Art

A Staten Island self-taught artist gets national attention, and won’t let a disability stop him | Inside Out

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Inside Out, our weekly roundup of stories about Staten Islanders making waves, being seen, supporting our community and just making our borough a special place to live. Have a story for Inside Out? Email Carol Ann Benanti at [email protected]

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Rayed Mohamad

Rayed at Work: Rayed Mohamed works on his piece at AHRC New York City’s King’s Highway Adult Day Center. (Courtesy AHRC New York City)Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, NY — West Brighton’s Rayed Mohamed has never let his disability get in the way of his pursuit of art. In fact, his art has been gaining prominent attention.

Rayed’s work has recently been on display at The Museum of Modern Art’s “Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw,” an exhibition in the museum’s main building. He also was featured at the Outsider Art Fair in Manhattan in March and he’s a member of AHRC New York City’s ArTech Collective art program.

A 35-year-old self-taught artist, in 1990 Rayed immigrated with his family from Yemen to the United States. While his primary language is Arabic, he speaks some English. However, he best expresses himself through his art.

Rayed Mohamed

“What I Saw:” Rayed Mohamed’s art was selected to be in the “Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. The Staten Island artist participates in AHRC New York City’s ArTech, which provides opportunities for artists to develop and express themselves creatively through inclusive, innovative, and accessible approaches through traditional and new media. (Courtesy/AHRC New York City)Staten Island Advance

When asked what he’s creating, Rayed simply replies, “I am drawing” and with “hyper-focus” returns to his creation. His brother says Rayed is always drawing, and he seems to enjoy spending time in solitude with his creations.

An article on Rayed’s work was featured in The New York Times, promoting his unique style and his participation in the Outsider Art Fair in Manhattan.

The Times’ Roberta Smithco-chief art critic, wrote, “Rayed’s efforts — also painting on paper — are more developed and distinctive: expanses of saturated color built up from — or embedded with — small repeating marks that suggest maps, battle plans or a private language on the loose.”

Rayed’s work which was selected to be in the exhibition, “Joseph E. Yoakum: What I Saw,” exemplifies the importance of art within the community. It also illustrates that traditional definitions of the meaning of art can be modified by anyone, even someone who may never be seen as a traditional artist.

Yoakum began creating works in Chicago in his 70s. At the time, some influential people in the Chicago art scene noticed his works and found them to be profound. And with that the community stepped in and helped him become the famous artist he is today.

Like Yoakum, Rayed was creating works that he probably thought would never be seen by the community. Esther Adler, Curator of Drawing and Prints at MoMA, came to ArTech and saw Rayed’s works and was in awe.

Sayed Mohamed

Rayed Mohamed and other artists from AHRC New York City’s ArTech program exhibited at the Outsider Art Fair in Manhattan. (Courtesy AHRC New York City) Staten Island Advance

Rayed and other artists from AHRC New York City’s ArTech program exhibited at the Outsider Art Fair in Manhattan in March. “It is not every day that a living artist has a work featured in the MoMA, let alone someone who by definition is traditionally marginalized,” said Pola Ana Mora, ArTech program director. “This is a huge accomplishment for rayed, and well deserved.”

AHRC NYC Art Consultant Recognizes Talent

When Rayed joined AHRC’s Dean O’Hare Adult Day Services in 2009, an art consultant/professional artist noticed his unique drawing style. The artist, Marshall Harmon, selected Rayed and four others to work with exclusively.

“For the next six years, Marshall supported, mentored and assisted these artists on a path which developed their talents and validated their own individualized artistry,” said Verna Hutchinson, operations director at Kings High Way Adult Day Center. When the day program moved to its current location on Kings Highway, “Rayed’s art and vision put on paper had taken on a life of its own,” she added.

In the mornings upon arriving at the day program, Rayed retrieves his most recent work from a file cabinet drawer bearing his name. He takes his seat and will work there for the next three hours. He also enjoys music and dancing. During program socials, he only stops dancing when he dislikes a song or the social is ending.

Using permanent markers on different backgrounds, including paper and canvas, Zena Gurbo, a Kings Highway art consultant, has watched Rayed bring his face an inch or two from the medium, as he focuses on drawing short, quick lines.

Rayed Mohamed

One of Rayed Mohamed’s untitled works. Using a marker on paper, Rayed’s attention to detail can be seen in his portfolio. (Courtesy/AHRC/New York City)Staten Island Advance

“He’ll pause (leaning back) often to take it in – this secret language or ancient accounting system, then he’ll zoom back in and find where he left off,” she said. “The lines themselves tell the story and Rayed instinctively knows when it’s time to change colors or when a piece is completed.”

“Rayed has developed an expansive portfolio over the years,” Pola Ana said. “Due to the dedication of his staff, his portfolio has been well kept and can now be shared with the public. Rayed makes beautiful works on paper, resembling topography or even an imagined language. Rayed’s works are striking, each mark interconnects with another creating an intricate web of different markings that bring the viewer in.

Artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities are gaining recognition in the art world. Like Mohammed and other ArTech artists, who exhibited at the Outsider Art Fair in Manhattan, they lack formal training and are considered outsider artists.

A PROUD FAMILY

Once Mohamed’s artwork began to gain recognition, his brother, Mohamed Mohamed, and the entire family were so proud, Mohamed said. “I was really excited and happy for Rayed because he finally connected with people in his own creative way. He really made me a proud older brother. Our parents, and even my wife and kids were really happy for Rayed.”

CELEBRATIONS – JUNE 5 TO JUNE 11

JUNE 5

The happiest of birthdays Sunday, to Dr. Philip Otterbeck, a Sunnyside endocrinologist and the chairman of medicine and chief of endocrinology at Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton, Corey Zelkowitz, Marilyn Bacci, Krystal Green, Eileen Schwab and Michael Elwell.

JUNE 6

Monday is birthday time for Cristina Sperrazza, Kari Fessler, Robert McDonald, Alphonse Giordano, Kerry Wallen who’s now a sweet 25, Jim Kriegl, Ralph Marroco, Alisa Pocsta and Matthew Galetta.

And birthday greetings Monday to Ada Clinchot and her daughter, Vanessa Clinchot.

JUNE 7

Celebrating birthdays Tuesday are Gabriella Leandro, John Watson, Katie Weglarz and Joe Donohue. ¶

Josie and John Nappi are celebrating their wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

JUNE 8

Heading the birthday list Wednesday to native Staten Islander Charles Greinsky of Dongan Hills, who turns 71, Sal D’Agostino, Mary Kinzel, Chris DiGregorio, Wayne King, Marissa Pessolano, Kimberly Gaugh and Evelyn Pardella.

Wedding anniversary wishes Wedneday to Diane and Bob Tyson.

JUNE 9

The best of birthdays Thursday to Dan Elliot, Joe DiGiacomo, Stephen Zimmer, Karen O’Shea, Robert Trocciola of Tottenville, twins Christopher and Anthony Antonacci, Donna Klien, Carl Sciabarra, Anita ‘Sis” Romano, Rose McGibbon and Fred Sklenar III.

Happy wedding anniversary Thursday to Bob and Jill Bowers.

JUNE 10

Friday is birthday time for Patty Haggerty, Christopher and Joseph Viola, who turn 24, Patricia Bertolino, who turns 84, Marie Lanahan, Carl Schlichtinger, Linda Kaplan, Johanna C. Abbruzzese and Jenna Pillarella.

Happy wedding anniversary Friday to Kathleen and George Petersen and to Michelle and Greg DeBiase.

JUNE 11

Birthday greetings Saturday to Giuseppe Tafuri, a US Army veteran, Mary Jane McGinley, Thomas Allocco, Greg Meade, Nicolas Marrero, Barbara Hanley, Ryan Eisler, Brian Reilly, Katie Ebner and Hannah Tait.

Happy wedding anniversary Saturday to Mary and Richie Nielsen.

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