Friday, April 15, 2011

Topaz Arts showcases work of artists with developmental disabilities

As published in the Times Ledger April 14, 2011

Original link

WOODSIDE -- A new exhibition featuring the work of artists with developmental disabilities will be on display at Topaz Arts in Woodside until May 1.

The exhibition, entitled “Sketchie: Sketchbooks & Artworks by Artists with Developmental Disabilities,” opened April 1 and features a collection of 12 personal sketchbooks, colorful pastel drawings and projected images of long-exposure photographs known as light paintings. About 20 artists with a wide range of developmental disabilities from AHRC New York City contributed the work, which they created during workshops at their nearby facilities.

Topaz founders and directors Paz Tanjuaquio and Todd Richmond chose to display “Sketchie” at their quiet space in Woodside because it offers a chance for New Yorkers to view the works of AHRC artists, which otherwise may go unnoticed by the community.

“Our focus at Topaz Arts is to present new works, from the emerging and established to under-recognized artists — showing works that have not been seen before and need to be seen in New York,” Tanjuaquio said.

Prolific art teacher Jason Cina said he led the series using a “back to basics” approach. He gave few parameters in guiding the student artists through each medium, so that the artistic sense of each individual would be displayed.

The artists used sketchbooks as a visual diary and means of problem-solving concepts, Cina said. As the themes progress, the sketchbooks become more rhythmic and cohesive with each page. Like any journal, some themes in the sketchbooks express personal thoughts on relationships and romance, while others display imaginative concepts and abstract shapes.

“Over time, patterns emerged — revealing details of the artists’ ability to translate visual information and more importantly, how they problem-solved and related objects in the space allotted,” Cina said. “To see their artworks and the way relationships or families of color are chosen and blended together in beautiful and intricate ways is awe-inspiring.”

Tanjuaquio and Richmond said they noticed a particular theme of artistic evolution in the sketchbooks and light paintings, which captured the essence of art in the making. “In the sketchbooks, the thought process can be imagined when viewing them. In the light paintings, the act of art-making is revealed and can really be felt and seen,” Tanjuaquio said.

Cina pointed out the detail in some of the sketchbook drawings, which required the artists to maintain focus and patience. Overall, the process of creating the art for “Sketchie” has had a positive effect on his students, some of whom are challenged with disabilities like autism and Down syndrome, he said.

Cina also said he noticed the high value students placed on art, with many opting to take his class instead of other workshops that offered a wage.

“The results are extremely positive all around. I have developed an almost Pied Piper following amongst the population, many of whom have natural artistic talent waiting to be nurtured, while others come for the company but still make as much of a concerted effort,” he said.

Admission to the exhibition is free. Topaz Arts is a nonprofit arts organization founded in 2000 by Richmond and Tanjuaquio, both artists, whose aim is to foster the creative process and offer affordable space to support the performing and visual arts.

The gallery is home to four exhibitions each year as well as dance performances. Tanjuaquio and Richmond enjoy showing the work of visual artists in painting, photography, installation, performance art, new media and sculpture.