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Pictured above is “Toilet Inside You,” painted on wood by self-taught Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel, that I came upon while visiting Castle Fitzjohns Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in early December. Several more images of curious characters — fashioned largely by self-taught artists — that I saw in a range of places follow:

UK-based self-taught artist Fanakapan. as seen late fall in Fat Free Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side

Self-taught Cuban artist Alejandro Lazo, aka Alazo, as seen at the Cuban Art Space in Chelsea, Manhattan

Tel Aviv-based Lithuanian artist Leo Ray, as seen in under a thousand in Florentin, Tel Aviv

The legendary Keith Haring in the lobby of the Woodhull Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn 

Photos by Lois Stavsky


On the streets and in a range of indoor spaces, a huge spectrum of artist-fashioned animals — from the vaguely realistic to the wildly fantastical — can be found. Pictured above are two life-sized animals created from steel wire by sculptural street artist Strayones. Several more that I’ve recently come upon follow:

Tel Aviv-based Lithuanian painter, Leo Ray — as seen in under a thousand in Florentin, Tel Aviv

Self-taught German artist Max Ernst, Composition with Bird, Oil on canvas, as seen at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Unidentified artist on the streets of Tel Aviv

Palestinian artist, to be identified, as seen at the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem

Isaiah Zagar on the pavement in North Philly

Polish artist Ospa in Tel Aviv

Photos by Lois Stavsky


The image pictured above was painted by Cuban artist Eduardo Roca aka Choco. What follows are several more artworks with a distinct outsider sensibility in the third of our ongoing series, Re-Imagining Faces.

Also by by Cuban artist Eduardo Roca aka Choco — as seen at The Center for Cuban Studies in NYC

The late Ecuadorian artist and activist Oswaldo Guayasamin — as seen at the Madrid-Barajas Airport

Danish artist Asger Jorn — as seen at Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid

15-year-old Shay Litman — as seen on the streets of Tel Aviv

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


Back in 1978, Osvaldo Cruz began tagging his initials onto any available surface in his Bronx neighborhood, a short distance from Yankee Stadium. Years of honing his skills as a graffiti writer followed. These days, with occasional stints painting legal walls over at Tuff City in the Bronx, Cruz focuses primarily on fashioning abstract, surreal — graffiti-inspired — images on canvases and is represented by Fountain House Gallery. An interview with the artist follows:

What is your earliest art memory?

Discovering how much I loved to paint. I never liked drawing with crayons. But when I was in kindergarten, I was introduced to poster paints, and it was back then that I discovered my love for painting. And my teacher was very encouraging.

Have you any favorite artists?


Have you any favorite piece?

I try to get better with each one.

How much time do you generally spend painting a canvas?

About 1½ hours – on average.

Have you any other passions – besides painting?

Digital art. I like working with Illustrator.

You’ve exhibited your works in several Fountain House exhibits. How did you connect to Fountain House?

I found out about Fountain House from the folks over at Community Access. Fountain House has given me tremendous support as an artist and as an individual.

Have you shown your work elsewhere — in addition to the Fountain House Gallery?

Yes. I’ve exhibited at Pace University via Community Access.

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

A positive response makes me feel good, of course! But, even if there isn’t one, I just keep on going.

What about cultural influences? Have you any particular ones?

Definitely the graffiti culture.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

Almost always.

How has your aesthetic evolved as you continue to paint on canvases?

It’s more sophisticated, and I tend to use more colors.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About 75%. The rest is spent taking care of my personal needs.

Have you a favorite setting to work?

I like painting outside. My ideal setting is Central Park – early in the morning – when there’s no one around.

And your favorite media?

Molotow spraypaint

What is your main source of income?

Commissions and canvases.

Have you a formal art education?

I graduated from the High School of Art & Design in 1987.

Has your family been supportive of your life as an artist?

My mother never understood it. She still associates graffiti with vandalism.

Where are you headed?

I just want to keep on painting!

Note: A selection of the artist’s works for sale can be viewed on Artsy

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy the artist


Pictured above is an imaginary landscape by the late Spanish artist Joan Ponç. A member of the avant-garde group Dau al Set, the first post-World War II artistic movement in Catalonia, Joan Ponç was largely self-taught. What follows are several more fanciful landscapes fashioned by self-taught artists that I’ve recently come upon in a range of spaces — both indoors and outdoors.

Spanish artist Jorge Galindo, Stunned Street, as seen in the Soledad Lorenzo Collection at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid — on view through March 5

Self-taught French designer Nathalie Du Pasquier, Open Box in a Landscape, as seen last month in her solo exhibition BIG OBJECTS NOT ALWAYS SILENT at ICA Philadelphia

Spanish artist Laguna 626, street art mural for Muros Tabacalera, at former tobacco factory in Madrid

The late German artist Max Ernst, Birds Above the Forest, as seen in his recent solo exhibition Beyond Painting at The Museum of Modern Art in NYC

Chat Noir, as spotted in the industrial district of Florentin, Tel Aviv this weekend

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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The curiously captivating couple pictured above was painted by Spanish artist Digo Diego for Muros Tabacalera on a former tobacco factory in Madrid, Spain. Several more curious characters — some seen outside on the streets, others inside a varied range of spaces — follow:

The late Brazilian artist José Leonilson, O Pescador de Palavras (The Word Fisher) as seen in his solo exhibit, Empty Man, on view through February 3 at Americas Society in Manhattan

Brooklyn-based artist and performer Michael Alan, as seen during studio visit

Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary artist Ron Abram, — One of Seven Ravens, as seen in his solo exhibit, El Ambiente, on view through January 13 at Taller Puertoriqueño in North Philly

Self-taught artist Troy Lovegates, as seen in Toronto

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


The image pictured above was painted by Washington, DC visual artist Matt Sesow.  What follows are several more artworks with a distinct outsider sensibility in the second of our ongoing series, Re-Imagining Faces.

Cuban artist Eduardo Roca aka Choco

Brooklyn-based artist multi-disciplinary artist Sara Erenthal

17-year old Atlanta-based Erin Chakalos

Paris-based African artist Afi Nayo

Photos of artworks: 1, 3-5 Lois Stavsky; 2 Tara Murray

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Working primarily with oil and acrylic, NYC-based Anthony Christopher Newton creates distinctly expressive portraits, reflecting his personal life and culture. We discovered his talents at Fountain House Gallery and recently had the opportunity to interview him.

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

I started when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I began drawing action figures like G.I. Joe with colored pencils.

What prompted you to?

I was living with my family in Germany, where my stepfather was serving in the US Army. We were going through difficult times, and I was alone a lot. Drawing helped me express my feelings. It was a natural drive, and it was fun!

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Among then are: Basquiat, Michelangelo and Lucian Freud.

Have you any particular cultural influences?

Living in Germany for several years gave me a global perspective. And attending FIT here in NYC introduced me to my own African-American culture, which has had a huge impact on my art.

How has your work evolved within the past few years?

My tools have changed. I went from using colored pencils to graphite to acrylic to oil. And now I’m back to acrylic.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

It’s got to be really good for me to be satisfied with it. I want to feel that it’s “gallery material.”

We’ve seen your work here at Fountain House. Have you exhibited elsewhere?

Yes. Among the places I’ve exhibited here in NYC are: The Jadite Gallery here in Hell’s Kitchen; Cuchifritos on the Lower East Side and Chashama. My work was also included in an exhibition at the Education and Research Center of the Museum of Modern Art.

How important is the viewer’s response to you? Does it matter?

Yes! It is important because I learn from it.

How has your family responded to your life as an artist?

My mother does not think of art as “a safe career.” But my dad was supportive and would come to my shows.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

It ranges from three hours to about two months — depending on the level of difficulty.

How do you know when it’s finished?

I look at it about 10,000 times!

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

As much as possible.

Have you a favorite work setting?

I like painting in the Fountain House studio space in LIC, because I can get input from the staff.

Have you any preferred media?

Oils and acrylic; but I enjoy working in all media.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes, I studied Illustration at FIT.

We met you at the Fountain House Gallery. How did you connect to Fountain House? And how have your experiences at Fountain House impacted you?

A girlfriend who had salvaged me from the streets introduced me to Fountain House. And my experiences at Fountain House have positively impacted every aspect of my life. Fountain House has helped me view myself as a serious artist. It has also enabled me to confront and deal with my schizophrenia.

Do you feel that your mental state has influenced your art?

Definitely! People with a diagnosis of the mind have a particular psychological viewpoint. And creating art is an important and necessary outlet for its expression. I couldn’t imagine my life without art.

What do you see as your role — as an artist — is in society?

It is, primarily, to bring something positive to my community. To let people know and feel that I care.

What’s ahead?

I want to continue to feel comfortable with painting and show my work in more galleries to a wider audience.

Note: To view more artworks by Anthony and for info on several featured here, check out the following: Fountain House GalleryArtsy and Instagram.

Interview conducted by Bonnie Astor and edited by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist.

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While on view at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Isaiah Zagar‘s mesmerizing folksy aesthetic can also be seen 24/7 on the streets and alleyways on and off South Street. The tile mosaic pictured above is on South Leithgow Street. Several more follow:

A couple on South 9th Street

Another couple on South 11th Street

One of Isaiah’s many faces — this one on Christian Street

Fun on South Leithgow Street

Photos by Lois Stavsky


Isaiah Zagar at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

A graduate of Pratt University who has adapted the aesthetics of folk art, Isaiah Zagar refers to himself as an outsider/insider artist. With thousands of tiles, glass bottles, plates, bicycle wheels and an array of found objects — some from his travels abroad, he has transformed ordinary public spaces into tantalizing open museums. In Philadelphia, which this Brooklyn native has called home since 1969, hundreds of his murals grace streets, alleyways, doorways and interior spots. And working with members of the community and folks he’s met along the way, he has created a magical, inspirational oasis at a once-abandoned lot that has evolved into a beguiling complex of interwoven spaces. Known as Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, it serves not only as a showcase for Zagar’s creative visions, but as a gallery and educational center, as well. The image above was  captured this past weekend at the Magic Gardens. What follows are several others recently seen in this extraordinary space:

A mosaic seen inside the Magic Gardens characteristic of the artist’s public work

A segment from an assemblage among the complex of open interwoven spaces

Another close-up from this mesmerizing open air complex

And continuing through Sunday, February 25 is Lava Flow: New Mosaics by Isaiah Zagar, an exhibit of the artist’s new smaller works in the gallery, along with a short documentary about the artists’ life.  What follows is one of many small affordable works on exhibit:

Two Faces, 16″ x 15″, 2017

Photo credits: 1-3 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 4 Tara Murray

Coming up: Isaiah Zagar on the streets of South Philly