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With camera in hand, Korean-American photographer and Fountain House Gallery artist Kelly Han has been traveling the world, capturing the unexpected in moving, provocative portraits. Opening this evening at Silks Building in Long Island City is “Portraits of Strength and Resilience,” Kelly’s first solo exhibition. Turning her lens on people who embody the spirit of fortitude in the face of hardships, she has created a stirring visual ode to those among us who embrace life’s challenges. Krishna, the striking image featured above, was captured by Kelly in 2019. Several more portraits on view in “Portraits of Strength and Resilience” follow:

Gold Samba Costume

Balinese Farmer

Young Buddhist Devotee

Tuktuk Driver

The exhibition, sponsored by City Artist Corps Grants and Queens Council on the Arts, opens this evening, October 19, 6-8 pm, at 37–24 24th Street in Long Island City and continues through November 2. Hours are: Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, 11-7; Thursday, 1-8. Viewing is by appointment only except during tonight’s opening reception.

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Fountain House Gallery recently reopened to the public with “Water,” a visual ode to this vital natural element. Showcasing over 30 distinctly intriguing works in a diverse range of styles and media, it is a cause for celebration. The image featured above, The Beach, was fashioned earlier this year with fabric and fiber layers by the wonderfully talented self-taught artist Alyson Vega. Several more images from the exhibition follow:

Gary Peabody, “MD493,” 2021, Acrylic on canvas

DubbleX, “Water In Many Tongues,” 2021, Acrylic, marker and spray paint

Anthony Newton, “The Hope Float”, 2021, Oil on canvas

Angela Rogers, “Layla the Lobster,” 2019, Wire fiber, beads, string and yarn (top left) and “Aradia,” 2019, Wire fiber and found objects

Susan Spangenberg, “Swami Octopus,” 2021, Acrylic, marker, buttons, and fabric on canvas

Issa Ibrahim, “Wet Dream,” 2012, Acrylic on canvas

Curated by Fountain House Gallery artist Eva Tortora, “Water” continues through August 25 at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan. Gallery hours are Tues.-Sat. 12pm-6pm.

Fountain House Gallery and Studio provides an environment where artists living with mental illness can express their creative visions and exhibit their work.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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Introducing Self-Taught Colombian Artist J. Malhecho

While exploring the streets of Downtown Manhattan awhile back, I came upon a young man at work fashioning a hugely expressive face on a piece of cardboard that he had salvaged from the curb. Intrigued by his distinctly raw aesthetic and choice of canvas, I was eager to find out more about the artist. He introduced himself as J Malhecho and explained that he had come to NYC from his home on the mountainside of Bogota to spend some time with family members who were living here. I had the opportunity to briefly interview him before he returned home.

When did you first start making art?  And what prompted you to?

I began painting just a few years ago. I was 21. My life had suddenly and unexpectedly changed. As I was crossing a street in Bogota, a car cruising by crashed into me. The accident broke my bones and ribs. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt the need to create something…something I could touch.

Had that accident impacted your life in any other ways?

Yes. I stopped using drugs and I stopped drinking. I feel as though my entire mindset changed.

You are working here on found materials. In fact, you refer to your art as “trash art.”

Yes. I am deeply concerned about the environment. I would much rather recycle something that has been thrown out than spend money on a canvas and further pollute the environment.

I’ve noticed that you paint with your fingers.

Yes, I mostly use only my fingers. I love the texture that it produces. Sometimes I use pencils. But rarely!

Have you any favorite artists?

No one in particular comes to mind. I don’t pay much attention to what other artists are doing.

What about cultural influences?

I’m inspired by the natural world that surrounds me. I grew up and live now among the mountains outside of Bogota. The homeless people in Colombia who recycle boxes to earn some money also influence me.

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

Yes. I create mythical creatures who protect the ecosystem.

Are you generally satisfied with your work? Is it important to you that others like it?

Yes, I am generally satisfied with it. I make art because I love the process. It isn’t important to me that others like it. But I want them to walk away with a message.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

It depends. Anywhere from 5 minutes to one month.

Have you exhibited your work?  If so, where?

I’ve taken my work to market places on the streets and on the mountains of Bogota.

What are some of your other interests?

Playing the guitar and working on assorted tasks on the mountains.

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

Art is an international language. It is my way of sharing my reality with others.  It is my way to communicate and to make people think!

Note: Two of J Malhecho’s paintings will be on exhibit in “Alone / Together: A Visual Meditation on Our Times,” from July 15 – August 29 at the Local New York, 13-02 44th Avenue in Long Island City. Several more of his works can be viewed at the opening reception, Thursday, July 15, 6-9pm.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos 1-4 Lois Stavsky in NYC; 5 Courtesy of the artist in Colombia

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I first discovered the late Chinese-Canadian artist Matthew Wong’s distinctly alluring aesthetic at the East Village gallery, KARMA, back in 2018. The rich colors and mesmerizing markings that characterized this self-taught artist’s paintings captivated me.  His current exhibition, Footprints in the Wind, Ink Drawings 2013-2017, on view through September 3 at Cheim & Read, presents 24 ink drawings on rice paper. Though devoid of color, these early works — also largely inspired by the natural world — intrigue with a mysterious, pulsating beauty, as they fuse both Eastern and Western sensibilities. Featured above is “The Performance,” fashioned in 2017 with ink on rice paper. Several more images on view follow:

Snowfall, 2015

Winter, 2016

The Watcher, 2017

Two Flowers, 2016

Untitled, 2015

Located at 547 West 25th Street in the heart of Chelsea’s gallery districy, Cheim & Read is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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Outside/Outsider, a fine art exhibition and film festival featuring works by over 20 artists who have experienced mental illness, continues through this Sunday, June 13, at Local Project in Long Island City. Strongly provocative and masterly crafted, the works on view reflect the vast talents and acute sensitivities of these artists. “Each piece clearly shows that living with a mental illness should not bar any of them admittance into the world of being recognized as artists of merit,” states Karen Gormandy, who along with Issa Ibrahim, curated the exhibition.

The triptych featured above, “When I Heard My Name,” was crafted with oil on wood in 2020 by recent Sarah Lawrence College fine arts graduate Evelyn Gardiner. Several more images from the hugely significant and moving exhibition follow:

Budapest, Hungary-born painter and photographer Villo Varga, “Masks,” 2021, Oil on canvas, 20 x 24″

Digital painting master Bryan Michael Greene, “Interpretation of Vincent,” 2020, Aluminum print, 40 x 20″

LIC-based visual artist Jody MacDonald, “The Conjoined Twins,” 2019 Mixed media, 66 x 24 x 24″

Self-taught multidisciplinary artist Susan Spangenberg, “Hung,” 2015, Acrylic, latex on unstretched Sanitest 72 x 48″

Texas-born visual artist Matt Cauley, “The Chill (Self-Portrait),” 2018, Acrylic on canvas 24 x 30”

Organized in conjunction with LIC-A and Local Project in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the exhibition continues through this Sunday, with a film festival– both in person and live streamed — scheduled for this Friday evening, June 11, 7:30pm, at Local Project. Tickets are available for the film festival, that will open with a performance by writer, musician and mental health advocate Neesa Sunar, here. And you can check out the engaging panel discussion, moderated by Issa Ibrahim, that took place on Saturday, May 22, here. Local Project is located at 11-27 44th Road in LIC. Gallery Hours are: Thursday, by appointment and Friday – Sunday, 12 – 6pm.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky

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Working with a wide range of salvaged materials, Yonkers-based, self-taught multidisciplinary artist Michael Cuomo continues to fashion an extraordinary array of assemblages. Among these are his intriguing “Heads of State.” Several from this ongoing series recently made their way to Columbus Park in Yonkers. Featured above is “Hoast,” one of Michael’s pandemic works created this past year. A few more images captured during this impromptu, public pop-up exhibition follow:

Michael Cuomo installs “India,” — originally created in 2018

“Desert Shaman,” 2020

“Faceless,” 2020 — from the pandemic works

Razzel”, 2017

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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Five Queens-based artists have recently shared their visions and talents on the streets of Long Island City. The fiberglass spheres — manufactured by LIC-based Fabricator Sculpture House NYC — that they designed and painted can now be found in tree pits throughout the neighborhood. The image featured above was painted by ART BreakOUT co-founder and Jackson Heights resident Bonnie Astor. Several more images of artworks created for this project and installed in Long Island City follow:

Bonnie Astor with another one of her painted spheres from her series, “All Eyes On LIC”

Ohio-born, Queens-based Elinore Schnurr, from her series, “WE ARE ONE 

Wisconsin-born, Queens-based Karen Fitzgerald from her series, “The Four Elemental Forces

Bangladeshi-American artist Kaiser Kamal, from his series, “Unity in Diversity” 

Included, too, in this project is Kerri Boccard, whose spheres — yet to be viewed — will be featured on our Instagram page. The five participating artists were selected through an open call from Culture Lab LIC., and the project was made possible through Long Island City Partnership in coordination with Eventscape.

Photos: Lois Stavsky

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For over 50 years members of the Guerrero, Mexico-based La Familia Lorenzo have been painting delightfully enchanting images reflecting their remote village’s culture and traditions.

The recently deceased family patriarch Lucas Lorenzo who originated this tradition began painting 55 years ago on Masonite board — instead of the traditional amate bark, the canvas of his fellow villagers. It was a technique he had discovered on a trip to Mexico City while seeking work as a farmer.

His four sons: Aureliano, Jesus, Nicolas, and Santiago, along with his daughters Carlota and Lizbeth and grandson Fernando, have continued the tradition, while improvising with its aesthetic. “It is how we conserve our culture,” explains Fernando.

The image featured above was painted by second generation Lorenzo family member Jesus. Several more images of paintings by members of the Lorenzo family, featured in Hecho en México at the temporarily closed Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, follow:

Also by second generation Lorenzo family member Jesus Lorenzo

Second generation Lorenzo family member Nicolas Lorenzo

Second generation Lorenzo family member Aureliano Lorenzo

Second generation Lorenzo family member Lizbeth Lorenzo

Third generation Lorenzo family member Fernando Lorenzo

Photographs of paintings by Lois Stavsky captured while visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens this past fall

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The image pictured above, Respect the Order, was fashioned by the Jamaican American artist Mark Anthony Hill with acrylic on canvas. It remains on view in his solo exhibition at One Art Space in Tribeca until January 6 . Following are several more faces in a variety of styles and media seen this past year in a range of settings:

Havana, Cuba-based self-taught artist Hector Frank Heredia, “Untitled,” Mixed media — as seen last March at Art on Paper in Lower Manhattan

Self-taught multidisciplinary artist John Tursi — as seen at the Living Museum in Queens Village

Largely self-taught Japanese artist Akito Nara, “Soul Meeting,” Acrylic and oil pastel on canvas — as seen last March in his solo exhibition at Ethan Cohen Gallery in Chelsea, NYC

Brooklyn-based self-taught artist Marcus Jahmal, “Mirror 4,” Watercolor on paper — as seen in “100 Drawings from Now” at the (now temporarily closed) Drawing Center in Soho, NYC

Self-taught Oregon-based artist Anne Marie Grgich, “Target,” Mixed media — as seen last January at the Outsider Art Fair in Chelsea, NYC

Photos of images by Lois Stavsky

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Born in the Dominican Republic and based in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, self-taught artist Bony Ramirez fashions entrancing, dramatic works that celebrate his rich Caribbean culture and reflect on his native country’s traumatic history.

On view through Sunday at Thierry Goldberg Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is MUSA X PARADISIACA, Bony Ramirez’s first in-person solo exhibition with the gallery.

The bold, mesmerizing image featured above — Es Colmado, No Bodega — typifies that artist’s distinct aesthetic of fusing paintings and drawings by adhering life-size paper figures onto painted wood panels. And, as in all of of his works, the character’s limbs are distorted.

Several more images from this riveting exhibition follow:

“El Tiguerazo!,” 2020, Acrylic, colored pencil, oil pastel, oil stick, paper on wood panel

Carnaval,” 2020, Acrylic, colored pencil, oil pastel, paper on wood panel

Caribaby: The Sea Shells,” 2020, Apoxie clay, tin foil, Styrofoam, resin doll eyes, aluminum armature, velvet fabric, polyester fiberfill, synthetic hair, polymer clay, acrylic, oil pastel, sea shells

Segment of installation on the gallery’s lower level(L to R)Dónde Están Los Limóncillos?,” 2020, Acrylic, colored pencil, oil stick, oil pastel, paper on wood panel; “The Columbus Lighthouse,” 2020, Apoxie clay, tin foil, Syrofoam, resin doll eyes, aluminum armature, crushed velvet fabric, polyester fiberfill, synthetic hair, acrylic, oil pastel; metal sword, zinc tow chain, acrylic, on wood panel and “No Fue El Final/ It Was Not The End,” 2020
acrylic, colored pencil, oil pastel, wallpaper, paper on wood panel

Musa X Paradisiaca,” 2020, Acrylic, colored pencil, oil pastel, wallpaper, paper on wood panel

Located at 109 Norfolk Street, Thierry Goldberg Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10-6pm. Walk-ins are welcome.

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky

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