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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


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


Speaking with Self-Taught Multimedia Artist Dominic Bielak

Born and bred in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, self-taught artist Dominic Bielak creates distinctly captivating works on a range of media largely referencing his native neighborhood. A visual ode to its pre-gentrified streets, Bielak‘s artworks exude an exquisite poignancy.

The following interview with Dominic Bielak was conducted by Atlas Lee Torres

When did you first start drawing? And what were the circumstances?

I first started drawing when I was five years old. There was a couple– Stephanie and Bea — living down our block in Williamsburg, and they were like our two moms.  They took my twin brother and me in like we were their two sons, and they encouraged us to draw. It seemed like a natural thing to do. I suppose it was always in me. And Stephanie and Bea’s apartment felt like our safe space to be.

Have you any memories of what you created back then?

We made little books and zines. All handmade.

What inspired your subject matter?

My art has always been inspired by my neighborhood. It was going through all kinds of changes when I was growing up. Much of it was abandoned, and we were always exploring it. There were junked cars everywhere, and there was graffiti everywhere.

Have you any favorite artists?

My favorite graffiti artist was Kuma. He was everywhere. And UFO. I used to see his alien character all over the place – before I even knew what graffiti was. I actually have so many favorite artists – and many of them aren’t known. Too many to name!

Is there a central or overall theme that ties your work together? It’s all about my story – having a home, losing a home and missing a home.

How has your artwork evolved in the past several years?

My studio work continues to move in the direction of fine art, and I work more and more with acrylics.

Are you generally satisfied with your artwork?

Not really. I’m never satisfied. I think a lot of artists aren’t! My goal is to eventually feel satisfied with my artwork.

Have you a favorite piece that you’ve created?

No, I don’t have one yet. It’s still in my head.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Too long! About a month! I’m a perfectionist. But I hate being one! I want to learn how to be looser—like dance with it. It’s more fun that way! As I continue to evolve, I’m sure I’ll get faster.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

About six hours a day, every day. I’m always painting something.

What are some of your other interests?

I love exploring – especially abandoned buildings and trains and tracks. I love biking and I love traveling. I like being sober and staying healthy. I don’t want to have to depend on doctors. I like dancing and staying naturally high.

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

It is important. When you work hard on something, you want others to like it and appreciate it. But I do it for me – 100%. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be happy.

What is your favorite setting to work?

I work in a gallery now, and I work in the basement. I’d rather be there than be at home. I like to have the freedom to make a mess, and I like having space. I just want to play music loud and make art.

What are your favorite media?

Spray paint, acrylics – all kinds of paints.

What are some of the challenges you face?

I feel like my back is always against the wall. I can’t really depend upon anybody else to support me. I have to be careful how I spend my money, and I have to stay sober.  I’m at that stage in my life when I can either make it or break it.

Good luck with it all!

Interview conducted by Atlas Lee Torres; photos 1 & 2 (picturing the artist with his “two mothers” — Stephanie and Bea — along with Henry Chalfant) Lois Stavsky; 3-6 courtesy of the artist


Based in Tel Aviv, Nil & Karin Romano are identical twin female artists who create mesmerizing, beguiling works that at once delight and bemuse. While in Tel Aviv earlier this year, we had the opportunity to meet the wonderfully talented self-taught artists and pose a few questions to them.

What inspires you to work together?

It is something we do instinctively. We work together side by side, as we complete each other. We think alike! We are introverts by nature, and we find in art a way to communicate with others.

When did you first begin working together?

About six years ago, we began collaborating. It was a reaction to a severe mental crisis. We were deeply depressed. Creating art became our therapy.

Have you a preferred medium and surface?

We work primarily with acrylic and oil paint on large canvases. But we also create works with pen and pencil on paper, and we make our own clothes.

What about colors? Have you any particular favorites?

We tend to use strong and bold colors within dark, surrealistic scenes.

What are your principal cultural influences?

Our main influence is the occult.

Is there a central theme that ties your work together?

Each work is an opportunity for us to tell the story of our inner world and struggles. Our central theme revolves around the complexity of the human soul, and we communicate this through motifs such as chaos, ritualism and nihilism. Particular themes we deal with include: queer relationships; cult-like and ritualistic beliefs; magical thinking and the power of emotions.

How has your work evolved over the past several years?

Initially, it came from deep pain. But as we continued to paint together, we grew happier, and our work became more confident. Our techniques are increasingly inventive.

How long do you generally work on a piece?

Anywhere from one hour to several weeks.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

100%. We live art!

What is your greatest challenge – at present?

That we work in an industry that is controlled by men!

What’s ahead?

We look forward to continuing to work together and sharing our work in galleries and museums. Our next solo exhibition will be opening on July 28 here in Tel Aviv at  Periscope Design Gallery at Ben Yehuda 176.

Good luck! We wish we could be there!


1. On Tel Aviv rooftop with their “babies” (photo credit: Amit Einy)

2. “Lovers Sharing Spaghetti,” 2021, Acrylic and oil pastels on canvas

3. “Full Moon Ritual,” 2020, Pen ink on paper

4. “The Nocturnal Animals Of Witch Marionette,” 2019, Acrylic on canvas

5. “Clarice, The Fortune Teller,” 2020, Pen ink on paper

6. “Snake Charmers,” 2020, Acrylic and oil on canvas

Photos courtesy the artists


Sometimes we seek solitude; other times it is thrust upon us. In this second in our series, Visual Reflections on Solitude, stirring visions of aloneness are reflected in the works of three distinctly arresting artists. The soulful image pictured above was painted with acrylic on paper in 2016 by the late largely self-taught Asian-Canadian artist Matthew Wong. Several more representations of “solitude” follow:

Also by Matthew Wong, “Untitled,” 2016, Acrylic on paper — as seen in the artist’s solo exhibition currently on view at Cheim & Read in Chelsea, Manhattan

Self-taught Bay Area-based artist Humberto Ramirez, “I’ll See You,” 2021, Oil and acrylic on canvas — as seen earlier this year at Jack Hanley Gallery in Tribeca

Also by Humberto Ramirez, “Dime Luna,” 2021, Oil and acrylic on canvas

Cuban-American artist Luis Cruz Azaceta, “Abandoned,” Acrylic on canvas — as seen in his 2018 solo exhibition at George Adams Gallery

Also by Luis Cruz Azaceta, “AIDS Count II,” 1988, Acrylic on canvas

Photos of images: Lois Stavsky


“Tangled in Color,” a delightfully riveting exhibition featuring drawings, embroideries and weavings in exuberant colors by ArTech Collective artists produced in collaboration with SAORI Arts NYC, remains on view through August 28 at The Gallery at W83. The above image depicts a drawing fashioned with mixed media on paper by Elvin Flores — pictured here, along with his mother, at last week’s opening reception. Several more photos captured during the joyous opening reception follow:

Also by ArTech Collective artist Elvin Flores, “Untitled,” 2022, Colored pencil on paper

“Untitled,” 2021, Colored pencil on mixed media paper

ArTech Collective artist Maria Alcantara — with a selection of her mixed-media fiber art

Maria Alcantara, Mixed media on embroidery hoop, 2022

Another recently fashioned mixed media artwork on an embroidery hoop by Maria Alcantara

ArTech Collective artist Lamija Kurtovic to the left of her hand-styled American flag

Located at 150 W 83rd Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, The Gallery at W83 is open to the public daily from 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM. Admission is free.


ArTech Collective is a studio program funded by AHRC NYC. The program provides opportunities for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities to develop and express themselves through inclusive, innovative, and accessible approaches to traditional and new media. 

Founded in 2015, SAORI Arts NYC is a non profit organization that brings the value of weaving as a healing art form to people with disabilities or chronic illness.

Photos: Lois Stavsky


Captured by the noted photographer Carmel Fromson, close to sixty elegant portraits of Fountain House artists are now on view at Fountain House Gallery. And accompanying the photos are captivating artist observations and statements — at once informative and inspiring. A small sampling follows:

Alyson Vega

Fountain House and the Gallery really saved my life. Here I am respected, included and feel like I have something to give. During the shutdown, I have never been more impressed with the response from the staff. I love Fountain House.


The Gallery helps me to stay focused on creativity and motivates me to paint; without it I think I would most likely feel depressed. Before the Gallery, I was focused only on graffiti. Now my art has grown and has become more complex and aesthetically pleasing.

Susan Spangenberg

My diagnosis is: Artist.

Roger Jones

I am a self-taught, mixed media artist exploring new ways to repurpose things to save the planet and reduce my carbon footprint.

Kelly Han

My photography is a study of different cultures and how we perceive unfamiliar people and their customs. The streets become my studio as I photograph life unfolding with the excitement of endless possibilities. My bold and dynamic photographs are intended to move viewers viscerally and make them reconsider the mundane reality as being somewhat magical and charged with power for change. 

Issa Ibrahim

Author of the 2016 memoir “The Hospital Always Wins,” published by Chicago Review Press, Issa’s life and work have become a synthesis of Greek tragedy and the Second Coming as seen through a sci-fi lens: “The recurring images in my work of flawed heroes with multiple questionable personalities and power-mad super-villains are all examples of an internal struggle to comprehend my place as a Black man in the asylum called America.”

Laura Anne Walker

I have always been fascinated by cats, the most intriguing things in the Universe. I see people as art and fall in love with extraordinary "artworks" in a most platonic way; I have "loved" many. People sabotage their relationships because of the baggage they lug, instead of dropping it and getting the love they truly love.

SEEN: Portraits of Fountain House Artists by Photographer Carmel Fromson remains on view at Fountain House Gallery through June 29. Located at 702 Ninth Avenue at 48th Street in Manhattan, Fountain House Gallery  is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12pm to 6pm.

All photos and statements courtesy Fountain House Gallery

Note: 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.


Currently on view at the Jamaica Center for the Arts in Southeast Queens is Early Days & Latter Days, a captivating exhibition of early and recent works by the celebrated painter, poet and philanthropist Danny Simmons. Spanning both of the center’s galleries, the works on view reflect the self-taught artist’s wondrous imagination and impressive skills.  

The image featured above, The Painter, was fashioned back in 1999 with oil on canvas. Several more images captured on my recent visit follow:

“Hammered Oaths,” 1998, Mixed media

“Noisy in the Next Room,” 2014, Oil on canvas

Among those created during Simmons’ recent residency at Jamaica Center for the Arts:

“Blackout,” 2021, Oil on fabric

“Blue Breeze,” 2021, Oil on fabric

“Pretty Please,” 2021, Oil on canvas

And interspersed throughout the exhibition are traditional African objects — an homage to the artist’s ancestral and spiritual inspirations. Pictured below is Danny Simmons‘ 2017 oil painting “Drip,” along with a Songye figure from the Congo.

Located at 161-04 Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, the Jamaica Center for the Arts is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm.


Featured in this year’s NYC edition of the Fridge Art Fair are several artists representing ART BreakOUT. The image featured above, “Keeping It Together,” — fashioned with acrylics on canvas — is the work of the young, gifted self-taught artist Michael Vivar.

Several more images of works on view through this Sunday at gallery onetwentyeight located at 128 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side follow:

ARTBreakOUT co-founder, visual artist & arts educator Bonnie Astor, “Untitled,” Mixed media

Yonkers-based self-taught artist Michael Cuomo, “Untitled,” Ink pen and oil pastels on clay board

Bronx-based self-taught artist Atlas Lee Torres with two of her artworks, “Untitled,” Micron pen & markers on paper

NJ-based, El Salvador-born visual artist & photographer Dani Reyes Mozeson, “Face It!,” Pen on paper

Queens-based self-taught artist Daniil Trofi to the left of his two works, “Untitled,” Acrylic paint & crayon on paper

The Fridge Art Fair continues through 6pm Sunday. Check here for hours.

Special thanks to Atlas Lee Torres for co-curating the ART BreakOUT segment of the Fridge Art Fair and to its founder and director Eric Ginsburg for his support.

Photos: Lois Stavsky


On view through May 21 at the Local Project in Long Island City is the particularly timely duo exhibition, Imperfections. Curated by neo-expressionist artist Adrian Bermeo, it features artworks by the the Queens-based multidisciplinary artist Cavier Coleman and the mixed-media visual artist and Sour Mouse curator Bree Chapin. While visiting the always-welcoming non-profit space on Friday, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Adrian.

The theme of this exhibit, according to your curatorial statement, relates to issues surrounding mental health in NYC. Why did you chose this particular topic?

Within the past several years — especially since the onset of the pandemic — there has been an expanding conversation around the issues of mental health. What are the benefits of therapy? What taboos are identified with it? How do we deal with these taboos? And how do we work through personal issues? I, myself, am now in therapy, and I was interested in igniting a dialog on the subject. I’m also interested in increasing awareness of resources out there that could help us cope with the mental distress that so many of us experience in this fast-paced society.

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The title of this duo exhibition is Imperfections. Can you tell us a bit about why you chose it? What is its significance?

None of us is perfect. It’s our imperfections that make us who we are — that make us human. And we all have them. It is important, though, that we be aware of them.

Do you feel that artists struggle more than folks who are less creative?

No. We all struggle. But artists have an outlet. They have the means to deal with their struggles that others may not have, and they have the power to affect positive change.

How did you decide which artists to feature?

I’m familiar with both artists: Cavier Coleman and Bree Chapin. They have very different styles that — I feel — work well together. Also, they are both open about their issues and utilize art a positive means of personal expression and release.

You have a closing party scheduled for this Wednesday evening. Can you tell us something about it?

Yes. It will take place this coming Wednesday, May 18 from 6-8pm at the Local Project, 11-27 44th Road. I will be moderating an artist talk featuring both Cavier Coleman and Bree Chapin to be followed by a Q & A. Personal experiences and mental health resources will be shared.


  1. Adrian Bermeo with Bree Chapin (“Tabby,” Acrylic on canvas) to his left and Cavier Coleman (“Everybody Blue Sometimes,” Oil, oil pastel, gold leaf on canvas) to his right
  2. Cavier Coleman, “Om Shanti,” 2020, Oil and gold leaf on canvas
  3. Cavier Coleman, “End Line,” 2022, Ink, enamel and oil on canvas
  4. Bree Chapin, “Drinky,” 2022, Acrylic on canvas
  5. Bree Chapin, “Everything Is Fine (Marilyn),” Mixed media, glitter and acrylic on framed canvas

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