From Russia with Love

By, Matthew White (MFA 2016)

Our time here in Moscow has been quite a trip! It seems only a couple weeks ago that we arrived in this mysteriously orthodox city. Our days have been filled with plenty of sight-seeing. Stunning architecture, such as the “onion domed” churches, seems to lie around every corner. And centuries old palaces like the one at Kolomenskoye, where President Putin spent his childhood summers.

In addition to this amazing architecture, we’ve also been exposed to some great art at museums like the Pushkin Museum and Tetryakov Gallery, where we’ve discovered some great works of Russian art.

But with so many sights, it’s important to take a break and relax a bit like the locals. Yes, we’ve had a few drinks here in Moscow. On one evening, our hosts took us to a rooftop party with pyrotechnics, kindly celebrating American Independence Day, which happened earlier this month.

Another popular pastime in Russia is ping pong—what fun!

Contrary to popular belief, Muscovites are really very warm and friendly people.

Moscow is a very beautiful city and the people, extremely kind and welcoming. Our guides Sonia and Masha have been extraordinary, introducing us to their many friends and revealing the special places in Moscow that they love. We’re so grateful for their hospitality and for host Nikolay Koshelev for arranging our stay and studio accommodations. Spasibo!

Visit to Artists' Studios and Museums in Istanbul

By Simon Ramirez Restrepo (MFA 2016)

In conjunction with studio time, Ali has been giving us private tours of Turkish artists’ studios and museums. His visits have been enriching and engaging. The conversations have been related to Turkish social climate in relationship with art, politics and religion. Each visit has been unique to a particular artist but the conversation tends to go back to politics and social structure and the fact of making art in that particular context.

The art world in Turkey is young and evolving. Historically, most art collections have been in the hands of the elite. However, within the past years these families have started foundations and museums to make art more accessible to the public. Although these museums are young, the push to expose a variety of artists has created an interesting conversation with the rest of the art world. Pera Museum is great example of Turkey´s evolving culture. The museum’s permanent collection consists of Turkish craft antiquities (ceramics, jewelry, furniture, porcelains, etc.) as well as 19th century paintings, which exposes Turkey’s switch to a more secular acceptance. The juxtaposition of the permanent collections to the revolving contemporary exhibitions further exemplifies Turkey´s desire to be a part of the global art conversation.

Didem Unlu´s studio

Beysa Boynudelik´s studio

Sultan Ahmed III Receiving a European Ambassador, Jean-Baptiste Vanmour. Oil on canvas, 1725. Pera Museum

Tortroise trainer, Osman Hamdi bey. Oil on canvas, 1906. Pera museum. 

Grayson Perry´s exhibition at Pera Museum

Greetings from Leipzig!

By, Charlotte Segal (MFA 2016)

Greetings! July has been good to us. On the 15th we had our Summer Show followed by a visit from the illustrious Margaret McCann, who whisked us off to Dresden.

A shot from the show.

The ‘Zwinger’ in Dresden is so incredibly beautiful that I was actually misty eyed, overwhelmed by the scale of its enveloping intricacy against hastening storm clouds.

Notice the white bells hanging on either side of the clock that add musical magic as well.

The city of Dresden was carefully reconstructed after a devastating firestorm in WWII, using as much as the original black-charred masonry as possible in a patchwork with new, sand-colored stone.

Back in the studio… A visitor to the Spinnerei happened to catch me at work.

Lastly, a ballpoint drawing and future print. This will be part of a folio that Vlado and Maria Ondrej are putting together. And after the prints are finished (hopefully) by this Friday, we will be leaving Leipzig for lone travels and ultimately back to NY. Hope you are all well and see you soon!

Works in progress from Moscow

By, Saralene Tapley (MFA 2016)

I will keep this blog rather short as I am more concerned with showcasing the work I have created over the final duration of my stay in Moscow. During this time, I spent my early mornings in the studio and my afternoons wandering the streets trying local coffee shops and absorbing the atmosphere of the city. I must confess, I also did my fair share of shopping. These 5 pieces are introspective works. After painting my colleague, I opted to express my self through self-portraiture. I decided this would be most direct.

Untitled, acrylic on watercolor paper, 24 x 36 inches, 2015

Untitled, acrylic on watercolor paper, 20 x 36 inches, 2015

Untitled, acrylic on watercolor paper, 20 x 36 inches, 2015

Untitled, acrylic on watercolor paper, 24 x 36 inches, 2015

Untitled, acrylic on watercolor paper, 24 x 36 inches, 2015

Beijing Residency: Welcome to Wangjing

By, Taylor Schultek (MFA 2016)

Welcome to Wangjing.

A district of Beijing, primarily inhabited by Koreans, bustles with the latest western style malls and taxis lining the streets. Situated along the north east section of the Fourth Ring of concentric circles that make up Beijing, this district is home to the Central Academy of Fine Art and is where we would be spending the next six weeks.

With the first week I aimed to suspend any judgment. I tried to feel that culture shock that I was anticipating considering it was my first time leaving my home country, to probably the most foreign place I could end up. A full twelve hour difference on the exact opposite side of the globe, but for some reason it still felt familiar. Sure all the signs were in a different language and it was unquestionably more difficult to communicate, but I felt a similar underwhelming sense when I first came to New York. For me, major metropolitan cities feel pretty homogenous, and despite some minor adjustments you never really have to leave your baseline of modern comforts.

I passed the feeling off as bleak cynicism for the time, but I was still optimistic that China had something to show me. Our amazing CAFA contemporaries that we would be sharing a studio with in order to create an exhibition had shown us a street just behind the major art store next to campus.

This was the first glimpse I had at something I hadn’t seen before anywhere in the US. This small street shared by family run stores, street food and apartments alike showed me something unexpected about Beijing. As a foreigner, you would never have found these stores, since the art store around the corner on the main road would have everything you need. It was here that I first started to think about my first painting teacher, Zhimin Guan, a native to southern China who often painted what I learned were called hutongs. I wasn’t sure at first why this was important to me, as this street certainly wasn’t a hutong, but it recalled a similar feeling and aesthetic that I gathered from his paintings.

As the second week came around I continued to carry on doing the small plein air paintings I had intended on doing before I left, still unsure what was going to drive my imagery for the exhibition. I knew I didn’t want to paint the usual subjects, based on superficial understandings of a place I would only barely scratch the surface of. I, for some reason, thought heading to the old city at the center of town would guide me toward something uniquely Chinese. So I made my way to Tiananmen Square near the Forbidden City, a place that is supposed to have historic architecture and an important place in Chinese history.

And there it was, I had just rubbed salt into the wound. Hordes of crowds, selfies as far as the eye can see, and more foreigners than I had seen in my all of my time in Beijing put together. I had accidentally walked myself into the Times Square of Beijing, a place no average citizen would go on a normal day by choice.

I turned around and little bit of my inner punk died, seeing a place that was a teenage symbol of revolution and anti-militarism turned into a shrine of tourism made me cringe. Thankfully my old teacher’s paintings kept coming back to my mind. A local I had talked to mentioned that there were hutongs near the square. I felt I needed to try and find my own version of what he saw, and luckily the guards were reasonably accommodating. They pointed me in the direction of a small area just south of Tiananmen, and what I found was a whole different world.

I found a place where there were no crowds, no taxis, and even some quiet solitude. There was no rush here, no glamour, or competition. The markets had great-looking produce and everyone seemed to know each other. Obviously I stuck out like a sore thumb, and almost got into a fight with a stray dog, but this was a place unlike what you imagine a modern city to be. This was where the culture must have really come from. Not in the fancy western façade that is being displayed to the world, but in the back alleys, hutongs and family owned shops. These are the places where people aren’t trying to become something different, and where the only important aspects of life seem to be adapting to survive and finding happiness within a community.

If there’s anything that will lead me back to china, it’s these small areas with honest working people just getting by, not the newest shopping malls.

Istanbul Residency: Spontaneous trip to Cappadocia

by, Jaclyn Dooner (MFA 2015)

Spontaneous trip to Cappadocia:
Bus transportation in Turkey is hectic.

With an approaching national holiday, studio closure and city shut down, we decided to plan a last minute trip to Cappadocia. In a day's notice we booked a hotel, a hiking/hot air balloon excursion and four one-way bus tickets to Gerome, Cappadocia. We started our adventure with some peaceful and productive afternoon sketching then boarded a shuttle bus that would start the longest trek ever. Zero English, three bus transfers, bathroom/prayer-cleansing room confusions, crying babies, 3am highway gridlock, onboard chickens, no AC, 5 bags of peanuts, three-ish naps, multiple are-we-supposed-to-get-off-heres, 16 hours and TA-DA! Stunning Cappadocia! All worth it.

The time here has been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. It’s been filled with an unbelievable combination of drawing, exploring, learning, trekking and immersing ourselves in the local culture. Without a solid itinerary, each day has been filled with unexpected surprises and mystery. It’s been a valuable lesson on living in the moment and embracing whatever comes our way! I know we all feel incredibly grateful for this experience.

Daily Sketching

Devrent Valley, aka Camel Valley

Sunrise hot air balloon excursion

Simón’s midflight anxiety attack

Afternoon hike through the Red Valley, Cappadocia

Byzantine Frescos in a hidden Red Valley cave, Cappadocia

Sunset over the Red Valley, Cappadocia

Dreamy Whimsical Sweet Moscow

By Magaly Vega-Lopez (MFA 2016)

Let’s start this entry with some Pushkin inspiration. I still remember back when I decided to move to NYC, the chills it gave me watching Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien starring Eugene Onegin. Hopefully, we will be able to watch some Russian opera at St. Petersburg but for now, let’s embrace the Moscow atmosphere.

Novodevichiy Convent

Thoughts by Pushkin
If I walk the noisy streets,
Or enter a many thronged church,
Or sit among the wild young generation,
I give way to my thoughts.
I say to myself: the years are fleeting,
And however many there seem to be,
We must all go under the eternal vault,
And someone's hour is already at hand.

When I look at a solitary oak
I think: the patriarch of the woods.
It will outlive my forgotten age
As it outlived that of my grandfathers'.

If I dandle a young infant,
Immediately I think: farewell!
I will yield my place to you,
For I must fade while your flower blooms.
Each day, and every hour
I habitually follow in my thoughts,
Trying to guess from their number
The year which brings my death.

And where will fate send death to me?
In battle, in my travels, or on the seas?
Or will the neighbouring valley
Receive my chilled ashes?

And although to the senseless body
It is indifferent wherever it rots,
Yet close to my beloved countryside
I still would prefer to rest.

And let it be, beside the grave's vault
That young life forever will be playing,
And impartial, indifferent nature
Eternally be shining in beauty.

Study nature. graphite on paper. 2015 Magaly Vega-Lopez

Short stories inspired by this whimsical land.


Ms. V was remembering the first time she heard about Moscow. Meanwhile she was waiting for a nice lemon sorbet tea. She was old enough to remember her father telling her about the USSR and how most orthodox churches were closed or vanished away. It was a faraway land where everything would be closed by 17:00 just to watch some old Mexican soap opera. Ms. V remembers her 5 old year self looking carefully at old Kodak photos. Somehow there was a place really far away where candy shape churches exist and beautiful ballerinas would depict delightfully, the Stravinsky music or maybe Tchaikovsky. In the winter the snow would be sweet as caramel and the famous Anastasia would be hidden in some magical forest, where you can find lost magic of ancient times.

Gorkys House

Ms. V is slowly opening the window of her room, thinking how time passes on such strange matters. The world will change and collapse more than once, it barely feels like the old stories her father used to tell her. She looked through the window; a living fantasy. Thinking she feels something different inside a sort of happiness.

-A really weird emotion-

She grabs her purse full of dreams ready to explore the unknown.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour


This is an ordinary story, or perhaps a sort of unordinary tale at least for those who like to explore the world or are some kind of forest dwellers. If you are not this kind of person, then maybe you would not be interested in continuing reading, and that is just fine. You don’t need to hear about little girls that have parent frogs as pets or drink birth cake tea every morning just to feel a rainbow explosion inside. Maybe you are the type person that drinks English breakfast without sugar, likes to eat plain potatoes each day and insists to be realistic about life. Well, I have bad news for you. This story requires you to look at sky and search for cotton candy clouds and strawberry stars.

There was a tiny little girl called mmm… lets keep it like V, she prefers to be called Y but that is our little secret. V has a quest going around the world, she is in pursuit of real magic. The magic that makes you ride unicorns and for that she needs to take really long walks, journeys that would take months. She is quite gifted to find those places with true magic. There is people skilled to find bars in middle of nowhere, others to find substances that would open doors to other worlds, others to find abandoned places where to create art, but if you are looking for fairy castles V is the one to call for.


Now, V is in search of a wooden palace belonging to Tsar Alexis and within this search she is not alone and she needs to convince the non-believers to trust her.

“I don’t think this palace exist at all, maybe was burned in the Great Fire,” said S.

V smiles. “It does, just keep walking.”

“But there is nothing here.”


V looks at the grass, the tiny flowers growing, some insects drinking water.

Kolomenskoye. Alexis I Wooden Palace

Far in the distance a strange palace appears.

V smiles; she was home.