“I feel very much at home here,” she told me. “I really love the community vibe.”
The local artist, who goes by the name MSR, will be featured as part of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society’s Artist Spotlight series next Tuesday, March 30, at 8 p.m. on Zoom.
This presentation is free to all. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like an invite.
MSR was born in Bangladesh and came to the United States when she was just nine months old. Her family settled int Brooklyn for a few years before moving to Woodhaven when she was 11, though she continued to commute to Brooklyn for the rest of her early schooling
“We moved into our home on Atlantic, and I’ve been here ever since,” MSR said, adding that her studio is also in Woodhaven.
She loves living in a neighborhood where she knows her neighbors.
“When I was young, I came home from school in the middle of a snowstorm,” she recalled. “My feet had gotten wet, my socks were soaked, I lost my keys and no one was home.
“I went to a neighbor’s house crying, and she took me in, changed my socks and gave me hot chocolate,” MSR continued. “I’ve never felt so comfortable somewhere, where I had neighbors where I could go and feel safe.”
MSR has always been artistic, but though she enjoyed art, her classes in middle school never really challenged her.
“I didn’t really care for my art classes,” she said. “I was drawing things I didn’t care about.”
In college MSR was a Creative Writing and English Literature major, but it was her art classes at Hunter College that were a revelation to her.
“It was Art 101, and we did a bunch of random projects, collages, photo projects, drawings,” she said. “We got to experiment with a lot of different things, and one of the things I learned is that I can do something on a very large scale and I wasn’t intimidated by that.”
After graduating, there was a shift where visual art became a more encompassing way of communicating for MSR than even words.
That set the stage for a breakthrough, which happened while she was on a break at work. She took a pad and pen and began drawing, and was surprised and happy with the results.
“I have no idea how long this image was in my head, but that day it came out on paper and it was perfect,” she said. “That afternoon I was in our basement, I came across a really large piece of wood. I had some paints and thought to myself, ‘hey I should paint this drawing on this piece of wood.’”
And she did. MSR says it took her a bit over a month. The piece, entitled “Taurean Descent,” is still one of her most personal and favorite pieces.
It’s a self-portrait of the artist, herself a Taurus. It reflects a period of her life when she was sad and took a trip to England. While there, she visited the White Cliffs of Dover and found them to be so beautiful that she was able to release all her pain.
“All of that is reflected in there,” MSR said. “Having put it out there, I felt like I was in a much better place.
“For me, art is thinking in images, colors, patterns and texture,” she added. “It's a whole language of storytelling without words. I've spent years trying to tell my story in words and I couldn’t find them, whereas when I paint they are all right there on the canvas.”
She’s worked with oil paints, and recently began using watercolors and loves the contrast.
“My watercolors are pretty minimalistic, less heavy and more playful than my oil works,” she said.
MSR is excited and enthusiastic to be a part of the series and hopes that some fun and collaborative efforts will be the result. One thing on her wish list is to do a show at Geordie’s Joint on 80th and Jamaica.
“I love Geordie’s and think it would be a great venue for a show,” MSR said.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society is hoping that by bringing together local artists, it can help bring artistic wishlists to life.
Woodhaven has some very talented artists, and over the past month we have spotlighted three of them. In the months ahead, we have poets and photographers and quilters and musicians lined up.
If you are a local artist living or working in Woodhaven, please email us at email@example.com if you’d like to be a part of the series.