This weekend I visited the Yale MFA students' open house. It's a chance to see the nerve center of the art school, where all the baby artists live, split wide open like an ant hill... The students live in the art building in little cubicle-studios, and at the end of each semester, I guess, they open these studios up so you can see what's inside, and see their art, and talk to them about it, and maybe even buy some of it.
It's a wonderful little hive of a place. Each artist has his or her own little space - so it's kind of like a dorm, but with people who are exhausting themselves every day using their visual imaginations, so every inch of the space is meaningful to someone. Some rooms are wrecks, covered floor to ceiling with paint. Others are austere, with only a few piles of cloth shreds in the corners. Some even have beds in them, for artists who can't stand to go home at night. They all have desks in the corners of their room where they keep the essentials: art supplies, booze, music, magzzines and photographs that inspire them. Seeing the art works next to the piles of inspirational material next to the artists themselves (a virtual United Nations, these artists, both in their origins and in their fantastic outfits: from caftans to 80s regalia, from ratty t-shirts to polka dot bow ties) -- this all created a flood of visual and intellectual information that was an absolute joy for us to wander through. Every space was so intensely personal.
The artist I was visiting was my friend Leeza Meksin. She is a young painter who grew up in Soviet Moscow and when she immigrated, carried with her the visual imagination of the Soviets, her Jewish family, and particularly the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets. Everything she does is about letters and words, how they reveal and conceal at the same time. How they send off all kinds of signals. Sometimes the letters take on characters of their own and march across the page; sometimes she uses stencils and jumbles them all up in piles. Sometimes they are word puzzles, sometimes they are feminist or Soviet manifestos. She prints, she paints, she mixes media. All of this she explained to us thoughtfully, clearly, and patiently as we poked through her studio. Eventually, we were so ehnchanted that Breeze, John, and I each bought a painting. Buy Leeza's paintings! You better get them now, while she's still a student -- this woman is going places.