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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


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.


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


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


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


I first came upon Ukraine-native, Tel Aviv-based Zoya Cherkassky‘s infectious — often witty — folksy aesthetic in a solo exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem last year. That exhibit, Pravda, focused on the artist’s experiences and the collective experience of the over one million Russians who had immigrated to Israel. Currently on view at Fort Gansevoort in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District is Soviet Childhood, a selection of recent artworks featuring memories from Zoya Cherkassky’s childhood in the Soviet Union of the 1980’s — its final years before its collapse. The image featured above, Vareniki, was fashioned with oil on linen in 2019. Several more images from Soviet Childhood, the artist’s first solo exhibition in the US, follow:

Nuchaku, 2017, Oil on linen, 

The Voice of America, 2019, Oil on linen

Maverick, 2019, Oil on linen

Mama, 2019, Oil on linen

On the Way to School, 2019, Oil on linen

The exhibition continues through next Saturday, June 15, at Fort Gansevoort. Located at 5 Ninth Avenue, the gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


On view through September 16, 2019 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan, “T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America” is a celebration of the late Native American artist T.C. Cannon‘s extraordinary vision and talents. Featuring a huge range of works, both personal and political, the exhibition — curated by Karen Kramer —  delights, enlightens and, at times, disturbs. Pictured above is “Indian with Beaded Headdress, painted with acrylic on canvas in 1978, the same year that Cannon died in a car accident. Several more images from “T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America” follow:

“Beef Issue at Fort Sill,” along with an accompanying poem, this 1973 painting references a 19th-century government ration, as the US Government often sent rancid meat to fulfill its treaty obligations.

All the Tired Horses in the Sun,” Oil on canvas, 1971-72

“Mama and Papa Have the Going Home Shiprock Blues,” Acrylic and oil on canvas,1966

“Tale of a Bigfoot Incident in American Vernacular” — referencing the massacre of over 300 Lakota men, women and children in Pine Ridge, South Dakota —  Oil and mixed media, 1966

T.C. Cannon in his studio in Santa Fe, Mexico in 1976, © Herbert Lotz/New Mexico History Museum

Also featuring his poetry and music, “T.C. Cannon: At the Edge of America” is an exceptional tribute to an exceptional artist.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


Exploring the various roles that food plays in our minds and lives, Fountain House Gallery‘s current exhibit, At the Table, presents dozens of tasty artworks in a range of styles and mediums. The image featured above, Let’s Have a Beer Together, was painted by Fountain House artist Elizabeth Borisov. A small sampling of artworks on exhibit in At theTable follows:

Multidisciplinary artist Boo Lynn Walsh, Bali Bounty, Hand-painted and dyed Indonesian-style batik 

Queens-based multidisciplinary artist Susan Spangenberg, Chicken Run, Acrylic on found wood

Queens-based multimedia artist Issa Ibrahim, The Minstrel, Acrylic on canvas board

Multimedia artist Barry Senft, Dinner, Acrylic on canvas

Curated by Monty Blanchard and Leslie Tcheyan, the tantalizing exhibit continues through June 12. 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


I came upon Frank Boccio’s infectious aesthetic on my first visit to the Living Museum on the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens. I recently had the opportunity to find out a bit about the talented artist behind it.

When did you first begin to draw? Become interested in art?

I knew I wanted to be an artist from the time I was four years old. I began with coloring books.

What is your earliest art-related memory?

Drawing imaginary flowers. I made them up as I drew them. My mother used to give me the sheets of paper that came with the stockings that she’d bought. Those papers were my canvas. My first painting was a copy of American Gothic. My first real painting was of an American Indian. I was 15 at the time.

How did your family respond to your artistic bent?

They didn’t. My father didn’t want me to be an artist, and my mother never provided me with any art supplies — other than the papers packaged with her new stockings.

What inspired you, then, to keep doing art?

I liked it. I liked looking at art, studying it and making it.

Have you any favorite artists?

Jackson Pollock is a particular favorite. I love that he found a new way to play with paint.  Other favorite artists include: Salvador Dali and René Magritte.

Any cultural influences?

American culture…film… Andy Warhol

How much time do you generally spend on a piece?

It depends. Some come quickly and some take years.

Have you any other passions – besides painting?

I’m passionate about photography. I also play the piano and I write music.

Have you exhibited your work?

I exhibited in Soho back in the 80’s, and in 1986 I had a solo exhibit at the National Arts Club. I also showed at Adelphi and here at the Living Museum.

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

It doesn’t matter much.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

Yup! I work up to my own standard of what’s real and what’s good.

Do you work from a preliminary sketch? Or do you just “let it flow?”

I don’t work from a sketch. I paint from my head.

How has your aesthetic evolved within the past decade?

I’m more into abstraction than I used to be.

Have you a favorite setting to work?

Anywhere there’s an easel.

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. I have a BA in Fine Arts from Oneonta State College, and I’ve taken classes at SVA. I’ve never stopped studying art or creating art. Even the 19 years I worked as a Special Education teacher, I was painting and drawing. I left the school system after getting eight separate death threats. 

What percentage of your time is devoted to art these days?

About 90%. When I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it.

Where are you headed?

I don’t know.

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


Currently on view at the Self-Taught Genius Gallery in Long Island City, Queens is New York Experienced, a delightful, eye-catching exhibition of artworks in a range of styles and media reflecting the lives of those who made New York home. A visual ode to our spirited city, New York Experienced was curated by Steffi Duarte — assistant curator of the Self-Taught Genius Gallery  — with works selected from the American Folk Art Museum’s permanent collection. The image featured above, Iceman Crucified #3, is one of several on exhibit by the noted self-taught painter Ralph Fasanella.  A sampling of images of artworks included in New York Experienced follows:

The celebrated Romania-born UFO artist Ionel Talpazan, Untitled, Oil on canvas, 1994

Bronx-born folk artist Malcah Zeldis, Coney Island or Brighton Beach, Acrylic on masonite, 1973

Maryland native Vestie Davis, Village Art Show, Oil on canvas, 1958

 Socially-conscious Italian native Louis Monza, Our Daily Bread, Oil on canvas, 1946

Bronx-native fabric artist Paula Nadelstern, Kaleidoscope XVI: More is More, Cottons & silk, 1996

A wide view of segment of gallery exhibit

New York Experienced remains on exhibit at the Self-Taught Genius Gallery through May 30. Located at 47-29 32nd Place in Long Island City, the Self-Taught Genius Gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 11am to 5pm.  Admission is free.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky


Enchanted by Nyla Paula Isaac’s alluring, emotive portraits that we discovered while visiting the Living Museum on the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, we were delighted to have the opportunity to interview the wonderfully talented artist.

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

I was about three when I started drawing and making paper dolls. I was still living in Trinidad in the West Indies. 

What inspired you to begin doing art?

I was shy, and it was my way of expressing myself. And when I started going to school, I wasn’t good at math or reading. But I could do art.

Do any early art-related memories stand out?

When I was about 7, a woman I knew showed me West Indian comics. They fascinated me.  And I remember winning first prize in an art show at PS 37 — my elementary school  in Springfield. Gardens.

Have you any cultural influences?

The landscapes of Trinidad are a definite influence…their mountains and ditches and the colors that I associate with them.

Any favorite artists? Artists who have influenced you?

Among my favorites are: Rembrandt, Norman Rockwell and Jacob Lawrence. Norman Rockwell has been one of  my strongest influences, although my work is much looser than his. And I don’t tend to idealize what I see. I paint my reality.

How has your family responded to your artistic bent?

They love that I am doing something with my life.

How much time do you generally spend on a piece?

Anywhere from a few hours to a few days. When I paint, I like to work all day long.

Are you generally satisfied with your final piece?

No. I always feel that I could do better.

How has your aesthetic evolved within the past decade?

It is less surreal. I also tend to work with brighter colors and a more varied palette. My aesthetic also varies according to my mental state. When I’m not well, my work takes on a bit of a surreal edge. It is looser. Schizophrenia frees me.

Which style do you prefer? Have you a preference?

No. I like them both.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

Just about all of it when I don’t have to deal with doctors’ appointments.

Have you a favorite setting to work?

Here at the Living Museum. Dr. Marton makes me feel free and comfortable, and I know that my work is safe here. In 2017, a fire in my apartment destroyed 17 years of my artwork.

And your favorite media?

I love working with oil paints.

Any favorite colors?

Blue and yellow; they remind me of the sky.

Do you work from a sketch when you paint?

Occasionally I sketch first. But, generally, my paintings just happen.

Have you ever studied art in a formal setting?

Yes. I graduated from the High School of Art and Design, and I earned an Associate’s Degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. And for the past 20 years, I’ve studied off and on at the Arts Students League.

Have you found your formal art education of value?

It has definitely helped me on a technical level. It helped me master perspective, and life drawing from observation was important to my development as an artist. But now I want to do my own thing.

You’ve exhibited your paintings in quite a few spaces, and your work is included in the Education and Research Center of The Museum of Modern Art. How important is the viewers’ response to you?

It is important to me. I’d like those who view my work to appreciate its originality. 

What are some of your other interests?

Watching sitcoms from the 70”s — The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker, Diff’rent Strokes. 

Where are you headed?

I don’t know — working on developing further my skills.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with City-As-School intern Alyssa Torres

Photos of artworks and of artist by Lois Stavsky