Bronx Artists – On Display and Getting Their Due

Adam and Eve on a Raft, by Heidi Johnson, oil on canvas

Adam and Eve on a Raft, by Heidi Johnson, oil on canvas

Made it up to the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos for the 2016 BRIO  (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) grantees ceremony.  BRIO provides direct support, in the form of $3,000 grants, to 25 individual Bronx artists who create literary, media, visual, and performing works of art.  BRIO award winners are required to complete a one-time public service activity within the one-year period of their award.

In addition to the ceremony, there was also an exhibition BRIO VI – Material, Culture + Conditions featuring 2014- 2015 BRIO grantees in Visual Arts & Media.  The artwork covered a wide range of media including, collage, monotypes, paintings, photography, sculpture, textile/fiber art, and video.

Day #45, #3, by Ruth Marshall, 2015 hand knit yarn, canvas and t-pins

Day #45, #3, by Ruth Marshall, 2015 hand knit yarn, canvas and t-pins

There was much to like in this show of almost 30 works.  Being an embroiderer, I was especially drawn to the two pieces by Ruth Marshall, composed of hand-knit yarn, canvas and paint.   Three oil paintings caught my eye – two by Lisa Lebofsky of Melting Icebergs in Greenland (oil on aluminum), and Heidi Johnson’s Adam and Eve on a Raft whose bright colors and sea creatures are a sly commentary on how we’ve polluted our waterways.  Agnes Murray’s three monotypes were lovely, and I also enjoyed Boringuen Gallo’s Heaven Wheels Above You, fashioned from found wheel rims.

I got to speak a bit with Amy Pryor, who has 6 pieces in the show.  Her background is in both landscapes (traditional and abstract) and sculpture.   She is concerned with how materials function, about how ordinary materials are used, especially images from advertising.

Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, by Amy Pryor, 2016 collage on panel with ink, offset, envelopes, magazine paper and acrylic

Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, by Amy Pryor, 2016 collage on panel with ink, offset, envelopes, magazine paper and acrylic

Her mixed media collages depict the intersection of landscape, abstraction and economics, so it will come as no surprise that a recurring motif is price tags – which she either cuts out from print ads, or gets from on-line publications, or uses the price stickers you find in the supermarket.

Amy’s work also explores how one orients oneself amid a consumer barrage, so you’ll notice that there are many near disasters – an avalanche, an eruption – in her pictures.  You can find out more about Amy on her website.

BRIO VI runs through August 3rd, at the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, 450 Grand Concourse, the Bronx.  There are more images from the show on my Instagram feed.

I also got the chance to speak with two of this year’s BRIO awardees. 

Assisi III, by Agnes Murray, 1982, ink wash on Asian paper

Assisi III, by Agnes Murray, 1982, ink wash on Asian paper

Sarah Stern has been writing poetry since she was 12 years old – she wrote her first poem with her mom, when she was graduating elementary school.  What a great way to launch a career!  Sarah got another push at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where one of her professors told her to keep on writing poetry.  Which she did, taking workshops at the 92nd Street Y, learning about revision and about taking herself seriously as a poet.  She also discovered that other people were struggling with the same writing issues she was.

This is Sara’s 5th BRIO award – the first one, she said “was magic”.  Sarah has published a chap book Another Word for Home as well as a full book of her poems, But Today is Different.  Throughout her career, she’s had “many, many rejections – you need patience when you write poetry.”  You can find more information about Sarah and her work on her website

Heaven Wheels Above You, by Boringuen Gallo, 2016 found rim, cast bondo auto filler and spray paint

Heaven Wheels Above You, by Boringuen Gallo, 2016 found rim, cast bondo auto filler and spray paint

Rock Wilk, BRIO winner for acting, was in the music business for many years, both as a producer and a performer (he sings and plays several instruments).  A few years ago he cut his own album, but didn’t feel that music was the right fit for him.  However, that was the beginning of his journey as a playwright – he turned his album Broke Wide Open into a performance piece of the same name, which was performed in several festivals and ran for over 3 months at the New Theatre Off Broadway.

The end of June will see two performances of his new play, Brooklyn Quartet.  Inspired by the 2006 shooting of Sean Bell by NYC police, BQ is a fictional tale of three kids (2 boys and one girl) who are best friends growing up in Bed-Stuy, but wind up almost destroying one another.   The play will be directed by Reg E Gaines, the author/ lyricist of the Tony Award winning musical, Bring In Da Noise/ Bring In Da Funk.  You can catch BQ on June 24th and 25th at the Pregones Theatre in the Bronx.  You can find more information about the play and about Rock at his website  

You can find more information about the other BRIO winners here.    

CONGRATULATIONS to all!

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