Artist Q&A with Masha Ryskin

01remnants1Name: Masha Ryskin

Age: 40

Location (Birth and current): born in Moscow, Soviet Union, now dividing time between Rochester, NY and Providence, RI

What is it that you do, in your own words?

I make mixed media works that combine drawing, painting, and printmaking. My work ranges from small wall pieces to larger panels to very large wall installations. I also collaborate with others, both artists and musicians.

You work in a lot of different mediums, which (if any) do you prefer and why?

I was trained as a figurative painter in the Soviet Union and subsequently studied painting, printmaking and fibers in the US. I think my medium now is somewhere in between painting, drawing, and printmaking, though fibers is still a big influence – I still incorporate thread and wire. Drawing and installation are probably the most liberating and flexible, as it allows me to work very large and combine a lot of processes; it also allows me to use mundane materials such as coffee and tea.

Can I ask you to expand on your use of mundane materials in your work?

I became interested in mundane materials at the end of graduate school. I was intrigued by the idea of using materials with a history and purpose other than art. It started with tea and teabags. I come from a culture where tea is central in social interactions. SInce in this country most people use teabags, the latter becomes a record of the gatherings and conversations. It’s what’s left when everybody leaves. So I spent years sewing the used teabags together and printing on them, adding another layer of residue. Gradually, I shifted to coffee, especially after spending some time in Costa Rica. I feel like I am cheating a little bit now by using instant coffee, since I am not sure that it is really coffee. Having smelled it in concentrated form, I can no longer think of drinking it but it does allow for incredibly rich marks. Mostly I use coffee in installations though also in paintings on wood panels.
Can we discuss themes explored in your work and what motivates you?

My work is about a sense of place and getting lost. The feeling of a journey is what I hope the viewer can get out of it. Ever since I moved from a Soviet Union, I have been interested in the memories and fragments of specific places that come together in an integrate whole. The more I move or travel to different places, the more fragments make their way into the work. The landscape plays a very important role and although I no longer paint on-site, I do sketch from life and use that information in my pieces.

What is your process?

I work very intuitively. It is an endless process of drawing, painting, cutting, rearranging, scraping, adding, subtracting. It is almost akin to traveling through the surface, which is also the feeling I want the viewer to have. As my studio is small, I often do not see the larger works in their entirety until the very end. I love working on a very large scale wall pieces, it is incredibly liberating – and there is always a sense of urgency due to time constraints that I think makes the work more successful most of the time. I have also been increasingly interested in artist books and have made a number of them recently.


Do you have any favorite pieces?

I do not really form attachments to my work, since I always know I can make more. There are certainly ones that are more successful, and lots of those that are just plain bad (which I don’t show to anyone). I like having my collaborative works around my studio because they speak to the relationship between our vocabularies, it’s the next best thing to having actual conversations with my friends/collaborators.

What artist inspire you?

We could have an endless conversation about sources of inspiration. I have always felt a kind of connection with Marc Chagall, I think his works are at the same time magical, celebratory, and heartbreaking. But really, there are so many artists, composers, and writers who are of influence for scores of reasons. It might also be something seen in a film or walking on the street that triggers an idea for a piece. Indonesian gamelan music, which I have played for over ten years now, is a big influence as well, because of the notion of multiple patterns fitting together in layers within a single piece of music.


What are you working on now?

I am making very large panels on mylar for a show in Brooklyn on May 11th. The place has 28-foot ceilings and these pieces will be suspended from the ceiling, so I need to really consider the way they will relate to the space. It will probably be a series of three panels, between 18 and 25 feet high – the tallest work I have made to date.

Where can people see and purchase your work?

My website is at, which also has my contact information. I am also represented by Spencer Hill Gallery in Corning, NY ( and by Yellow Peril Gallery in Providence, RI (

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  1. These pieces shown here are amazing! Namaste, Julie

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