Academy Summer Residencies 2016: Leipzig

Our third dispatch from Leipzig comes from Anastasiya Tarasenko MFA 2017

It’s no simple task to sum up two months in one essay. I can begin by saying that I arrived with certain expectations of what I wanted to be doing and ended up being carried away by the consuming influence of this place. I had certain ideas of what I wanted my paintings to look like and all those ideas have been shattered only to reveal better things. I learned just how much I didn’t know and how much I have yet to grow.

I remember before leaving I read all of the blog posts of previous residents to get an understanding of what it was like, at least physically, in Leipzig’s Spinnerei. Well, none of them can illustrate it exactly, and certainly neither can I, but I can start by saying that this is a very unique space in a unique city. The Spinnerei was a cotton mill in its industrial past, remaining structurally untouched into its creative transition in the past 20 years. The ghosts of the past echo throughout in the high ceilings, strange windows, and iron pillars. The room I shared with Rebecca Orcutt MFA 2017 was massive, a welcome change from the shared spaces in New York’s tight rooms. At the same time, these rooms were also our living spaces. With a small bed and improvised furniture we lived in a sort of romantic, artistic fantasy, waking up to the light from the massive windows and going to sleep the smell of our paint fumes.

Working and living in the same space requires plenty of time away to recoup the energy spent on art-making and Leipzig had plenty to offer when I required fresh air and perspective. The city is marked with every era of its past, from the medieval churches, to the industrialist factories, to the ruins and graffiti of post-Soviet times. The city is small but big enough to have a wonderful cultural pulse. The art scene was intimate, with everyone seeming to know each other at openings. The quality of the contemporary artists was high and very influential on my work. The tradition of figurative painting is strong here, allowing me to see a multitude of ways to solve the problem of depicting the human body. My work inevitably evolved as I plunged into the deep end with new materials, colors, and techniques. I had tremendous fun experimenting with composition and color, two areas I was lacking in development previously. And now I look forward to returning to school with my new set of experiences to draw from to develop my thesis.

The LIA program was intense in helping us. Laura, our contact in Leipzig, showed us artists studios, galleries, and scheduled studio critics to come to us. Although at times devastating, I believe the old adage of being broken before built back up applies. I pushed myself in ways I never thought possible because of these critiques. I made a lot of strange paintings that are key to my artistic development.

The end of our time here was marked with a group show, for the first time held in the space at the Archiv Massiv information center of the Spinnerei/gallery space. It was satisfying to see our work in such a nice space. The US Consul came and I had a lovely conversation with him about confederate flags and the body-free culture of Germany as his bodyguards watched from a distance.

Here is just a small portion of the photos taken during my stay here to finish my story:

Striking a pose in the studio when we first arrived. 

Being filmed for national German TV program, MorgenMagazin. 

One of my paintings on aluminum dibond

Painting in the studio as filmed by Britain’s Monocle Magazine

My painting inspired by Cuspudener See, the local lake

Another painting from my time here. 

My painting inspired by a garden shed across the street with a confederate flag. 

Statue of Bach

Self Portrait in Blue

Self Portrait in Red

My composition called “Beg”

At the opening of our show in Archiv Massiv

Speaking with the US Consul General at the opening

Closing party of the show. 

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