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On Sunday, May 19, the Cat Museum of New York City — founded by Jenny Pierson, Reynard Loki and Susan Steshko — held its first public event in SoHo. Co-hosted by the Museum of Interesting Things as part of its Secret Speakeasy series, the pop-up featured cat art, cat books, cat music, cat board games and more.

It was standing room only — two or four legs — with an appreciative and attentive group of humans, along with one Sphinx cat.

A NYC based veterinarian and veterinary acupuncturist, Dr. Jeff Levy strummed cat-themed songs on his guitar.

Among the artists present whose work was on exhibit and for sale was the talented Milka Montero. A Pratt graduate, she creates works that capture a dream-like quality of big cats through the use of mixed gesso backgrounds and deftly-applied oils which shine in a pearlescent glaze.

Founding Executive Director Jenny Pierson focused on her mission of securing nonprofit status and finding a permanent home for the Cat Museum of New York City. She educated the attendees on the benefits of cat ownership, the issue of unhoused cats in the city, and the need for funds for shelters, food and cat care.

Be sure to follow the Cat Museum of New York City on Instagram. And to become directly involved in the museum’s mission, you can email: [email protected]

Reported by Bonnie Astor

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Born into a family of musicians in 1971 in Vienna, Laila Bachtiar began displaying autistic behavior as a young child. Always intent on creating art, she began frequenting the House of Artists in Gugging in 1990, and since 2003, she has been working in Gugging’s open studio. While visiting Museum Gugging and Galerie Gugging earlier this year, I discovered her delightfully distinct aesthetic, characterized by varied lines and swooping shapes.

The image featured above — one in her ongoing series of people — was fashioned with pencil and colored pencils in 2017. Several more images I captured of Laila Bachtiar‘s artwork while visiting Gugging’s museum and gallery follow:

“Laila’s Horse,” 2017, Pencil and colored pencils

“A Koala,” 2007, Pencil and colored pencils

“Piano Player,” 2008, Pencil and colored pencils

“Eine Ente,” 2007, Pencil and colored pencils

“Two Women,” 1992, Pencil and colored pencils

Photos of artworks: Lois Stavsky

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While visiting The Dream, a delightfully intriguing exhibition featuring three self-taught artists at Sitting Room Gallery on the Lower East Side, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Billy Waldman aka Billy Crystal.

When did you first start drawing?

I’ve always been drawing — from the time I was very small. It was the language that came naturally to me.

What inspired you to do so?

I grew up upstate and everyone around me was creating art of some kind. And — like I said — it was my main means of expression, from age one or two.

What is your earliest art memory?

When I was five years old — and in the first grade — I won an art contest on the theme of “conservation.” My drawing illustrated how we can conserve water while taking showers.

Gee, that’s impressive! What keeps you making art?

Creating art is a means of releasing benevolent energy. It is a therapy tool in a world that needs therapy.

Have you any favorite artist?

David Hammons. I built his solar power system at his studio. He was always welcoming and receptive. He’s an amazing, versatile artist and he opened my eyes.

I know that you were deep into the skate boarding culture. What, would you say, are your cultural influences?

The entire universe.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

My love of life. Life is the greatest gift we will ever have.

How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?

It increasingly flows. It has become more dynamic.

Are you generally satisfied with your artwork?

Never!

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Usually a couple of days. But, actually, my whole life — trying to figure out what to do next.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve created?

My masterpiece is the family that I created with Juliana Villela de Andrade Monteiro: Wave, 19 Luca Blue, 14, and Leo Sky, 10. Through them I have fulfilled my soul blueprint, aligning us with universal love.

How important is it to you that others like your work?

I don’t deal within the realm of likes or wants; it’s loves and needs.

What is your favorite media?

I like playing the paintbrush like a musical instrument on my rhythmic journey.

What are some of your other interests?

Embracing our natural world; identifying what it has to offer, nutritionally and otherwise, and learning how to be a good father.

How does your family feel about what you do?

I’m looking for a bond thicker than blood. I feel love from the entire universe.

Where are you headed?

I would like to be a benevolent force — the ultimate shaman — that enables the universe to release its positive energies.

Note: Featured in the first photo is the artist with his son, Leo, alongside one of his works on exhibit in Sitting Room Gallery

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos 1-3, 5 & 6 Lois Stavsky; 4, 7 & 8, courtesy the artist

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Bringing “mental health into the open,” Museum van de Geest (the Museum of the Mind) showcases works by artists marked by a range of disabilities. While visiting its Amsterdam location in the monumental H’ART Museum last month, I came upon works by both renowned late outsider artists and some who are currently active.

The image pictured above, “Truth Festival” was fashioned in mixed media by the late Dutch artist Willem van Genk. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, van Genk is deemed one of the leading masters of outsider art. Several more images currently on view at the Museum van de Geest follow:

Dutch artist Piet Schopping — who largely communicates with the world through his drawings — “The Woman,” Mixed technique on canvas, 2016

The late Spanish artist Anselme Boix-Vives, “Bird formation,” Gouache and oil on cardboard, 1964

Dutch artist Derk Wessels — born in 1972 with Down’s syndrome — “My Secret #2,” Crayon on paper

Emotionally impaired, Amsterdam-based artist Evert Panis, “Sunflowers”, Marker on canvas, 2009 

Physically challenged Dutch painter Roel Heijmans, “Lamb of God,” Acrylic on paper, 2015

Located inside the  H’ART Museum, the Amsterdam branch of Museum van de Gees — featuring rotating exhibitions of outsider art — is open daily from 10 AM to 5PM.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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Located at the H’ART Museum in Amsterdam, the Outsider Art Galerie features a diverse range of artworks by outsider artists from Amsterdam and beyond. Currently on view is Tap It and It Sings featuring work by 14 artists associated with Reakt Den Hague, an organization that supports people who are facing mental health issues.

The expressive, psychedelic drawing featured above was fashioned by Voorburg-born, multidisciplinary, artist Raphaël Ranôt Heckman. What follows are several more images of artworks I captured while visiting the welcoming Outsider Art Galerie:

Also by multidisciplinary artist Raphaël Ranôt Heckman

Netherlands-based artist Marleen Hagenaar — whose paintings and drawings tend to focus on horses and their riders

Dublin-born, Netherlands-based artist Tim Duncan

Netherlands-based multidisciplinary artist Tino van Leeuwen

The elusive Victoria Brown whose puppet is central to her artistry

The exhibition remains on view through March 2 and can be visited Wednesday – Saturday 12 -5 PM at Neerlandiaplein 7, 1018 DR Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Note: The 14 artists featured in this exhibit have created a print-on-demand book in collaboration with Maldoracca – an artist initiative by Ibrahim R. Ineke and Anthony Blokdijk.

Photos of artworks: Lois Stavsky

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On Thursday, November 30, I joined photographer, arts educator and writer Rachel Alban for the unveiling of her photo mural, “Healing in Community,” at Coler — a facility on Roosevelt Island that has provided care to New Yorkers for more than 60 years. After the wonderfully inspiring celebratory event, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Rachel.

This is so wonderful. Everyone is so appreciative, and your mural is remarkably powerful, as it so brilliantly captures the Coler community. How did this opportunity come your way?

Last winter, NYC Health + Hospitals put out an open call for a community mural project, and I applied. I was delighted, of course, to find out that I was one of ten muralists selected in a hugely competitive process. I am so grateful for the opportunity and to the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund for its support.

What was the concept behind your mural?

I am particularly interested in the notion of community and its healing powers. The principal intent of the mural was to heighten the sense of community among its participants and viewers and to inspire us to recognize that we all have a role to play in each other’s well-being.

Can you tell us something about its process?

For several months, I visited the hospital regularly, engaging members of the Coler community — including local residents, volunteers, and staff — in varied photography projects. It was important to me that the participants have their own hands-on creative experiences with photography before I began photographing their portraits in March.

Is there any particular reason you chose to work in black and white — rather than in color?

Yes, my deliberate use of black and white photography best highlights each person as a distinct individual, as they come together to represent the diverse Coler community.

This ribbon-cutting event has been so moving. It’s so lovely to witness such a positive, cheerful occasion.

Yes! I am so moved to see how much this mural project means to so many. And I am especially pleased that it’s the first photo mural to be featured at Coler since 1940!

Congratulations!

Note: Committed to preserving more than 7,000 works of art and making them accessible to the public, The Arts in Medicine department at NYC Health + Hospitals curates the largest public art collection in New York City.

Pictured in second photo: (left to right) Stephen Catullo, CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler; Rachel Fawn Alban, Artist; Mónica Mariño, Program Director, Arts in Medicine, New York City Health + Hospitals; Rick Luftglass, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Executive Director and Judy Berdy, NYC Health + Hospitals/Coler Community Advisory Board Chairperson

Interview conducted and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky; photos by Lois Stavsky

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All self-taught, the artists featured in Of God and Country: American Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, explore a range of themes – from this nation’s physical landscape and religious practices to its history of racism. Often using found objects to express their artistic visions, they offer a distinct perspective on the American experience.

The image featured above, “The Lamb and His Bride,” was fashioned by the late Southern artist, musician and painter Sister Gertrude Morgan with ink, acrylic and crayon on a repurposed Tide laundry detergent box. Several more images featured in this strikingly rich exhibition follow:

The late Miami-based Purvis Young, “Untitled,” Late 20th century, Paint on found wood construction

The late South Carolina-native Sam Doyle, “St. Helena First Black Embalmer John,” Reused corrugated, galvanized iron sheet, paint and remains of horizontal caulk line

The late Kentucky artist William L Hawkins, “Three Horses with Red Frame,” House paint on Masonite with nails and wood strips

The late West Africaborn, North Carolina-bred artist Simon Sparrow, “Assemblage with Faces” (Close-up), Repurposed found objects

The late Mississippi-born wood carver Elijah Pierce,Love (Martin Luther King, Jr.),” Paint, glitter, and varnish on carved wood

Of God and Country: American Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection continues at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 1, 2024. Located at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the heart of Philly, the museum is open: Monday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm; Thursday, 10:00 am–5:00 p.m; Friday, 10:00 am–8:45 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm, and Sunday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm. It is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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An intriguingly alluring reflection on NYC’s urban landscape, Cityvision features a delightfully diverse array of works in varied media by over three dozen artists. Curated by interior space planner and designer Joanna Delson, the exhibition continues through next Wednesday, October 25 at Fountain House Gallery.

Featured above is Bridge and Tunnel Train Man, fashioned on fabric with acrylic marker in a handmade wood frame by the wonderfully talented fiber artist Alyson Vega. Several more images of artworks featured in Cityvision follow:

Multidisciplinary artist Boo Lynn Walsh, “Sunset on Billionaire’s Pond,” 2022, Acrylic on canvas

Neo-impressionist painter Gary Peabody, “Times Square Night,” 2016, Acrylic on canvas

Multidisciplinary artist Marina Marchand,Looking Down on a Metropolis Night,” 2023, Watercolor, gouache, acrylic and ink on aquabord

The delightfully innovative African-American artist Zeus Hope, “City! Citi!,” 2023, Cardboard, metal, acrylic, glass, gold leafing on wood

Multidisciplinary self-taught artist Susan Spangenberg, “Gentrification,” 2016, Acrylic on canvas

Multidisciplinary artist Issa Ibrahim, “Lullaby of Birdland,” 2023, Ink, marker, and collage on paper

The distinctly alluring abstract artist Michal Behar, “Colorful World,” 2023, Sumi Ink, Kuretake watercolor on canvas

Freelance artist Lewis Pujol, “Long Island City Street Scene,” 2023, Acrylic on wood

Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan, Fountain House Gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12pm to 6pm, with extended hours of 11am – 6pm this weekend, October 20-22 for Open House New York.

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: Lois Stavsky

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The hugely impactful exhibition, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration — previously featured in ART BreakOUT when it debuted at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City — can now be seen at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. A searing indictment of our country’s prison system, it is also a celebration of the human spirit in the face of adversary. Curated by Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood, along with Steven G. Fullwood  and Novella Ford, it features a range of works in different media by artists who have been or are currently incarcerated, as well as by those whose works address the multi-faceted topic.

The image pictured above, Black Joy Tapestry, was fashioned by Ndume Olatushani who spent twenty years on death row and a total of 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Creating art was essential to his survival, and now that he is out of prison, he not only makes art, but, also, works with advocacy groups to “challenge misconceptions” and end capital punishment.

Several more images of works on view at The Schomburg Center follow:

Formerly incarcerated artist Russell Craig, Segment from “I Am Groot,” Acrylic on textiles and leather purse fragments portraying the artist as he sits quietly contemplating his past in the prison system

San Quentin State Prisonincarcerated multi-media artist Gary Harrell“Deep Thought” 2013, Linocut and acrylic on paper

Formerly incarcerated multidisciplinary artist Jared Owens, “Series 111, #5,” 2022, Mixed media on panel, soil from prison yard at F.C.I. Fairton, lino printing

The late formerly incarcerated artist Ronnie Goodman, “San Quentin Arts in Corrections Art Studio,” 2008, Acrylic on canvas

Pennsylvania-based formerly incarcerated artist Mark Loughney, “Pyrrhic Defeat: A Visual Study of Mass Incarceration,” 2014–present, close-up from a series of hundreds of graphite drawings on paper of fellow inmates

The exhibition can be viewed Monday–Saturday, 10 AM–6 PM, through December 4 at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located at Malcolm X Boulevard and 135th Street. Information on accompanying free talks and programs can be found here.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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Curated by ART BreakOUT founders Bonnie Astor and Lois Stavsky, “I Am Many: A Visual Meditation on Identity” features a wildly eclectic range of works fashioned by artists crossing generations, geographies and cultures.

Featured above is Queens-based Bangladeshi American visual artist Kaiser Kamal, to the right of his strikingly imaginative mixed-media work, Reinvention II,  A small sampling of artworks from the dozens on view at The Local NY follow:

El Salvador-born, New Jersey-based Dani Reyes Mozeson, “Purple Haze,” Mixed media

Self-taught New York-based multimedia artist Billy Waldman, “Mindscape,” Mixed media

Visual artist and arts educator Bonnie Astor, “Untitled,” Collage on canvas

Queens-based ArTech artists — supported by AHRC NYC — Sydney Burford (on left) with “Untitled,” Embroidery and paint on fabric, and Nadia Insan with “Untitled,” Marker and colored pencils on paper

Self-taught artist Ben Wilson, “Untitled,” Ink on paper

Queens-based Pakistani-American artist Sharjeel Khan, “Lawrence’s Arabia,” Mixed media

Self-taught photographer Sara Ching Mozeson, “Passing Time in Chinatown,” Digitally edited photo

Brooklyn-based, largely self-taught artist Antonio Gomez, “HECHO IN MEXICO,” Acrylic on paper

Self-taught Queens-based artists ANGR, GOUR and DUSK, Pushing It Forward,” Mixed Media

Located at 1302 44th Avenue in Long Island City, The Local NY is is easily accessible via the Court Square E, M, G, and 7 trains. The exhibition can be viewed from early morning until late at night.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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