NEW HAVEN, CONN.- Interdisciplinary artist Leeza Meksin installs Flossing the Lot, a new outdoor installation, and the last in a series of three public works all employing artist-designed spandex printed with oversized golden chains on a gleaming white background. The chain links symbolize many, often divergent ideas such as bondage, community building, wealth, adornment, incarceration and continuity. When placed in a new geographic context, the print transforms itself and the location, creating a playful urban space for new connections, associations and encounters.
The New Haven installation is monumental in scale. Comprised of corseted vertical banners stretching across the enormous walls of The Lot, FTL references New Haven's Historic Corset Factory as well as jewelry displays, the ivory tower, and hangings. The gold link motif re-used at the busy corner of Orange and Chapel St. fits almost seamlessly into the lively intersection flanked by Sassy, FootLocker, thrift and dollar stores. Flossing a term from popular culture that refers to an ostentatious flaunting of ones style, resonates with the more literal dental hygiene meaning of the word, questioning the relationship between order, cleanliness, taste and class.
In Flossing the Lot, billowing spandex banners are chained to the exterior walls, and weighed down with spandex sacks full of basketballs (salvaged from Artspaces basement) and sandbags. The gold and brightly colored "pendants" evoke the "ball & chain" of imprisonment, and present the community with unexpected loot sacks full of basketballs, suspended at different heights from the massive sparkling white walls. Within the first week of the projects opening, numerous nighttime attempts were made to snip off the bags of balls. Artspace has responded by putting out a bin full of basketballs for people to take instead of climbing up polls, and risking their lives (the sacks have a 50lb sandbag that acts as a weight at the bottom, with the basketballs stuffed overtop).
Meksins previous public installations with the chain motif included House Coat in 2011 where she transformed a quaint, two-story row house on an inner-city street of St. Louis, MO by giving it a bespoke spandex outfit; and Sad Side of the Street, an installation in the former NY Public Library, the Donnell, across the street from the MOMA that took place before the historic buildings demolition last summer. The different interpretations of the same print by the inhabitants of the three cities ranged tremendously. In midtown Manhattan pedestrians asked if the installation was a Tiffanys or Gucci marketing campaign. In St. Louis people saw foreclosure, Tyvek and fumigation. In New Haven, visitors wondered if the piece is about prison overcrowding or a set for a music video.
Meksins personal history of immigration and cultural dysphoria made her keenly aware of the magical potential of carnival and role-reversal in creating a forum for meaningful interactions between members of any community. Meksin dresses up buildings and public spaces in voluptuous outfits, implementing drag as a symbol of marginalized cultures, marked with struggle, transformation and ostentatiousness. The masquerade aesthetic of Drag embodies the playful and irreverent spirit of Meksins public art works. With the final installment in New Haven, Meksin explores how "Flossing," "Fabulousness," "Drag," and "Bling" in marginalized communities relate to the history of bondage, slavery and spiritual freedom.
Elizaveta Meksin is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist who makes paintings, installations, public art and multiples. Born and raised in the Soviet Union, Leeza immigrated to the United States in 1989. She received a Joint BA/MA in Comparative Literature and Humanities from The University of Chicago; a BFA'05 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a MFA'07 in Painting from the Yale School of Art. Meksin, recipient of the Robert Schoelkopf Fellowship and the Soros Foundation Grant, has exhibited her work in numerous venues throughout the United States, including Regina Rex, NY; Adds Donna, Chicago; Thomas Erben, NY; Cosign Projects, St. Louis; Abington Arts Center, Philadelphia, and many more. Her work has been reviewed in The Chicago Tribune, ArtSlant, TimeOut Chicago, and on National Public Radio. Currently, Meksin is an artist-in-residence at Chashamas Brooklyn Army Terminal, and holds a Visiting Faculty position at Ohio State University where she is mounting a solo show of recent paintings in August, 2012.