Ohm … call it meditation through art. Just take a few deep, cleansing breaths then take in the artistic explosion that is “Alone/Together: A Visual Meditation on Our Times.”
Queens’ art scene is back and exploding with creative talent, and ART BreakOUT, a platform for underrepresented and self-taught artists, was eager to present “Alone/Together” — its second exhibition in an ongoing series — hosted by The Local NY, in Long Island City. The exhibit is on view now through Aug. 29.
So, unwind and enjoy an eclectic array of conversation-sparking, multimedia offerings by 20-plus artists, crossing continents, cultures and generations.
“In a year characterized by uncertainty and despair, many of us found ourselves alone, yearning to be together. Several of the works on exhibit are a direct response to the COVID-19 scourge, while others — fashioned earlier — address such universal issues as alienation, displacement, trauma, healing, co-existence and rebirth,” co-curator Lois Stavsky said.
Diverse masterpieces include lyrical abstract paintings by Queens-based Bengali artist Kaiser Kamal; mesmerizing photographs by Jackson Heights-based Jessica Bruah; politically charged artwork fusing imagery and text by multidisciplinary, Corona-based artist Issa Ibrahim; elegantly rendered cut-outs by Ridgewood-based artist Mor; narrative folk art by Forest Hills-based multimedia artist Danielle Charette; and enchanting, brightly hued drawings by LIC-A creative Elvin Flores.
Featured, too, are striking pieces by other passionate participants, hailing from Queens and elsewhere, including co-curator and Jackson Heights resident Bonnie Astor, Rachel Alban, Barbara Bailey, Isabella Blanco, Ryan Castrillo, Bishwajit Chowdhury, Michael Cuomo, Ruddro Md Ayudh Jahangir, Alma Fredousy Leya, Shoshanna Malett, Malhecho, Dani Reyes Mozeson, Sara Ching Mozeson, Riya Namai Kalita Mukul, Tara Murray, Michael Poncé, Fefa Românova, James Fischer Smith, Susan Spangenberg and Shameem Subrana.
After suffering a series of traumatic events, Issa Ibrahim found himself institutionalized at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in 1990. The High School of Art and Design graduate, who studied at the School of Visual Arts and the Art Students League, told QNS, “It was there that I found the healing oasis, The Living Museum, an art rehabilitation program where I reclaimed my life and found meaning as an artist, musician, writer, filmmaker, activist and 25-year artist-in-residence.”
Ibrahim, who recently co-curated the exhibition “Outside/Outsider,” at Local Project Art Space in Long Island City, sells his artwork on the prestigious online platforms Saatchi, Artsy and Artlifting. He and his partner, artist Susan Spangenberg, also have an Etsy shop, Issues Gallery, featuring more affordable, original works and prints.
After a contentious court battle, Ibrahim won his release from Creedmoor in 2009. His experience in the system led him to write “The Hospital Always Wins: A Memoir.”
The book has the distinction of being the first published work of an African American written behind the walls of an asylum, and was met with highly favorable reviews leading to interviews on NPR and other radio outlets, international press and features, including in Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, according to the artist.
“[The curators’] fine tastes, mixed with an astute urban sensibility, makes for interesting shows with insightful dialogs,” he noted. “I hope to continue to challenge preconceived and prejudicial ideas in society, combat stigma, expose the realities of our broken mental health system and explore how openness can aid in respecting psychiatric sufferers and survivors who are our fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, friends, neighbors and ourselves.”
In her memorable creation, titled “Zoomies,” art activist Bonnie Astor uses mixed media, such as acrylic with computer parts.
She just finished a public art installation, “Life is a Galaxy,” in Long Island City, and her spheres can be seen in the flower beds of the Altice Building on Jackson Street in Long Island City.
Astor’s artwork was chosen by nonprofit organizations for women’s empowerment, education and access to health care projects. She’s an art specialist for AHRC New York City, an organization that offers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities a wide range of programs, services and supports that are tailored to meet their specific needs.
Mor’s art conveys yet another perspective on life: “I focused on the idea of thresholds, shorelines, apertures and windows. The work to me was about creating — visually and mentally — windows and spaces where none existed.”
You can ponder that message when viewing “Window No. 1″ (28”x36” — hand-cut paper, spray paint, wheat paste on wood, 2021) at the “Alone/Together” exhibit.
“I thought about writer Rebecca Solnit’s phrase, ‘The spaciousness of uncertainty,’ and how, in not knowing, there is a space for possibility, which certainty cannot provide,” Mor said. “How, despite the anxiety and fear, which comes in uncertainty, that horizon comes with the possibility of a new dawn.”
Ryan Castrillo utilizes acrylic paint, ink and paper, as well as digital art, using the program Procreate.
He told QNS that his work, “Untitled,” which deals with themes of being alone and isolated, was inspired by Japanese topographic maps, and that the yellow variant “wowed the curators.”
Depicting “a lone skeleton in urban attire, alone on Manhattan’s cold streets,” another piece, titled “Alone in the City,” was partly inspired by urban graffiti.
“A lot of my work is all about expression and experimentation,” Castrillo noted. “It’s less of a fully realized destination but a journey of strokes, lines and splashes, with some sort of cathartic release.”
Though she’s a human rights and immigration lawyer by profession, Shoshanna Malett has an artistic side.
“I have been taking photographs my entire life. My images include nature and people, especially faces, where I try to capture the beauty and uniqueness of each person,” Malett said.
Malett submitted photograph she took during the COVID-19 pandemic that depict different aspects of “what we went through.”
“The one on display is a photograph of a prom dress fitting for a prom that was canceled by the Department of Education,” Malett said. “High school seniors had it tough. I’m thrilled to be part of this exhibition and for people to see the beauty and resiliency of New York high schoolers.”
Malett said she loves being a Queens-based artist.
“There is nowhere better for an immigration lawyer and photographer to be than in Queens,” Malett said. “There is always an image to be captured showing our diversity as humans and the richness of culture.”
The Local NY is located at 1302 44th Ave. in Long Island City. It is easily accessible via the E, M, G and 7 trains at Court Square.