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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brooklyn-based artist premieres latex art at Women’s Studies Research Center

Published: October 31, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Just as the name suggests, “Big Bounce,” the Women’s Studies Research Center’s (WSRC) art event, displays innovative work that has recently grown in leaps and bounds—using latex as a medium of focus for artwork. With Brooklyn-based artist Leeza Meksin’s site-specific installation outside of the WSRC building, we can see how this elastic material helps viewers expand upon their perspective of what art really is.

Outside the gallery is a quote written by Curator Susan Metrican, which poetically explains the meaning behind Meksin’s work: “Our associations with spandex are as attached to the body as our own skin. Bathing suits, workout clothes, bras, club wear, superhero suits. We fill the material with ourselves,” she wrote.

Clothes are part of our identity, as they give off an aura of someone’s personality, and people’s first impressions are judged about the clothes we wear. Not only that, but clothes provide a protective shelter that, in a way, help us shape and crystallize our identities.

Meksin describes her works of latex as “an expressive, elastic and mutable application. Printed in an infinite variety of patterns, responsive to polymers, paints and other materials, my use of spandex seeks to explore the intersection of painting, sculpture, architecture, design and fashion.”

Many of her works displayed inside the building contain canvases covered in the spandex, with neon colors, polka dots, circles, ropes and floral designs. The works seem to symbolize a juxtaposition between the constrictive styles of art, represented with the chains, metal wires, nets and chords. She takes an innovative twist with her pieces in the loose styles of the elastic material sprawled across the piece and the holes in the artwork, which symbolize the escape that her artwork takes in breaking away from the artistic conventions.

In one of her compositions, Meksin traps ropes in a screen of latex, but this creates a paradox: By trapping the ropes (the restrictions), expressive freedom is achieved.

Another structure is covered with fabrics cut in floral designs. At the top is a metal structure, with chains coming down from it that look as though they are trapping the floating letters that are spread out across the piece. Again, we see this contrast of the message in the piece. Meksin conveys the freedom of expression through this artwork by making public the issue of the hindering aspect of creative expression that traditional forms of art impose upon artists.

As the rest of the quote explaining Meksin’s works goes on to say: “Weighed down with sandbags, cinched and pulled in all directions, we become aware of the verbs tucked in to a generous visual experience.” She specifically refers to the outdoor structure of neon pink colors of spandex attached across the massive exterior of the WSRC building. The bold colors convey the message of the adventurous and daring style that Meksin takes with this interesting idea of putting such bright colors to call out attention the building in relation to the rest of the boring brick ones. This piques curiosity in students, especially for those who don’t even know that this structure exists on campus.

The “weighed down sandbags, cinched and pulled in all directions” again go back to the concept of “flashing dichotomies” that are a prevalent theme through Meksin’s pieces. Even though the structure is weighed down, it still is pulled in all directions, which again demonstrates an oxymoron—if a structure is weighed down, there is no way that it is able to be moved around at all.

This goes to show the deeper metaphoric implications of the piece. Maybe it’s not that the artwork is literally moving in all directions but is rather shifting toward different courses in its deviating style in relation to the conventional. Perhaps it’s also demonstrating the artist’s message reflecting the fact that like the transformations in the artwork; as Metrician states, “The artist shows awareness of our constantly shifting attitudes about our bodies, spaces and identities.”