil on board

Haifa Bint-Kadi, Spirit of Pride, Mixed media, textiles, glass, driftwood

Lule Dine, Rainbow Audio Waves, Mulmul muslin fabric

Cesar Winston Vera, Forgotten Pride!, Acrylic

Brian Einersen, Tacky, Mixed media

Bryan Greene, Rainbow Number Three & Rainbow Number Four, Acrylic and gouache

Curated by Angelique Piwinski and Luis Perelman, “Rainbow Connection – The Colors of Pride” continues through July 8. The Blue Door Art Center is located at 13 Riverdale Avenue — a short walk from the Yonkers Station on the Hudson Line and is open Thur: 3-6pm  Fri: 3-6pm and Sat: 1-5pm.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Featuring a delightful array of artworks from students in 34 different schools and five community centers, Windows: Framing the Future continues through this week at BRIC.

Largely taking part beyond the walls of BRIC House, BRIC‘s talented teaching artists work directly with students throughout the school year, culminating in an exhibition that brings the entire community together.

The mural featured above was created by students — working along with teaching artist Avani Patel — in grades 6-8 at I.S.281 in Gravesend. Soon to be installed in the school’s auditorium, it was “inspired by artists such as Keith Haring, Daze and Kandinsky.” Several more images from Windows: Framing the Future, The 31st Annual Contemporary Art Education Exhibition follow:

Grade 3, PS 38, Boerum Hill; Teaching Artist: Mollie Roth; Mixed media

Grade 6, Spring Creek Community School, East New York; Teaching Artist: Judy Richardson, Textile

Grades 6-8, JHS 278, Marine Park; Teaching Artists: Yasmeen Abdallah & Julian Klepper, Mosaic

Grades 4-5, PS 279, Canarsie; Teaching Artists: Judy Richardson & Yasmeen Abdallah, Mixed-media collage

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The leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, BRIC is located at 647 Fulton Street. Its gallery is open Tue – Sat, 11am-7pm and Sun, 11am-5pm.

Photos of artworks: Lois Stavsky

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