WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED N.4

137acUMAN

And the Human Language of Colors

UMAN, Mom of the year for small bird's, 2015, oil on wood, 3

UMAN, Mom of the year for small bird’s, 2015, oil on wood, 3″x 3″
Courtesy of the artist       Photo: Peter Kirby

         Artist statement

I paint. Often I get nostalgic about growing up. These memories express themselves mostly in the colors. They mix with the colors, movements and forms that surround me – seasonal changes in the foliage of upstate New York. Watching the birds migrating makes me wanting to be in that moment with them.

MY WORK IS NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL, NOR POLITICAL OR NARRATIVE. IT’S AN AUTOMATIC EXPRESSION

(137ac is a collective studio space. A place to share my work with other artists who share similar values and attitudes about painting. We come in and funnel ideas, frustration, hope and love into our work.)

Uman was born in East Africa and currently lives in New York.

BIANCA SFORNI, Portrait of Uman, 2015

BIANCA SFORNI, Portrait of Uman, 2015

“I started to draw at a young age onto everything I could find. I was full of imagination.

I enjoyed our family vacations all across East Africa, from Turkana to Nairobi to Mandera, a desert where my Grandmother lived.

 I have fond memories of crossing the border with my parents into Tanzania.

LETTER TO UMAN

Los Angeles, May 1st 2015

Birds drop on your canvas the visual pattern of a melody. Each of them sings a different song, or a speech? Some of them thrive, others seem to shrink as if the end of their song had emptied their body. I don’t know why I see a breathing movement, maybe I’m bedeviled by questions I had as a country child listening to the birds and wishing to understand the language hidden in their throats. Perhaps I was at times mistaking birds for leaves, does it matter?

UMAN, Birds N.1, 2015, oil on Wood, 74

UMAN, Birds N.1, 2015, Oil on primed fabric, 74″ x 62″
Courtesy of the artist

UMAN, Birds N.1, Detail

UMAN, Birds N.1, Detail

These paintings make me think of a scattered mosaic, a collection of particles that you have liberated from being stiff and geometrical. It’s an organic transformation that I see, light and movable, and moving. I can feel the birds flight, their voices. The space is a mid-space between sky and earth, as if your brush could breath the colors and make them weightless.

UMAN, Scattered wild Universe, 2015, Oil on canvas Courtesy of the artist

UMAN, Scattered Wild Universe, 2015, Oil on canvas, 30″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist

UMAN, Malaria Fever, 2014, Oil on fabric, 40

UMAN, Malaria Fever, 2014, Oil on fabric, 40″ x 30″     Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of the artist

Really, the visual language you paint isn’t different from the birds’ songs: not the ‘natural’ inhuman scenery, rather the ‘natural’ personal cacophony of colors and forms that makes us part of the universe and the universe part of us. Rectangle triangles or drops of ovals have something of a skin, a softness that makes them vulnerable. I’m trying to read them separately from my memories and thoughts even if it’s clear that I might reach them only if I put my sensitivity at stake, being absolutely sure that it’s different from yours.

A painting? An odd combination of chance and freedom, space and time with the artist as an instrument of circumstances. I give you some John Cage:

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He concludes that a note is “between points in a field of frequency or just a drawing in space … absence of theory…” Only NOTATION.

UMAN, Life should be this way, 2013, Goache, oil on board Courtesy of the artist

UMAN, Life should be this way, 2013, Gouache, oil on board, 47″ x 37″
Courtesy of the artist

UMAN, Dark Woods, 2012, Oil on primed paper, 12

UMAN, Dark Woods, 2012, Oil on primed paper, 12″ x 9″ Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of the artist

Imagination is the only parking place. Your paintings or drawings with one dominant image are harder to read. Ghosts from reality and art history enslave my mind, maybe yours too? I find myself in front of the Dark Woods,   today watching a dragonlike image hissing at a cloud of darkness, tomorrow I might see something else. But looking at the tree embracing the dove with human hands I do know it’s a dream of tenderness, please don’t go, migration is hard. You are a bird from Africa as I am from Italy. Your painting has absorbed my words.

I’m not sure, this piece by William Carlos Williams could speak for both:

“I go back to people. They are the origin of every bit of life that can possibly inhabit any structure, house, poem or novel [or painting] of conceivable human interest. It doesn’t precisely come out of the tops of their heads like flowers but they represent, in themselves, the structure which art . . . Put it this way: If we don’t cling to the warmth which breathes into a house or a poem [or a painting] alike from human need — (The stink, you mean) — the whole matter has nothing to hold it together and becomes structurally weak so that it falls to pieces.”

It can be an elegant dancer resting on a couch, or a brown spot on a red square, the human language of colors.

Yours,

Rosanna

UMAN, Luly in orange scarf,  2014, Oil on canvas Courtesy of the artist

UMAN, Luly in orange scarf, 2014, Oil on canvas, 8″ x 6″
Courtesy of the artist

WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED N.3

 137ac  JANET LAING

JANET LAING, Untitled, 2015, Oil on canvas 18

JANET LAING, Untitled, 2015, Oil on canvas 18″ x 18″ (round)   Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

Artist Statement

A PERSON VIBRATES, MOVES, CHANGES  By Janet Laing

 “I have been painting for 13 years—ever since I first got sober at 49, and began art therapy groups. Painting is healing and therapeutic for me, it frees my mind of clutter so I can concentrate on what is in front of me. 

I love art because it is such a great tool for self-expression. Both singing and painting are my fortes because through these vehicles I find my inner voice. 

There is something magical about capturing a sound, a color, and the vibrancy of telling a story. It also makes me only too aware of how I must evolve, stretching beyond my comfort zone, taking some risks so that my personal truth can come to light. 

Lately I have been painting in oil on canvas and giving myself themes: People and Pets; Kissing Couples; and Waterfalls.”

TIME HAS A WAY OF BEING FEMALE     I was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and raised in a working class family attending schools in Covina and West Covina.  I knew I wanted to be a professional singer by the age of eight, but was never encouraged in this or any other art form.  In my twenties I did a lot of different jobs, but mostly worked as a legal secretary because my typing was fast.  When I found out my mother died at 38 from Huntington’s Disease, and  I had a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene, I decided I better work at what I love, singing.

That is when I moved to New York City and sang with the Funktionaries. Later I formed my own female band, Wanda and The Way It Is.  I sang, wrote songs and breezed past my late thirties and forties without getting HD but my two brothers were not so lucky. They both passed away. Me, I was living the fast, wild and wooly lifestyle of an entertainer. It didn’t take long before I was a full-fledged alcoholic.

Recovery brought me to my knees and then my senses were awakened in art, music and writing. I became prolific in all three and recaptured my long lost soul.  My spirit had been pushed down all my life because it was impractical to be an artist. Now I am thriving in all art’s glory. Thanks to Annatina Miescher, founder of 137ac, I have a studio with supplies to paint in and get to work with like-minded people who love to paint. Our collective is innovative and challenging and we are blessed to have each other to inspire. My band, Wanda and The Way It Is, has come full circle as well.

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“When we look at the blue sky for the first time, that is to say not merely see it, but look at it and experience it and for the first time have a sense that we live in the center of a physical poetry, a geography that would be intolerable except for the non-geography that exists there — few people realize that they are looking at the world of their own thoughts and the world of their own feelings.

On that occasion, the blue sky is a particular of life that we have thought of often, even though unconsciously, and that we have felt intensely in those crystallizations of freshness that we no more remember than we remember this or that gust of wind in spring or autumn.” (Wallace Stevens)

 

JANET LAING, Swimmers, 2014, oil on canvas  24

JANET LAING, Swimmers, 2014, oil on canvas 24″ x 18″       Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

THE BLUE SKY SHUTTERED IN PIECES FELL INTO JANE LAING’S PAINTINGS

By ROSANNA ALBERTINI

What’s in front of her, in front of us all, is the most malleable scene. Only the mood, and the way we step into the new day will tell if the beach, or the towers downtown are easy or impossible to reach. Los Angeles is in my mind, the place where Jane Laing came from and where I live; a non geographical spreading of trees houses water and sky so expanded and intertwined with different languages and communities that nobody thinks of human nature as something interesting. Human nature is just a drop in the water.

So I’m not sure what disconnected Janet from her nature nailing her fast fingers to a typewriter except the idea maybe that humans are good when they make money and compete with machines. A very diffused feeling around parents of young people of her generation, also in Europe, a sort of after war syndrome. “Tears are not the chorus. Food is not the chorus. Money is not the chorus. What is the chorus. … Anyway there is the question of identity.” (Gertrude Stein) And that also has to do with the cat.

Jane built her living space despite the broken glass around her, perhaps a broken sky. Her cat recognizes her. In the end she became an artist.

Her painted stories are songs of separation: she paints a life pushed down to earth, rocks or asphalt. There is no open sky, no sky at all. Buildings and roads as brown as dirt. They are scenes of movement. Flatness liberates them from realism. Painted life is not reproduced life. It’s her dream of a living place charged with physical energy: human bodies float rather than swim in the ocean because the water does the work after swallowing green and blue and azure and pale blue and she can tell the humans “you know? I don’t care. I’m the strong one.”

JANET LAING, Waterfall, 2014 (?)  oil on canvas Courtesy of 137ac

JANET LAING, Waterfall, 2014,  oil on canvas
Courtesy of 137ac

The painter as well found her voice as if crystals of freshness exploded in her mind, as if she had seen the sky melting in waterfalls so the rocks can wear a liquid dress that constantly changes, at the same time sounding like an orchestra for the invisible birds hidden in the green. Of course, somewhere, there is always a cat.

JANET LAING, Caramela and the Birds, 2014, Oil on canvas  18

JANET LAING, Caramela and the Birds, 2014, Oil on canvas 18″ x 20″
Courtesy of 137ac

Her painted cats are bodies of tense muscles, concentrated: “Shall I jump from the window? mmm… Maybe the birds are too distant.” But a crazy desire spreads from the eye in yellow, follows the birds, becomes a yellow stream from a window… and the azure surrounding the cat like a river, whatever, why should words count?

JANE LAING, Portrait of Jonathan, 2013, Oil on canvas, 18

JANE LAING, Portrait of Jonathan, 2013, Oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″
Courtesy of 137ac

That’s why I love Jane Laing’s portraits. They are silent. Although they happen to be in a particular place, the person’s outline is surrounded by a white halo, maybe a reflection of her/his/whose mind which travels elsewhere, and doesn’t stay inside.

JANET LAING, bicker chicks, 2013, Oil on canvas, 23.5

JANET LAING, bicker chicks, 2013, Oil on canvas, 23.5″ x 31″
Courtesy of 137ac

Let’s go, let’s go girls, springtime is calling. Musicians are ready. “Azure, the afternoon is too azure and too long for me. I might take the train and come to see you. But, the train of my desires and the one of my thoughts go in opposite directions.” What about a lemon ice-cream? “Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me. Quasi quasi prendo il treno e vengo da te. Ma il treno dei desideri e dei pensieri all’incontrario van.” From Azzurro, a song by Paolo Conte.

WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED N.2

137ac — RICHARD LAU

Life is a mystery and Art “the necessary angel”

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Among artists: Richard Lau’s portrait painted by Janet Laing in 2013

ART AND LIFE — By Richard Lau. “I make art because it is a lot of fun. It allows me to freely explore thoughts and feelings. When I paint, I live in my special world of magic and mythology. For me, the creative process has no rules or boundaries. I just do it. It makes me happy. It makes me smile. Sometimes, it makes me laugh.

I really feel at ease within myself when I ‘get into’ what I’m creating. I’m transported to another world. (Kinda like reading a great book you can’t put down.) I’m comforted by a feeling of inner calm and relief. Now I can watch the painting and help it grow. I currently reside with my pet cat and parakeet. My present cat and two other cats I had were rescues I adopted from an animal rescue organization I volunteered with for over ten years.

When I was first contacted by Dr. Miescher about joining an artist group I was ecstatic. This was during the 2012 winter holiday season and I thought it was the best Christmas present I had ever received. The timing was perfect since I wasn’t doing anything to relieve my idleness. My enrollment in 137ac reunited me with many artist friends. It has been liberating for me to work at our studio. I can choose to work in solitude and privacy when desired but the opportunity is always available if I need the emotional benefits of engaging with my fellow artists. It helps me to avoid unhealthy over-isolation. Involvement with 137ac has given me a new direction in life. I feel more alive and vital being part of something outside of myself. Painting helps me to get in touch with my emotions.

Some of my favorite artists include: Hieronymous Bosch, Frans Hals, Albrecht Durer, Vermeer, Bernini, Degas, Juan Miro, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Max Beckman, George Grosz, Edward Munch, Modigliani, Gustav Klimt, Francisco Goya, James Ensor.”

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Richard Lau was born in New York City in 1957; he lived his entire life there, and attended NYC public schools. He attended Bronx High School of Science and Columbia University, majoring in architecture. He is still very interested in the sciences and humanities, particularly psychology and Buddhism. Richard has suffered from chronic depression since 1978. Lau has a reverence for nature and an abiding fascination with forms and patterns in the natural world (one of his childhood toys was a microscope). He also enjoys hiking and bird watching. A self taught photographer and painter, he has been taking pictures for the past forty years. As a child, he enjoyed drawing and watercolor painting. Watercolor is still one of his favorite mediums.

The artist dives into a mysterious element through which is able to grasp the real world better than anybody else; the same mysterious element, though, cuts him [her] off from the world implacably, worse than the thicker wall.” (Arthur Schnitzler)

RICHARD LAU, Meditation, 2014, Oil on Canvas, 26" x 31" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Meditation, 2014, Oil on Canvas, 26″ x 31″
Courtesy of 137ac

GREEN IS FOR HAPPY THINGS WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE BUT THEY EXIST

By ROSANNA ALBERTINI.

There are the facts of life, and words swirl around them as if an artist’s life could be explained like a stream of water from the source. It doesn’t. There are words and words, also: the ones trying to reflect what’s real about mountains, cars and birds and subway trains, and the ones that eat the bug of uncertainty.

These are light like falling petals, often forgetting which flower they belonged to. They only want to float on the paintings, and grasp the voices, the whispers diluted in colors. Quiet, they are invisible daughters of reading and mothers of new images to be imagined.

The parable of green, a special green almost turquoise, is the leitmotif of some of Richard’s paintings and drawings; bright and cold, this color gives access to an invisible state of mind that brings unexpected visual fruits, a banquet of feelings. Meditation is a story, a still life, a poem of animal souls merged into the canvas. Red, white, yellow and some blue are let free to float in a world without weight. The white soul of the cat on the floor, white like the lips of the two masks (Untitled) that contain and release a scream of terror, is there for the unspeakable story we can’t tell until we meet her, it’s the color of death. In this painting, white is a spot of sweetness shared by the pink figure on the left, and reinforced by the fact that the white soul is still dreaming, what else? A fish! The turquoise green around her head, embracing her shape with a delicate green line, gives to lady cat, and to us, a shiver of tenderness.

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas paper, 12" x 9" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas paper, 12″ x 9″ Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2012, Acrylic on paper, 24" x 18" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Untitled, 2012, Acrylic on paper, 24″ x 18″
Courtesy of 137ac

A different story appears when blue and yellow are violently separate, and do not become green, that particular peaceful color. The human head is on fire, the face is a mask that covers unspeakable fears.

A different story again when the white only brings up mystery with no fear, or maybe the power of silence. When I look at Shadows, I see them motionless in front of the friendly silences of the moon (per amica silentia lunae by William Butler Yeats), immersed in silence for the painted time.

RICHARD LAU, Dark Shadows, 2014-2015, Oil on canvas, 20" x 13" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Dark Shadows, 2014-2015, Oil on canvas, 20″ x 13″ Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Bumpster, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28" x 30" Courtesy of 137ac

RICHARD LAU, Bumpster, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 30″
Courtesy of 137ac

But in the end, I’m sure that Richard Lau truly loves his painting when his mind looks for a steady place to hang all the possible noisy feelings. It’s an explosion of undefined things, a rain of broken forms stuck in the sky, incapable of finding the ground, and still it’s life. It is drama and it is joy. How many secrets we don’t want to disclose. Others, our human nature knows them better than our mind. Shall we ask for answers?

My Lord, Infinity asked: how can I appear to humans without petrifying them with fear? The Lord disguised her in the blue of the sky. What about me? asked Eternity, how can I reveal myself to humans without pushing them to annihilate themselves with terror? The Lord told her: I want to give humans an instant in which they will understand you. And he created Love.” (Arthur Schnitzler)

The portrait of Richard Lau painted by Janet Laing, another artist of the 137ac collective, is extremely insightful: she placed his bust in a stream of green, softening the image’s horizontal cut, and painted a necklace of green around his neck. Janet gave me the key.

WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED

137ac  — PAULA ISAAC

Her statements

November 2014 — Art is what you make of it. It is sexuality, immaturity, advancement, it is a definition of how much you study life and your own feelings, of how you manage your life or self-esteem. For me, it is love of yourself and I am gonna say no more.

January 2015 — All the old masters were the greatest painters of a time men wanted to see themselves as being beautiful. Then Norman Rockwell came along at a time men wanted to feel good about who they were. This artist is my hero. He painted a human life America wanted, and needed to lift American spirit. I paint more informal than he did. I am telling a tale that is more contemporary. My travels are real stories and his was more storytelling.

PAULA ISAAC, Self Portrait, 2014, Oil on canvas, 28" x 22" Courtesy of 137ac

PAULA ISAAC, Self Portrait, 2014, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″
Courtesy of 137ac

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Paula’s bio by Paula

I, Paula, am a go getter shy woman born in Trinidad in 1960, a twin in the middle of ten children. Trinidad let me memories of colors. Since age three I drew and made paper dolls and their clothes. I was a quiet child. Dad loved to make masks for the carnival in Trinidad. I would be a plumber if I had listened to him.

When I was 8, we joined my two older sisters in Queen, New York. I saw snow for the first time that year. I went to the High School of Arts and Design; wanting to be a cartoonist, I wanted to draw at least. Then I moved on to FIT, fashion illustration, remember the paper doll dresses? But there was no drawing real people.

At age 22 I decided to be a real artist and got part time work to pay my supplies. At 27 I married Bill and became the mom of Letitia at 32, Bill died of cancer when she was only 5. My time as a mom went by so fast, occasionally I could sell a painting for us to go to a movie or theater. Then I joined the Arts Student League to get my hands back in the arts: survival for my mind. In 2014 I was invited to join 137ac, so I took a chance.

WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED

by Rosanna Albertini

What comes and go, on the flat land of a canvas, is bodies and time. How they want to be there is the artist’s discovery. A woman sits and looks out of her confinement. Each eye shaped by a different state of mind. The same happens in Woman V by Willem De Kooning. And same stillness. The canvas is where she belongs, fluids and feelings so compressed within they pierce her skin to bleed out. The figure at odds with light perhaps because she can be hit — light, life, pressure of reality. Instead she wants to stay, stay like a brick needs to be in a wall. A visitor asks Paula if the painted woman is a self-portrait. “Oh that,” she answers after thinking a moment, “ that’s my spirit.” It’s Paula’s blue period, brown and blue. It doesn’t really matter the kind of scene that is painted, it’s not a collection of figures in different postures. Objects are absent, humans fill the stage. If they sit, they just sit on their own presence: a woman smokes and sits, it is maybe three times the same woman as in a film sequence. She doesn’t look out of the painting.

PAULA ISAAC, Her, Herer, Herest, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28" x 35" Courtesy of 137ac

PAULA ISAAC, Her, Herer, Herest, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 35″
Courtesy of 137ac

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The subject of the painting, like the subject of poetry, is “the life that is lived in the scene that it composes; and so reality is not that external scene but the life that is lived in it. Reality is things as they are […] It is a jungle in itself. As in the case of a jungle, everything that makes it up is pretty much of one color.” (Wallace Stevens)

The blue of the lake, the blue of the sky in Paula’s work. Not only the figures’ body, their mind wears blue, the scene works in blue, moves through time creating distance without perspective. A prominent point has replaced the vanishing optical illusion. Here’s now. I follow the fantasy that Paula thinks blue letting the brush be liquid and flexible. Erasing as well as selecting.

In the studio a catalogue of a Filippo de Pisis exhibition is open on the table. In and out of her paintings, the artist, maybe, can’t really separate them from her life, the internal scene has become a picture of her being in the world. Paula wouldn’t stop reading De Pisis’ painted thoughts, how he painted what remains in his mind of a city, a beach or a bunch of flowers. As she unfolds the Italian painter’s thread I can see hers, and I would cry with pleasure. My inner painting. 

GIVING WORSHIP TO raw-brut ART


The home of Raw Art — 137 ac (artist collective)

PARIS 1947         NEW YORK 2011

A full day of snow in New York was enchanting enough, like an invitation to silence the tricks of the mind with a white curtain over the pupils. For the opening of an art brut exhibition, American and contemporary, it was a good omen. I’m not reviewing the exhibition. This is a story of friendship, hope and despair bringing up, despite sixty years of distance and different countries, the same wish for freedom and authenticity in art expressed by The Company of Raw Art in Paris in 1947. Ideas and projects came from Jean Dubuffet, Jean Paulhan, Charles Ratton, Henri-Pierre Roché, and Michel Tapié:

“We are seeking artistic works such as paintings, drawings, statues and statuettes, all types of objects owing nothing to the imitation of works of art seen in museums, salons and galleries. They should put originality to use, along with the most spontaneous and personal inventions, they should be productions which the creator drew from deep within, the result of his [her] own inclination and moods, […] regardless of the conventions currently in use. Works without masks or contraints. We believe these abilities exist (at least at times) in every man [and woman].”

Bianca Sforni, Annatina Miescher, and Jonathan McVey, others around them, are first of all connected by friendship. And one idea lives in their minds: there is no such thing as outsider art. There are artists. Some of them were treasure islands found over decades of psychiatric practice by Dr. Annatina Miescher: they were self taught, sometimes in a strong conflict with life. In 2011, after twenty years as a director of the Outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of the Bellevue Hospital in New York, Dr. Miescher invited them to be part of the 137ac (artist collective) and share a studio. Some of their works were hung on the walls of Bianca Sforni’s Noho studio on March 5th for an exhibition blessed by the snow. Bianca, or you could call her White, is a belated gift I received from Claudia, a friend for all her life, after she passed away. She was Bianca’s gallerist in Milan. I met Bianca in New York and we ate and ate remembering Claudia who used to love a great deal of good food. What’s stronger than friendship?

Here’s the story, written by Annatina doctor, with images of the 137ac studio first and of her Bellevue Hospital office between words.

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137ac (artist collective) by Annatina Miescher

The 429.8 square feet studio is on the third floor of 137 West 14th Street in New York City. Four artist work there sharing all supplies. Kenny Guttierrez, the landlord, offered them a space in the building where he is creating a community he named Rat Park. He thought they would bring good karma. My parents pay the rent. I clean and help stretch canvas. Jonathan McVey made me stick to my dream and became my associate. We created a non-profit building support for the collective. We have no written contract with the painters, they have it clear: the studio air is tolerance, care and respect while they inspire and challenge each other to explore and develop their talent to the fullest. They have their own keys.

The four artists currently working at the studio are Paula Isaac, Janet Laing, Richard Lau and Uman while the collective counts several more. Painting need or desire and life circumstances do not always go hand in hand and the studio is small. Each artist has an extraordinary life course and could write a tremendous book, but they do not write, they paint. I hope you get to know them.

Now the dream. Mid 2010 I ended my over two decades career in Bellevue Hospital in order to continue practicing psychiatry based on my experience and ethical values outside of an institution in which the bureaucratic constraints had suddenly risen above the patient care. My time at Bellevue had been wonderful, I was the director of the Outpatient Chemical Dependency Program and together with the dedicated staff and patients was able to build a wholesome community for people to practice sober life in a fun loving oasis that included art, food, patient government and economy, pets and gardening integrated with first class medical and psychiatric treatments. My office was an art collection of patient works mixed with found objects and found animals. A timber wolf, a one eyed black cat called Six Toes, a pigeon, a pair of gay doves and three cockatiels roamed free in my office. Art has always been a way of life for me and I apply it to everything. “Practicing psychiatry is like making sculptures with found objects, you take inventory of what the person carries and help them balance it to walk on in life.” One day an Art Brut authority visited my office and was impressed by the art. His words still resonate in my heart: “you have to make them paint”, while his name faded. 

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So I had a dream debt: to see what the talented people I had met there could do if given the opportunity. This opportunity arrived in December 2011. I was introduced to Bjarne Melgaard who was looking for a source of painters to collaborate with. He offered to share his personal studio in Bushwick with painters without formal art education or contact with the contemporary art world. I brought eleven artists and became myself part of the group.

Bjarne was an exceptional host, he made it a point to not interfere with our work and gave us unlimited access to art supplies. We understood he was looking for authenticity. Then he offered us his own painted canvas to collaborate on and asked us to do papier mâché pieces to illustrate a book we did not read.

He included our works in his show at Ramiken Crucible, Ideal Pole part two: all words destroy and brought the collaborative works and all the papier mâché works to London in September 2012, to be in his ICA show, called “a House to Die in”, our group was called the Bellevue Survivors. Our time in Melgaard’s studio came to an end.

Words of Melgaard in Opening Ceremony News News, October 2, 2013
“these people make art not as a career choice but because they needed it for survival. Their way of relating to the images and the pictures was so different from my own. It was so direct and so private and so spontaneous, all at the same time.”

We continued the group in a smaller version and adopted the name 137ac. the Bellevue Survivors name inspired people in the press to be at liberty to refer to us neither as people nor artists but “the schizophrenics”. Melgaard continued to donate supplies, and curated our first 137ac show :”Dans ma Chambre” in a pop up space in the Chelsea art Gallery district in May 2013. While we learned how to work as a collective we had another show “Artists in Resonance” at Adjacent to Life (http://adjacenttolife.tumblr.com) curated by Mark Roth in October 2013 and offered a couple of studio art fairs.

Then Bianca Sforni offered to host and curate a show “Art Brut” in her beautiful Bleecker Street Studio in March 2015. She had followed the collective since its beginnings in Melgaard’s studio. Her professionalism, dedication and care challenged us to realize we have a responsibility to take our place in the contemporary art scene.