By Gabriel Zea (MFA 2015)
"Russian people are altogether spacious people, just like their land, and extremely inclined to the fantastic and disorderly" – from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment.
It’s a bit difficult to grasp how so much has been given to us for this residency. I’m in awe of the opportunity organized by the incredibly generous and well-connected Nikolay Koshelev (MFA 2014). To be completely honest I’m a little apprehensive about the responsibility that this opportunity implies.
The day that Nikolay first introduced us to our studio space it was our second surprise of the day. The first surprise was the castle of an apartment building we are going to live in during our stay in Moscow. Our apartment is in one of Moscow’s ‘Seven Sisters’, a Stalin-era skyscraper built in gothic and baroque style and more reminiscent of a castle than any apartment building I’ve encountered. Next he showed us our studio which was the old studio of Aleksandr Deyneka, a Russian social realist painter whose name is well known to every Muscovite we’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and who’s works decorate Moscow metro stations. It's in an inconspicuous building on a street Nikolay dubbed the "5th avenue of Moscow." Once we arrived, we rode an elevator to the 9th floor and were soon greeted by the cheerful wild-haired artist lending us the studio for the month, and behind him, an astounding panoramic view of Moscow.
Last Monday, we had our first visit to the Tretyakov Gallery, a museum stocked with the most beautiful and emotive landscape paintings I’ve ever seen, and we can copy any painting we choose on a weekday when the museum is officially closed, but seemingly entrusted to us. Soon we will make a trip to St. Petersburg to visit the Hermitage Museum, one of the largest museums in the world, with the largest collection of paintings.
After settling into our new surroundings we’ve begun to make a habit of working in the studio every day, slowly but surely building momentum that I hope will culminate in a series of paintings that accurately reflect the air of grandeur and whimsy that permeates this city, and the generosity and open soul of its people.