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I discovered Billy White‘s endearing, authentic aesthetic while visiting his solo exhibition, Coming to America, back in 2018 at Shrine Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Last week, I was delighted to visit his current exhibit, This is a Show by Billy, that continues through August 2 at Shrine.

Billy has been developing and honing his skills at the NIAD Art Center — an art studio and program for artists with developmental disabilities in Richmond, California — since 1994. Featured above is the artist’s self-portrait, fashioned with acrylic on linen in 2018. Several more images from the self-taught, African-American artist’s current exhibit follow:

Untitled, 2020, Acrylic on canvas

Joe DiMaggio. ca 2015, Acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

Untitled, 2020, Acrylic on canvas

And particularly apropos of our times — Untitled, 2018, Acrylic on canvas

Also on exhibit are a series of charming, glazed ceramic sculptures. Open Wednesday – Sunday
12pm–6pm, Shrine is located at 179 East Broadway on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. You can contact the gallery to schedule an appointment via its website.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


The image featured above was fashioned by the self-taught Japanese artist, Masayoshi Hanawa, whose tantalizing aesthetic I discovered at the NYC Outsider Art Fair in 2019. Several more images of couples rendered in an array of styles by a diverse range of artists — all self-taught — follow:

Self-taught Yonkers-based multimedia artist Michael Cuomo, — as earlier this year in his Yoho studio

Self-taught Brazilian artist Ernani Pavaneli, Just Married, 2013, Acrylic on canvas — as seen in Gina Gallery in Tel Aviv in 2018

Self-taught Queens-based artist John Tursi — as seen earlier this year at the Creedmoor Living Museum in Queens Village

The late African-American, Louisiana-based self-taught artist, Clementine Hunter, Pages from Sketchbook of Clementine Hunter, Oil on paper — as seen last year at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans

The late African-American, Mississippi-born self-taught artist Mary T. Smith, I WE OUR, House paint and enamel on wood — as seen last year at Shrine on Manhattan’s Lower East Side

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 4 City-as-School intern Basil Lyons 


The image pictured above, “The Builder,” was fashioned in 2017 by the largely self-taught, Atlanta-based printmaker Jamaal Barber. I came upon this woodcut and screen print in 2018 in the hugely impressive group exhibition, Making Change: The Art and Craft of Activism at the The Museum of Design Atlanta. Several more politically-conscious artworks viewed in a range of settings — both indoors and outdoors — follow:

Queens-based multi-media artist Issa Ibrahim — as seen on the walls of the Living Museum on the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Institute in Queens Village

Philly-based, self-taught stencil artist and muralist Joe Boruchow — as seen back in 2016 on Spring Garden Street in North Philly

Award-winning Manhattan-based artist Miguel Diego Colon, Mural painted in 2019 at First Street Green Art Park on the Lower East Side

DC-based multidisciplinary artist B. Peppers, Portraits of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT recently shot to death in her apartment by Louisville Metro Police and Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed, 25-year-old black man who was chased down and killed while he was jogging in Glynn County, Ga — as seen earlier this week outside the Public Theater in Manhattan. Both names have been voiced daily in protests that have risen up across the world following the murder of George Floyd.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


The image featured above, “Oh My Goodness, We’re Leaving Again,” was fashioned with acrylic and oil by the late Arkansas-born, African-American self-taught artist Reverend Albert Wagner. It is one of his many images that has been on view at the — now temporarily closed — American Visionary Art Museum. Several more images of folks on the move by largely self-taught artists that I came upon in varied spaces follow:

82-year-old West Coast-based self-taught artist Helen Rae, “February 22, 2019,” 2019, Colored pencil and graphite on paper — as seen last summer at the Andrew Edlin Gallery; the artist who lives with developmental challenges and a severe hearing impairment has been developing her skills at the progressive Tierra del Sol for the past 30 years.

The late Tennessee-native, African-American self-taught artist Joe Light, Little Hobo, c. 1986, house paint and enamel on found wood — as seen in 2018 at Shrine

A small segment of a collaborative community-based mural — as seen in the largely Arab town of Jaffa in Israel in 2018

The late Bahamas-native, African-American self-taught artist Amos Ferguson, “Man and Children with Horse,” 1987, Enamel on paperboard — as seen earlier this year at Christies

Images of artworks photographed by Lois Stavsky


The image featured above, “The Kingdom,” is the work of the late self-taught Canadian artist Matthew Wong. Fashioned with oil on paper in 2017, it is one of his many seductive landscapes that was on view in his solo exhibition at Karma in the East Village back in spring, 2018 — just months before his tragic death at age 35. Several more images of landscapes, both real and imaginary — all by self-taught artists — follow:

The following untitled landscape — seen last year in his solo exhibition at Shrine on Manhattan’s Lower East Side — was painted by the late self-taught artist Sanford Darling. The former engineer began painting at age 68, and at the time of his death — five years later — he had already painted over 1,000 paintings, covering both the interior and exterior of his Santa Barbara home.

The late Miami-based, self-taught African-American artist Purvis Young, “Cityscape with Cars,” 1987, Oil on found wood — as seen last year in Vernacular Voices at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans

The late Poland-born, New York-based self-taught artist Harry Lieberman, who began painting at age 76, “Two Dreamers,” c. 1966, Oil on canvas — as seen earlier this year in American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum at The American Folk Art Museum

The late Alabama-native, African-American self-taught artist Sister Gertrude Morgan, “New Jerusalem,” c. 1970, Acrylic and tempera on cardboardas seen earlier this year in American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum at The American Folk Art Museum

Artworks photographed by Lois Stavsky


The alluring image pictured above — seen last year at her solo exhibition at Virdian Artists in Chelsea — was fashioned by the largely self-taught textile artist Mary Tooley Parker. It was one of several of the the artist’s rug-hooking works on display exuding a distinctly warm, domestic tranquility.  Several more images focusing on the notion of Home and interior spaces by a diverse range of largely self-taught artists follow:

Self-taught, legally blind artist Michael Levell, “Untitled,” Graphite and color pencil on paper — presented by the LA-based Tierra del Sol Foundation at the 2019 Outsider Art Fair and now on view in his first solo exhibition at the Tierra del Sol Gallery

The late Toronto-born, self-taught artist Matthew Wong, “Daybreak Blue,” 2018, watercolor on paper — as seen in his 2018 solo exhibition at KARMA in the East Village

New Orleans-based self-taught folk artist Andrew Lamar Hopkins, “The Creole Cottage of John James Audubon,” — as seen earlier this year at The Winter Show NYC at the Park Avenue Armory with Elle Shushan

Brooklyn-based, self-taught multidisciplinary artist Sara Erenthal, “Indifference,” Acrylic on canvas, 2017 — as seen in her solo exhibition at FiveMyles in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky


Born in 1942 in central China, Guo Fengyi, a former factory worker and mother of four, started to create art in her late forties. To ease her debilitating arthritis, she had begun practicing qi-gong, an ancient Asian mind-body-spirit form of meditation. In 1989, she started to experience visions, which she went on to translate into vivid, mesmerizing drawings on a range of materials — from the backs of calendar pages to rice paper scrolls. By the time of her death in 2010, she had created over 500 artworks.

Shortly before the world, as we knew it, shuttered, I visited her solo exhibition, Guo Fengyi: To See from a Distance, at The Drawing Center in Soho. Organized by Rosario Güiraldes, Assistant Curator, and Laura Hoptman, Executive Director, it features over 30 of Guo Fengyi’s works — all created in a heightened state of consciousness. Featured above is “Natural Superpower Black Mudra,” fashioned in 1990 with ink on rice paper that was mounted onto a cloth.  Several more images from the artist’s first major institutional presentation in the United States follow:

The Grave of Lao Jun, 1990, Color ink on glazed printing paper

Ear, 1990, Color ink on calendar paper

Organization Diagram of Human Numeric, 2006, Color ink on blueprint paper

Four Diagrams of the Divination Procedures of Zhu Xi’s The Basics of I Ching, 1990, Color ink on rice paper 

You can view a selection of images from this exhibit, along with a video, Introduction to Guo Fengyi, on The Drawing Center Digital Guide, part of the free Bloomberg Connects app that you can download from your mobile phone.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky


The curious character featured above was fashioned by the reclusive, self-taught Japanese artist Issei Nishimura, whose expressive work I first came upon at the 2019 Outsider Art Fair. Several more images of curious characters crafted by self-taught artists follow:

Japanese visionary, self-taught artist M’onma,“Untitled,” colored pencils — as seen in “Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler,” at the American Folk Art Museum in fall, 2019

The late Southern African-American self-taught artist Minnie Evans, “Design Made at Airlie Gardens,” Oil and mixed media on canvas — as seen this past fall at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC

The late Midwestern self-taught artist Bernard Gilardi, “Dogma,” oil on masonite panel — one of his many wonderfully weird artworks that I discovered last year at Shrine Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side

The late Southern self-taught visionary artist Reverend Howard Finster, “Elephant Woman,” mixed media — as seen last year in “Vernacular Voices” at the Ogden Museum in New Orleans

The late self-taught Syrian artist Peter Charlie Besharo, “Lady Liberty of 1953-1962,” Mixed media on paperboard —  as seen this past fall at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


I discovered Sasha P.W.‘s elegantly gritty aesthetic at Fountain House Open Studio earlier this year.  Last month — just before NYC all but shut down — we met up, and I had the opportunity to see more of Sasha’s distinctly intriguing artwork, both on canvas and in his sketchbooks. We also had the chance to speak:

When did you first start drawing?  

I was about five or six years old, and in school at the time. I don’t think I would have without a prompt.

Do any particular early artworks stand out? 

Yes. My self-portrait. It was my favorite one. A mixed-media collage. I also remember doing some kind of sculpture in school. But, as a child, I was far more into sports than I was into art. I was a soccer player. I didn’t begin to take art seriously until I dropped out of college in 2011.

What happened then to turn you on to visual art? 

I saw the film The Radiant Child, the documentary about Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life. That was a turning point in my life.

These days you are quite prolific. I loved discovering your work at Fountain House Open Studio. And your sketchbooks are a treasure trove of creativity. What inspires you to create art?

My friends, my sister and my entire family, pop music, long walks, nature, other artists…Basquiat still inspires me. And change inspires me!

You mention pop music. Have you any favorite musicians who particularly inspire you?

Among my favorites are: the Detroit native singer/rapper Lizzo, Jay-Z and Rihanna.

What about visual artists? Who are some of your favorite ones?

There are many. Among them are: the American painter Lisa Yuskavage; the British painter Glenn Brown; the Georgian artist David Pataraia; the late Belgian artist René Magritte.

Have you any particular cultural influences? 

My Mid-Western upbringing; books — The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel is a particular influence; music videos and the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art.

How has your aesthetic evolved within the past few years?

It is more expressive, often less colorful and, generally, smaller in scale. I also used to work on lots of found materials, like wood. I now tend to paint more on canvas.

How much time do you usually spend on a piece?

Anywhere up to 12 hours.

Have you a favorite piece that you’ve created?

My favorite piece was a dark charcoal painting that I lost.

Are you generally satisfied when you complete a piece? 

Not always. But if I find myself feeling upset about it, I try to reassess it.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?        

Between visual art, music and dance — just about all of it.

Have you exhibited your work?

Yes! I’ve exhibited at Fountain House Gallery and in several pop-up shows in a range of spaces.

How important to you is the viewers’ response?

I don’t care whether they like my work or not. They can hate it. But it’s important to me that they see it.

Have you a favorite setting to work?

I can work anywhere.

Have you a favorite media?

These days I like to work with oil paint.

How has your family responded to your art?

They like it. Their response has been positive.

Have you any kind of formal art education?

No. I had always been great at math and had planned to major in math in college. As an artist, I am self-taught.

Where are you headed?

I have no idea. I don’t want to think about it too much.

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

To share their story with others.

Note:Sasha P.W. will be exhibiting with Don’aë Tate at — the temporarily closed — Fountain House Gallery later this year.

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky with City-as-School interns Basil Lyons and Alyssa Torres; photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky


On our recent visit to the Living Museum, we — once again — marveled at this wondrous oasis of creativity. The work featured above is a segment from a large mixed-media work created by the wonderfully talented Frank Boccio. What follows are several more images we captured on our visit last week. Some were created decades ago, others within the past several weeks. And while most of the artists are largely self-taught, a few have been formally trained.

Unidentified artist

Issa Ibrahim

Rob Chin

Rushane Brown

Paula Brooks

At one time the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center’s cafeteria, the Living Museum now features works by dozens of artists — some  current or past Creedmoor residents, and others outpatients or volunteers.

Thank you, City-as-School interns Basil Lyons and Alyssa Torres, for contributing to this post. Photos by Lois Stavsky, Alyssa Torres and Basil Lyons.