“I am interested in the human interaction with nature evidenced by the traces of our presence left in the landscape.” – Masha Ryskin
Masha Ryskin speaks for The Interview Series, May 2020
-How did you become an artist?
I have always been drawing – on paper, walls, books, anything else. In Soviet Union, you made decisions on what you want to do fairly early on compared to United States, so for middle and high school I attended a serious art school, and got an academic art education in painting and drawing. Once I moved to the US, I continued my education, and it was a very different and eye-opening experience. The work continues to evolve, and I am only now beginning to sort out the takeaways from my training, decades later. One may not recognize this by looking at the work but observation and attention to nuance is definitely something I learned early on.
-Was there a particular piece / body of work / experience that inspired you?
I remember seeing Marc Chagall’s work for the first time, when I was still in school. It had chairs that were distorted and somewhat suspended in air. It seems like a small thing but at the time it made a huge impression. I thought: “wow, you can do that??” Other influences have emerged over time, including music and literature.
-What images or things do you keep in your studio that influence your work?
I keep a variety of things in my studio, from works by artists I know or collaborative pieces to random objects and books. And, of course, an audio book or music is a must. My studio is a bit of a mess, I have a hard time keeping it organized. I am not in my usual studio during the pandemic, it’s a scaled down version but it’s cozy and works quite well.
-What positive outcome do you hope will occur due to the pandemic experience?
As difficult as it has been to concentrate sometimes, I do hope that a new body of work will come of this. I am working on new projects, individual and collaborative, and just completed a digital collaborative project with my long-time collaborator Serge Marchetta. Mostly, I hope we all come out of this alive and relatively unscathed.
My work explores a sense of place through direct experience of the environment around me. I take bits and pieces of my surroundings and assemble them into imaginary environments. The work investigates the concepts of history, personal memories and everyday rituals, as well as identity and assimilation.
I am interested in the human interaction with nature evidenced by the traces of our presence left in the landscape. My work directs attention to footprints, stains, and other overlooked elements that speak of the temporal quality of the human experience. The fragmented quality of the work alludes to the constant shifts that occur in memory and history.
My recent projects, both individual and collaborative, are explorations of the ambiguity and subtlety of layered imagery and shadows. I am also interested in the transformation of a static work as result of light and projected video . My collaborative practice currently explores the relation of drawing to digital photography and video work.
Masha Ryskin is a printmaker, painter, and installation artist. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. A political refugee from the Soviet Union, she received a classical education in painting before earning a BFA in printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA at University of Michigan. She has participated in a number of artist residencies world-wide. Ryskin is also a recipient of numerous grants, including a Fulbright Fellowship to Oslo, Norway and the Rhode Island Fellowship in Printmaking and Drawing. She collaborates with Serge Marchetta, a mixed-media artist from Montreal, on drawings and installations. Together, they exhibited in Montreal, Providence, Trondheim, Norway, and Maitland, Fl. Ryskin is currently on the faculty at Rhode Island School of Design.