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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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Over 400 original, alluring artworks in a range of media and styles are on view through December 20 at Fountain House Gallery’s annual pre-holiday exhibition. Measuring 6 X 6 Inches inches or less, each is priced at $100 or under. The image featured above is the work of self-taught artist, Roger Jones, whom I first met earlier this year at Fountain House Gallery Open Studios in Long Island City. A small sampling of images of artworks from this must-see exhibit follows:

Elizabeth Atlas, Sewn mixed media

Dubblex, Acrylic and marker

Lewis Pujol, Acrylic

Barry Senft, Acrylic

JoAnn Berman, Silkscreen, mixed textiles and watercolor

Martin Cohen, Collage

Founded in 2000, Fountain House Gallery showcases the works of artists living with emotional challenges, providing them with opportunities to share their creative expressions with others. Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street, Fountain House Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday: 11am-7pm and Sunday: 1-5pm.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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On September 15, 1983, Michael Stewart, a young African American, was brutally assaulted by New York City Transit Police following his arrest for writing graffiti in the First Avenue L train subway station. Thirteen days later, Stewart died in a coma. Soon afterwards, Jean-Michel Basquiat painted The Death of Michael Stewart, informally known as Defacement, on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio.

With The Death of Michael Stewart as its centerpiece, “Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story” features several additional socially and politically conscious artworks by the legendary self-taught artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,  along with a selection of artworks by several of Stewart’s contemporaries. The first image featured above, La Hara, was fashioned by Basquiat with acrylic and oilstick on wood panel two years before Stewart’s death. Several more images of artworks on display in “Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story” on view at the Guggenheim Museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side follow:

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Charles the First, 1982, Acrylic and oil stick on canvas

Keith Haring. Michael Stewart — USA for Africa, 1985, Enamel and acrylic on canvas

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self Portrait, 1983 Oil, acrylic, oilstick, graphite and pen on paper collage on wood with metal attachments

George Condo, Portrait of Michael Stewart, 1983, Oil on wood panel

Eric Drooker, The Cover-Up Continues, Charcoal on board

Organized by Chaédria LaBouvier, “Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story” remains on view through November 6 at the Guggenheim Museum. Located at 1071 5th Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets, the museum is open seven days a week. and on Saturdays — from 5pm until 8pm — you can pay what you wish.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky; the second image features the cover of the book accompanying the exhibit.

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Since its establishment in 1997, the non-profit organization UrbanGlass has advanced the non-traditional use of glass as a creative medium. Currently on view in its spacious gallery at 647 Fulton Street in Brooklyn is HIGH NOON, an extraordinary surrealistic exhibition and installation by Einar and Jamex de la Torre, featuring a frightening reality, “where we clumsily juggle the fate of our planet with every lurch towards global meltdown.”

Born three years apart in Guadalajara, Mexico, brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre now live and work on both sides of the border, providing them with a unique transcultural perspective. While Jamex holds a BFA in Sculpture, Edgar is largely self-taught. Collaboratively, they fashion an extraordinary range of mixed- media work with blown glass sculpture and installation art. Featured above are two close-ups from Patho Genes, a huge vinyl and mixed-media wall installation. Several more images of artworks featured in the brothers’ current exhibition follow:

Chingonl!, 2017, Blown glass and mixed media 

Remorse, 2018, Blown glass and mixed media

Age of Uncertainty, 2019, Archival lenticular print and mixed media

Ya Sabritas, 2014, Archival lenticular print and mixed media

Curated by Ben Wright, HIGH NOON continues through November 2 at 647 Fulton Street in Brooklyn. It is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 9pm; admission is free.

Research for this post: City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago; photos by Angelize Santiago and Lois Stavsky

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