MFTA artists rock offbeat works in a new reuse exhibit in Long Island City

MFTA Gallery guests explore the exhibition
Photos courtesy of the Materials for the Arts


With all the crazy stuff going on in the world, thank goodness for art, and the artists who remind us of our humanity… 

Last Thursday, Materials for the Arts (MFTA) in Long Island City – NYC’s largest reuse center – hosted the opening of its newest free exhibition. “The Artists of Materials for the Arts” features non-traditional creations by MFTA Teaching Artists and staff, showcasing MFTA’s commitment to the practice of sustainable art-making. MFTA Teaching Artist and Curator Omar Olivera, as well as Executive Director Harriet Taub, were among the uber-talented NYC-based creatives.

Take a break from life’s harsh realities and enjoy this fun, quirky show – now on view in the MFTA Gallery until Friday, Sept. 6 (at 33-00 Northern Blvd., 3rd floor).

There’s so much to take in: paintings, sculptures, collages, and large-scale installations, like Olivera’s striking pixel masterpiece made of neon-colored Post-it notes, along with MFTA Teaching Artist Julia Clauss’ whimsical and colorful coffee cup sleeves. And don’t miss MFTA Spring 2019 Artist-in-Residence Roberto Visani’s eye-catching laser-cut cardboard geometric sculptures … plus much more.

“Many of us who work at arts organizations and creative spaces are artists ourselves. So, when an opportunity comes to show our own work, it’s interesting to see how what we do outside of our personal practice influences our artwork,” said Olivera. 

He added: “We are aware of the many different communities that come to MFTA, whether they are from the art world, educational communities, or the broader NYC community, and we are showing a wide audience works that are very personal.”

Get inspired, think sustainably and explore the creative potential in commonly found objects, just as MFTA’s artists have done. A few weighed in about their submissions.

Brooklynite Avani Patel has been a teaching artist for MFTA for three years. 

“It has been a wonderful experience teaching the community about recycled art projects and reusing materials to create different art crafts, etcetra,” said Patel, who works through MFTA in a Brooklyn pre-school program, teaching budding artists.

“Music evokes the body to respond to a rhythm and become an embodiment of exuberance, expression and movement. My idea of painting is a rhythmic performance with music that creates a whole new language of abstract harmony, as a means of expressing music in visual form,” she added.

Her paintings invite the viewer to wander through a universe of color and pattern in motion and she creates an environment of “joy and passion, conveying a feeling of organic nature and festivity, while using the psyche’s imagination.”

Art has been an integral part of Patel’s life since she was a young girl.

“I used to go to the theater with my sister for rehearsals and her dance shows. Looking at all the colorful costumes, flowing dresses and festivity around, I felt that the colors are speaking to me. It made me joyful, and painting became entertainment for me,” she recalled. “I have always admired different art forms and techniques but my culture and the experiences I have lived through have a great influence on what I present through my drawings/paintings.”

Another imaginative art form is meant to mirror the ones and zeroes of data. Julia Ladds Clauss used coffee cup sleeves, MFTA finds, paint and oil pastel to create her “Thinking about data…” piece.

Viewers are invited to move the pieces as they wish and ponder these questions: Who makes data? What are the sources? What are the dimensions? What senses are engaged? What will data do, going forward?

“My experience at MFTA has been literally awesome and full of beauty in endless ways. I am so grateful for everything MFTA does and is,” said Clauss, who lives in Manhattan and travels to LIC.

“Making things … with mud, grass, eggs, paper, tiles, thread, paint, cardboard, etcetra, has always been part of my life.”

Astoria-based artist Jairo Toro, has participated in important art shows in his native Colombia; his pieces were on display at distinguished galleries and museums in Europe and South America. After moving to NY in 1991, he continued to teach art and exhibit his work across the U.S.

Toro calls his unusual MFTA creation, “Illuminated Connective Device” (phone case/LED lights/aluminum wire).

“MFTA is a laboratory of medicine where artists find their own pills, to explore new materials for the arts,” Toro noted, pointing out that to him, being an artist in Queens, means “interacting with a global interdisciplinary group of art thinkers and cultures.”

During “Third Thursdays,” the general public is welcomed into the warehouse for free programs, including craft making, artist talks, performances and gallery openings. 

By Jairo Toro