Being born and raised in Russia, Masha Ryskin grew up in a highly structured school system in which freedom in art method was hard to come by. Knowing this fact about her background added a whole new level of intrigue for me in looking at her work. Ryskin possesses a quality of organized spontaneity that many other artists try to develop in their careers but simply cannot. One might even suggest that it was her strict and rigid educational upbringing that allowed her to be so successful in art once she gained the ability to make her own creative choices.
Ryskin majored in printmaking in college and still incorporates prints into her work today. After starting with the simple subject of trees, she transitioned into a more abstract representation of those same trees and then ran with it. Her pieces are highly representational and are mostly open to interpretation in looking for a meaning within them. Ryskin also uses unconventional materials in her work to add to her organic “microworlds” such as tea bags and most recently–instant coffee. I loved hearing her talk about the freedom she has in making choices for a piece and how much is decided on a whim or feeling that she has. When asked how instant coffee became important to her work, she replied with no real reason other than that she uses it because she can. She was exciting to listen to because she lets her work evolve naturally over time rather than trying to force it to new heights.
She finished by explaining some of her collaborative work with us. I personally enjoyed her independent abstract pieces the most but could appreciate her willingness to work with people who focus on different styles from her own. She described her current partner as very geometric and patterned in his work, and explained how those qualities offset her organic, free-moving lines. In an explanation on one of her pieces, Ryskin concluded, “It’s really about meandering” which I appreciated to hear more than an artist who acts as though every move and brush stroke hold specific purpose. Ryskin was extremely pleasant to listen to and brought a laid-back but dedicated feeling with her as she came to speak.