As dusk fell on a recent afternoon in Morningside Heights, Dasha Shishkin, a 27-year-old Russian-born artist, was awaiting Mr. Biesenbach and Ms. Heiss in her tiny cubicle of a studio on West 115th Street. As she greeted them in a heavy accent, their eyes fell instantly on a drawing on the only work table in the space.
It was a large pen-and-ink drawing of shapes so tightly composed that at first glance it seemed to be an intricate wallpaper pattern. But on closer inspection, the shapes of cats emerged, in different, often violent poses. Ms. Shishkin, a graduate student at the School of Fine Arts at Columbia University, explained that it took her one day to create, drawing nonstop for about 10 hours.
Why cats? "They're a domestic animal that's a familiar shape," she said simply. She sketched it for a School of Fine Arts show at Columbia titled "After Goya," a reference to Goya's series of etchings "Disasters of War."
"I used cats instead of people as a way of removing the subject of war from the immediate," Ms. Shishkin said. "They look harmless, but they're not harmless at all."
She is also a painter: on a nearby wall and a portion of the ceiling were figures rendered in what she called "poisonous yellows and greens."
"It's like my diary," Ms. Shishkin said. "This is where I capture my thoughts."
The curators departed after about an hour, a longer visit than most. Mr. Biesenbach was impressed. "There's some tough stuff, some images between Goya and Bruegel," he said by phone a few days later. Both he and Ms. Heiss agreed that their favorite work in Ms. Shishkin's studio was the drawing of the cats.
Alright, Dasha has an accent, but is not "heavy" - it is charming. Her Russian is flawless though, with a slight Moscow accent. She is an incredible artist with a unique vision and style that has been her own for as long as I have known her, nearly 9 years now. When I first saw her work, I immediately thought that she is going to be a fine artist before she becomes an illustrator - her undergraduate major. Since graduation she worked tirelessly to support herself and her artistic [read: expensive and time-consuming] habit.
I, for one, am certainly very excited for her. Of course, unlike her *I* do not have to worry whether she will get in to this show or that. I am just quietly confident of her success.