In the Magazine: Maria Kreyn
Through an arched window, I watched twilight fall softly on the surrounding viking bay and smooth granite islands until a door hinge creaked from across the cavernous room. Momentarily breaking my enchantment, a set of double doors opened slowly and poured forth a fluorescent glow. A floating head emerged from the beams and materialized into an angelic face whose gaze pierced the air before slipping back into retreat, closing the doors again.
Maria Kreyn was one of several young painters at Odd Nerdrum’s farm when I arrived in the summer of 2006, and we quickly became collaborators in mischief. Soon enough, we were both deported to Odd’s empty home in Reykjavik, Iceland, which used to be the city’s library. Success in the studio was often celebrated by unwinding at Cirkus, the infamous dive bar that has since been torn down. During one intoxicated evening, a snow war went sour and she gave me quite a handsome shiner. I figured out then that it would be much easier to forgive her than forget her.
Maria made her debut in Nizhny Novgorod, the fifth largest city in Russia. Her parents had met through the classical music world and escaped under the guise of intended birthright travel. After an interlude in Italy, they found a sponsor community and settled in Florida, where her father began work as an engineer. Maria’s mother, trained in classical piano, performed and taught piano, Russian history and language, and ultimately worked towards a doctoral degree in Cognitive Neuroscience, focusing on music perception. With these role models, it is no wonder that Maria chose to study math and philosophy while at the University of Chicago before she could no longer ignore her surging desires to paint.
I reconnected with Maria at the opening of Look at Me at Leila Heller Gallery in Chelsea where I got to see her new lightbox etchings and catch up with her before she takes off for a summer artist residency at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City. —David Molesky
David Molesky: What themes are you drawn to working with?
When I first began to paint, it was about a moment, a feeling, trying to capture a magical point of concentrated meaning and emotional density. Lately, I’ve been developing more elaborate compositions. They are more socially conscious, yet about redemption in the face of destruction. Currently, I’m working on a series about oil. The imagery has a religious look, as it seems obvious to me that acquisition or consumption are the new reverence. The work is about this paradox that I see in our current culture: that we search for levity in places where there’s only gravity and that we search for transcendence in what drags us down into an absence of consciousness. This work asks, “How do you cope with your complicity?” Yet again, no matter what, these paintings are meant to be a celebration. It’s amazing to be alive.
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