FPG On the Road: Memphis, TN

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We recently journeyed down to Memphis, TN to take in the culture and soul of the historic city (and to sample some barbecue, of course). Music and art flood the streets and there is so much to hear and see. Some of our favorite places were Stax Records, Sun Studio and The Rock n Soul Museum. Graceland was also a must-see. Click through the photos below to see some highlights of the trip.

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Artist Spotlight: Yu Chun “Pony” Ma

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Some people are born with natural artistic abilities, and Brooklyn-based painter Yu Chun “Pony” Ma is no exception. Born and raised in Taipei City, Taiwan, Pony began drawing at age 5 and had created his own comic books by the second grade. After graduating college, Pony moved to New York City and, through a series of events, rediscovered his love of art. He found himself studying Illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Since FIT he’s developed incredible skills in acrylics and found his own influence and style in pop surrealism. He has been mentored by artists Greg “CRAOLA” Simkins and Bob Dob. See Pony’s work below and find out more about his inspiration and process.

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Tell us about your background and when you started creating art. 

I was born in Taipei City, Taiwan. I started doing art since I had memories. I remember art class and gym class were the only two classes I was interested in at the school. I was always the person when teachers needed help with decorating the classrooms; I loved doing that because I could have a right reason to skip the noon nap time after lunch. At home, I’d draw my own manga after I finished the homework until my mom yelled at me and dragged me to bed….pretty much every night. 

When I was in my junior high school year, I spent a lot of time drawing, playing basketball (thanks to MJ) and playing video games instead of studying. Therefore, I failed the exam to get in any “good” high schools (the exam determined what school you were eligible to go to. Good schools required higher score to get in). I could only go to a vocational school. So I told my parents that I wanted to study art because that was the only major I was interested in. However, this thought got shut down by my parents because they thought I needed to learn a skill that could help me get a job in the future. Art for them wasn’t a job, it was more like a hobby (it’s a really common thought in traditional Chinese culture). So…I ended up studying Electronic Engineering for 8 years until I received my bachelor degree even though I had no interest and had no idea what I was studying for. During those 8 years, I’d started gaining interest in playing music. So I’d spent a lot of time practicing my guitar skills, playing with bands and dreaming about touring the word. The only thing I didn’t think about and didn’t do was art. It was something that wasn’t familiar to me anymore.

In 2007, I moved to New York and had been studying English at a language school for 2 years. I then decided to go back to college in order to get a longer period for my I-20 (a document for international students). While I was wondering what major I should study (again, I didn’t think about art at all ), one of my friends/ band mates, Jack, saw my poorly/childish doodles I did in my language class. He then suggested me I should pursue an art degree. I thought, “Oh yeah I used to draw when I was a kid, so why not? At least this is something that doesn’t sound new to me.” So I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology to study Illustration and my door for art has been re-opened ever since.   

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Did you have any major sources of inspiration when you were young and green behind the ears?

Japanese manga! We didn’t have any American comic books in Taiwan back when I was a kid (as far as I know). I was a huge fan of Dragon Ball; I would create my own characters and stories based on the manga. My dad would take me to the manga supply store and bought me the pen, G-nib, ink and the specific papers those Japanese manga artists used. The other artist who influenced me a lot is Ah Tui (you can watch his video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmEcLrfBuwU  Remember to turn on the English subtitles). He is a Taiwanese sci-fi comic book artist. His has this dark, funny, weird, kind of like Moebius style in his comics, but crazier and busier in each panel. Reading his comic books is like solving a puzzle and I could always find something new every time I read it. 

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What inspires your work now?

After I moved to New York, I started learning all the big names in the art world. I started to try different styles and mediums in order to find my own direction/style. At the end of day, I was so into surrealism/pop surrealism. I love how those artists think outside the box. So I’ve spent some time studying it and trying to find my own inspiration in order to be on the right path. For me, everything could be an inspiration, the weather, the smell, the conversation with friends etc. Sometimes my inspiration comes from my dreams (I even have a notebook filled with the dreams I had). As for now, I’m interested in mixing traditional Chinese culture (or mythology) with western pop culture. 

Does living in NYC influence your work? In what ways?

Yes! whenever there is an exhibit tour, New York is always one of the stops. I also get to see a lot of my heroes’ work in person at many galleries in New York. Also, the diversity in New York is huge; different cultures, races, religions etc.. It seems I can never stop learning new things in New York. There is so much to explore and new things also keep coming in…so get busy!      

Can you tell us about your process?

Well, I normally have a basic concept/ blueprint in my mind first, then I sketch it out on my sketchbook. I spent quite amount of time looking for reference photos at this stage as well. After I finish the sketch, I scan the drawing and bring it into Photoshop. I’d then retrace the drawing in Photoshop to clean out the messy pencil lines. At this stage, sometime I add/ delete elements, work on the composition (enlarge, rotate, move around objects etc.). Once I’m satisfied on the final, I project the drawing on a primed surface (linen or wood panel) and trace it. Then I’ll start putting colors on the top of the drawing. Once I finish the painting, I varnish it in order to give it a perfect protection. 

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Are you creating/working on anything now?

Yes! I’m currently working on my Bazhen series. It’s a series paintings based on the meals served at Manchu Han Imperial Feast during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) in Chinese history. I’ve finished one and still have three more to go!! Each painting represents different delicacies. I’ve also created my own little story in this series which I’m not going to reveal yet (for example, why is there a Santa Claus hat?).  I’m also working on a commission painting for a friend of mine. 

Where can we find your work?

Well, most of my work can be seen on my website: www.ponymaart.com 

You can also find me on Instagram: @ponyhorsema

If you would like to have a studio visit, you can either contact me or my studio www.chashama.org My studio is located at Brooklyn Army Terminal.  I normally participate in the open studio every year (usually in Oct.).

FPG On the Road: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

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Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a nonprofit folk art environment and gallery at the site of Isaiah Zagar’s largest public mosaic installation. Zagar is an award-winning mosaic muralist whose work can be found on over 200 public walls throughout Philadelphia and around the globe. He began working on the Magic Gardens in 1994, transforming the vacant lots next to his studio into a wonderland of found objects. Layers of handmade tiles, sculptures, plates, mirrors, glass bottles, bicycle wheels, chains and other non-traditional materials line the floors, walls and ceilings, creating staircases and forming tunnels along the grounds. The space soon became a beloved neighborhood art environment. In 2002, increasing property values brought the land owner back to Philadelphia with intention to demolish the gardens and sell the lots. The community was quick to jump in and support Zagar, raising the funds needed to incorporate the space as the nonprofit organization it is today.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is dedicated to preserving Zagar’s work. As a part of their mission to inspire and engage the community, PMG offers visitors guided tours of the gardens and Zagar’s surrounding public murals, as well as educational and hands-on workshops, craft nights, and local outreach programs. We spent hours touring the spaces and taking in the beautiful and quirky details. There is so much to look at! Click through the photo gallery below and have a glimpse at some of the art. We highly recommend this spot and hope you’ll add it to your “Must Visit In Philadelphia” list.

For more information, visit http://www.phillymagicgardens.org

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ESPO’s Art World

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Located in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn is ESPO’s Art World, an art studio and gallery owned by artist Stephen Powers. Powers began his career writing graffiti as “ESPO” throughout the streets of Philadelphia and New York. In 2000, he stepped away from graffiti to focus on art full time and has since become a well-established mural artist and sign painter, showing his work around the world. His bright and friendly shop in Brooklyn is full of his colorful hand-painted signage, inside and out. Head over to check out his work and pick up some prints, tees, bags and even vinyl while you’re there.

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You can find more information and inspiration here: http://firstandfifteenth.net/

Mark Ryden: The Art of Whipped Cream

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Presented by the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City, Mark Ryden’s latest exhibition “The Art of Whipped Cream” featured original sketches, drawings and paintings he created for the American Ballet Theater’s production “Whipped Cream” by Alexei Ratmansky. As a creative visionary behind the production, Ryden dreamt up it’s sets, backdrops, props and costumes in his whimsy, magical style. The ballet was held at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and coincided with the exhibition. We were lucky enough to attend the ballet and see the final days of the exhibit. Below are some shots from both.

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Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

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American Ballet Theater dancers in “Whipped Cream” by Alexei Ratmansky, at the Metropolitan Opera House. Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

http://www.paulkasmingallery.com/

http://www.markryden.com/paintings/whipped-cream/index.html

 

Seurat’s Circus Sideshow // The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Seurat’s Circus Sideshow, running through May 29, 2017 at The Met, displays the excitement around circus sideshows in the nineteenth century.  Georges Seurat’s painting “Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque)” serves as the central theme, and a number of his conte crayon drawings are featured as well.  The exhibit is supported by work from other artists such as paintings, posters, drawings, journals, and film, all showing their individual take on one of the oldest entertainments.  Scroll through our photos below and be sure to check out this show.  More information can be found here:

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2017/seurat-circus-sideshow

 

 

The Museum at FIT // Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968

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“Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968” recently opened at The Museum at FIT.  The exhibition features a mix of over 100 creations from designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Pierre Cardin, and Cristobal Balenciaga.  It begins with impeccably tailored couture pieces from the late 1950s and moves through the fashion-forward and innovative ready-to-wear pieces of the 1960s.  The show highlights the significant impact ready-to-wear had on the Parisian couture industry at that time.

Below is a collage of photos we took at the show.  More information can be found here: https://www.fitnyc.edu/museum/exhibitions/paris-refashioned.php