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The following post is by student/intern Samantha Sabatino

On view through March 8 at Fountain House Gallery is “MUSHROOMS,” an intriguing exhibition showcasing art in a range of media featuring fungi and their role in nature, culture, and medicine. After visiting the exhibition last week, I had the opportunity to speak to its curator, vermilion. What follows are several images from the exhibition, along with vermilion’s responses to my questions:

What inspired you to curate an exhibit on the theme of “mushrooms?” The exhibition seems to cover just about everything related to them — from cultivating culinary mushrooms to experiencing the effects of psychedelic mushrooms.

My inspiration is rooted in my deep interest in the benefits of mushrooms. I want to increase awareness among others as to their medicinal and healing properties.

Yes! I, myself, have personally benefited from mushrooms’ medicinal and health benefits. Did you face any particular challenges in seeing this exhibition through?

The entire curation of the exhibit was mostly joyful. The artists were very cooperative. I loved the variety of the artworks that were submitted.

What do you want your viewers to walk away with?

I want them to walk away with a positive visual and emotional experience, and I want to arouse within them a deep curiosity and interest in the subject matter.

Can you tell us something about the opening reception?

It was lovely! There was a strong sense of community. I felt humbled by the response the show received. People were so supportive. I, also, had many meaningful conversations with like-minded people. And I loved putting together my costume with my son and dressing up as a mushroom.

Have you any personal goals related to the exhibition?

I’d like it to engage even more people. It would be wonderful it could become a mobile pop-up exhibition. And I, personally, would like to further engage in the mushroom subculture.

Good luck with it all! It’s so fascinating and worthwhile.

Can you tell us something about upcoming programs and activities related to the exhibition?

Specific information regarding the events can be found here. They include:

  • Live Storytelling Performances, Tuesday, Feb 21, 6:30 – 8PM
  • Mushroom Walk with the New York Mycological Society, Saturday, Feb 25, 2 – 4PM
  • Mushroom Growing Workshop, Tuesday, Feb 28, 2 – 3:30PM
  • Lecture: Questions for the Psychedelic Renaissance w/ Dr. David Hellerstein, Thursday, March 2, 7-8:30 PM
  • Closing Costume Party, Wed, Mar 8, 6 – 8PM

Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan, Fountain House Gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12pm to 6pm.

Featured images:

Roger Jones, “Love Is Love,” 2022, Acrylic and marker, 30 x 40 inches

Corey Streeter,Ruins of the End,” 2022, Acrylic on canvas, 36 × 48 inches

Anthony Newton, “The Mushroom Hustle,” Mixed media on canvas, 24 x 18 inches

vermilion in handmade mushroom costume, 2022

Maria Bronkema, “A Boost,” 2022, Collage and acrylic on canvas, 11 × 14 inches 

Elizabeth Borisov, “Fantastik Family,” 2022, 11 × 14 inches 

Note: Fountain House Gallery and Studio provides an environment where artists living with mental illness can express their creative visions, exhibit their work, and challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Interview conducted and edited by Samantha Sabatino

Photo credits: 1-3, 5 & 6 Samantha Sabatino and 4 Donna Faiella

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Released from prison in 2019 after serving over 28 years for a murder he did not commit, Warren Hynson is busily honing his innate artistic talents, while working as a case manager and advocating for incarcerated youth. Earlier this week, I met up with him in Washington, DC.

What is your earliest art memory?

I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I remember always drawing pyramids when I was a child. They fascinated me – their structures, their lines. My mom asked, “Why are you always drawing the same thing?” I didn’t know. Maybe I was an Egyptian in a past life! Eventually I moved onto drawing cars.

What inspires you to keep creating art?

Knowing that I’m an artist. I have an irresistible urge to create. It is the only thing that keeps me going.

Have you any favorite artists?

Yes. Among them are Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollack and Halin Flowers.

What about your cultural influences? What are your major ones?

My mother is Filipino. When I was in prison, I began to study Filipino history, and I began to reference it in my art. I’d include the Filipino flag and Lapu-Lapu, the legendary Filipino hero.

Is there a central or overall theme that ties your work together?

Love. It is a feeling I wish to transmit in all my work.

How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?

When I was in prison, my style was photorealistic. I used to earn money by painting portraits of the other inmates and their family members. I earned enough money, in fact, to hire a first-rate lawyer. As my art evolved, I began to synthesize abstract elements into it.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes! I love my artwork!

What is your favorite piece that you’ve created? 

My favorite piece is “She is Adored.” The subject is my wife. (Editors note: First featured image)

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

About three to four days. Three to four hours each day.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art? 

At least half of my working hours.

What are some of your other interests or passions?

I write poetry. I used to work out, but I haven’t lately. And I enjoy spending time with my wife.

Have you exhibited your work? If so, where?

Yes. I’ve exhibited in several spaces here in DC and in Maryland. Among them are: Touchstone Gallery, Rosenberg Gallery at the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Superfine Art Fair in DC and Homme Gallery in DC. My artwork is currently on view in Maryland Hall, a multi-disciplinary arts center in Annapolis, Maryland.

How important is the viewers’ response to you?

It is important. I want my viewers to feel the love I wish to convey in my art. Love is an action word!

What are your favorite media to work with?

Acrylic, oil pastels, spray paint and acrylic markers.

What is your main source of income?

My current job as a case manager.

How does your family feel about what you do?

At this point, everyone loves it.

Have you a formal art education?

Prison was my art school.

Where are you headed?

I’m in communication with a few galleries. I’d like to be represented by a gallery.

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

To document and interpret one’s current times so that people in the future will better understand them. And to bring beauty into the world.

And your particular role?

To share my story and send a message to others that “no matter how dark it is, there is always a spark of light to focus on.”

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos 1-6, courtesy Warren Hynson and 7 Lois Stavsky

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On view through January 7 at Fleisher/Ollman in Philly is Leigh Bowery & A Bottle of 7UP, an endearing exhibition featuring dozens of drawings by six Philadelphia-based artists from ArtWorks, “the artist-focused arm of Community Integrated Services (CIS), a Philadelphia-area program that empowers people with disabilities through employment opportunities that foster self-sustainability, equality, and community.”

The drawings featured above were fashioned on paper by Woodley White, whose works — largely rendered in ink, colored pencils and graphite — reflect the artist’s fondness and talents for symmetry and precision. What follows are several more images of artworks that I captured while visiting the exhibition last week:

Also by Woodley White, “Untitled,” 2019, Crayon and graphite on paper

Chantal Bobo Peden, “Untitled,” 2021, Ink on paper

Also by Chantal Bobo Peden, Girlfriends, 2022, Ink on paper

Christian Hayes, 2022, “Untitled,” Graphite and ink on paper

Jennifer Williams, “Supermodels on the Red Carpet for Ralph Lauren,” 2021, Ink on paper

Anthony Coleman, “Homer Simpson,” 2022, Colored pencil and graphite on paper

Also by Anthony Coleman, “Leigh Bowery & A Bottle of 7 Up,” 2022, Colored pencil and graphite on paper

On view, too, are a delightful series of drawings fashioned with ink on paper by Bayaht Ham.

Located at 915 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia, Fleisher/Ollman — currently closed for the holidays — will reopen on Tuesday, January 3. Hours are Tue–Fri: 11–6 and Sat: 12–5.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Hundreds of new small works in a wide range of media and styles — all priced $100 and under — remain on view and on sale at Fountain House Gallery through December 28. The image pictured above, “I Hate a Hater,” was fashioned by the wonderfully expressive artist Anthony Newton. Several more works I captured on my recent visit to the gallery follow:

Urban calligraphic master DubbleX, “Love Over Money!” Mixed media

Multimedia artist Ariella Kadosh, “5,” Mixed media on canvas

Award-winning photographer Kelly Han, “Untitled 1 from Corey Series,” Archival fine art metallic inkjet paper

Multidisciplinary artist Boo Lynn Walsh,Tiger Under Blanket,” Acrylic on cradled wood

Fiber artist Alyson Vega, Small Heart Grid, Mixed media around wood frame

Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan, the gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12pm to 6pm. Tomorrow, December 15, Fountain House Gallery will hold a special late night “Collector’s Eve,” showcasing hundreds of works from its annual “Small Works: $100 & Under” extravaganza! You can reserve a spot here.

Note: Fountain House Gallery and Studio provides an environment where artists living with mental illness can express their creative visions, exhibit their work, and challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Photos of images:  Lois Stavsky

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Last month, while visiting HaMiffal — a key Jerusalem-based art and cultural center — I came upon the distinctly engaging and authentic aesthetic of the young Arabic-Israeli artist Shade Twafra. Eager to find out a bit about him, I posed several questions to him.

When did you first begin drawing?

I first started to draw when I was in kindergarten. I especially loved drawing shapes. I was four years old.

What is your earliest art-related memory?

When I was five years old, I drew a bird. It was a wonderful feeling.

What inspired you to keep creating art?

Due to a somewhat difficult health condition, I spent a moderate amount of time in the hospital’s children’s ward. While there, both my mother and the hospital staff encouraged me to keep making art.

Is there a central or overall theme that ties your work together?

The yearning for joy, hope and freedom. That’s why there is a bird in just about every piece that I create. It has accompanied me since my childhood. And characters and animals, in general, intrigue me — real ones and imaginary ones. All of my characters reject violence in all its forms.

How has your artwork evolved in the past several years?

My styles keep evolving, expanding and they sometimes merge. I don’t restrict myself to any one style, although my work is often classified as “abstract expressionism” and “impressionism.”

Have you any favorite artists?

Yes. Among them are: Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Yes!

Have you a favorite piece that you’ve created?

My favorite work visually envisions the early marriages of three girls. It was exhibited at the Janco-Dada Museum in Ein Hod.

How much time do you generally spend on a piece?

That depends on the topic. The average is about three days. I don’t tend to work on a single piece at any one time.

What media do you especially like to work with?

My favorite media are black coal, colored charcoal, ink and acrylic. I also like working with unconventional materials like black coffee.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About 80%

What are some of your other interests or hobbies?

I love cooking popular Arabic dishes and, sometimes, sweets. And I love to read. Favorites include: the late Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz; the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, and the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. I also, on occasion, like reading about art.

I discovered your work in Jerusalem at HaMiffal. Where else have you shown your work?

In addition to my exhibition at Janco-Dada Museum in Ein Hod, I’ve had solo exhibits at: Almacén in Jaffa; Ibdaa Gallery in  Kfar Yasif, and at the Carmiel Municipality Gallery in the Galilee. I’ve also participated in close to 20 group exhibitions. Recent ones include: “Square One” in the Lotan Gallery in Jaffa; “The Spirit of Things” at the N.D. Gallery in Ramat Gan; the Multidisciplinary Art Festival at the Pyramida in Wadi Salib, Haifa and The Hybrid Art Fair in Madrid.

How important is the viewers’ response to you? Is it important that they like your work?

Yes, I care about how others feel about my art works. I want to hear their response, even if it’s negative.

How does your family feel about your passion for art?

My family feels good about it!

Have you had a formal art education?

Yes, I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from Sakhnin College in the Galilee, and I graduated from Tiltan College of Design and Visual Communications in Haifa. But I do feel that most of my talent has been with me since my childhood.

Where are you headed?

To the wider world!

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

The artist’s role is to inspire people to hold onto their hopes and dreams, and my personal role is to encourage those who have talent to keep achieving.

Interview conducted and edited for clarity by Lois Stavsky; photo credits: 1 Lois Stavsky, 2-6 courtesy of the artist

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On view at Galerie Lapidarium in Prague is Insta Praha 2022, the gallery’s second international exhibition of “naive art, art brut and outsider art.” While visiting the Czech Republic last week, I had the opportunity to visit the winsome, delightfully engaging exhibit and capture several images.

The whimsical image pictured above “Winter Carnival,” was fashioned with acrylic on canvas by Finland-based Kikka Nyrén. Several more images of artworks featured in the exhibit follow:

Czech native Raiser Zdeněk, “Drunk Goose Goose,” Acrylic on canvas

Milan-based Amato Domenico, “The Giraffe by Claude Monet,” Mixed media on canvas

Czech native Alexandra Dětinská, “Prague Angel,” Oil on canvas

Czech native Dagmar Vávrová,”Early Evening Relaxation,” Watercolor on wood

Poland-based Pawel Widera, “Two Women Sunbathing Naked on the Beach in Radosciowice,” Acrylic on canvas

The exhibition remains on view at Galerie Lapidarium in Prague through Friday, December 3.

Photos of artworks: Lois Stavsky

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Now based in Brooklyn, self-taught, African-American artist Christian (Xndrsn) Harbin has been honing his innate artistic skills since he was six years old in his native Alabama. At once whimsical and reflective, Christian (Xndrsn) Harbin’s artworks explore movement in lines, shapes and colors, as they suggest the movements and journeys in our lives. The 19″ x 24″ artwork featured above, “Jone,” was fashioned this year with ink, acrylic and acrylic ink on paper. Several more images captured from Christian (Xndrsn) Harbin’s delightfully intriguing solo exhibition — that remains on view through Sunday, November 20 at the nonprofit 150 West 83 Street — follow:

“Rain Dance,” 2022, Ink, acrylic, acrylic ink on paper

“My Joy,” 2022, Ink, acrylic, acrylic ink on paper

“All the Same,” 2022, Ink, acrylic, acrylic ink on paper

“New Soul,” 2022, Ink, Acrylic ink on paper

MOVEMENT is open to the public daily from 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM at 150 W 83rd Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Admission is free.

Post by Lois Stavsky & Bonnie Astor; photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson & Lois Stavsky

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“Memoir,” a wonderfully intriguing exhibition featuring artworks by 34 contemporary Bangladeshi American artists, continues until next Saturday, October 22 at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning. The foreboding image featured above, “Victim,” was rendered with acrylic on canvas by the noted Dhaka University graduate Laila Anjuman Ara. Several more artworks that I captured while visiting the exhibition earlier this week follow:

Multidisciplinary artist Masud Ul Alam, “Untitled,” Mixed media on canvas

Queens-based multimedia artist Kaiser Kamal, “You Are Under Watch,” Mixed media on canvas

NYC-based artist Farhana Yasmin, (from her series) “Birth of Fionel in Covid 19 Pandemic,” Mixed media on canvas

Fine artist and arts educator Salma Kaniz, “Untitled,” Mixed media on canvas

Socially conscious painter Shameem Subrana, “Beyond Borders 1,” Mixed media

Presented by the Bangladeshi American Artists Forum and curated by Alma Leya, the exhibition remains on view at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning until next Saturday. Located at 161-04 Jamaica Avenue in Queens, the Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 10AM–9PM and Saturday and Monday from 10AM–6PM.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

Special thanks to Kaiser Kamal for the invite

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Curated by art historian Giovanni Aloi and Fountain House Gallery artist Maria Bronkema, Animal Crossing celebrates our unique emotional, physical and spiritual connections to animals — both at home and in the wild.

The painting pictured above, Silent Conversation, is the work of the wonderfully talented Bronx-born, Manhattan-based artist Miguel Colon. Featuring a cat placed in a domestic setting, it suggests the roles animals play in our lives as pets. Several more images from this distinctly provocative exhibition follow:

Multidisciplinary artist Boo Lynn Walsh, “The Comfort of Community II,” 2022, Acrylic on birchwood

The ingenious, largely self-taught artist Corey Streeter, “Chaos Lion,” 2022, Found objects

Queens-based multidisciplinary artist Susan Spangenberg, “Chinese Zodiac Octopus,” 2022, Acrylic, fabric, and buttons hand-sewn on canvas

Queens-based multidisciplinary artist Issa Ibrahim, “The Heavenly Wedding (From The Cosmic Knockout Series),” 2007, Acrylic on unstretched canvas

Multimedia artist Barry Senft, “Duck,” 2022, Acrylic on canvas

Queens-based, self-taught multimedia artist Donna Faiella, “Bliss,” 2022, Collage on cardboard

Animal Crossing remains on view at Fountain House Gallery through October 26. Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan, the gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12pm to 6pm.

Note: Fountain House Gallery and Studio provides an environment where artists living with mental illness can express their creative visions, exhibit their work, and challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Photos of images:  Lois Stavsky

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In 2016, 93 diverse works of outsider art in an array of media from the collection of the late Margaret Z. Robson were donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently on view at SAAM is “We Are Made of Stories,” featuring selections from that gift, along with works from the collection of her son, Doug Robson. On my recent trip to DC, I visited the wonderfully intriguing and informative exhibition showcasing the works of 43 self-taught artists.

The image featured above, “Demolition of St. Mary’s Church, Boston,” is the work of the late Kentucky native William Hawkins. Fashioned in 1986 with enamel paint on Masonite and collaged elements, it depicts the destruction of a historic 19th century Catholic church that was demolished in 1977 to make way for apartments.

Several more images of artworks — all fashioned by artists who had no formal training — on view in “We Are Made of Stories” follow:

The late African American, Alabama-native Bill Traylor, “Untitled (Drinker in Chair),” Pencil and poster paint on cardboard

The late reclusive, Pennsylvania-born artist Justin McCarthy, “Marie Prevost,” Watercolor, ink and graphite on paper mounted on manila folder

The late mixed-media artist, painter and preacher — born to an African father and Cherokee mother in 1925 — Simon Sparrow, “Untitled,” Mixed media with found objects on hand-painted wood frame

The late Syrian-American artist Peter “Charlie” Attie Besharo, “Untitled (From Earth to Haven / From Haven to Earth), Oil on paper

The late prolific, Georgia-based mixed-media artist and preacher Howard Finster, “Untitled,” Paint on glass bottles

“We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection” continues at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. through March 26. 2023. “We Are Made of Stories: Selfhood and Experience in Art / The Margaret Z. Robson Symposium Series” takes place on October 7, 2022. You can register here.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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