Dominic Musa

Dominic Musa

Current Rhode Island School of Design MFA candidate Dominic Musa's wonderful, lively paintings present a central character, an "artist-as-critic," complete with what Musa describes as a "looming" magnifying glass, which presents an existentialist view of the art world as both argument and joke. Much more in our great interview!

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First, I'd love to know more about you! Where are you from, and where are you based now?

Originally I am from Poughquag, New York, located two hours north of the city. I am currently based out of Providence, RI, while I finish up my MFA at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

What first interested you in making art? Do you have any significant influences or mentors who have impacted your work?

My grandfather painted and it definitely got me interested in art - we always drew together when I was younger. Nancy Chunn and Judith Linhares impacted me pretty greatly when I was at SVA. 

Can you tell me about your practice? Where do you derive your ideas from?

I been very interested in the Theater of the Absurd and this movements association to Existentialism - writers like Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, and Tom Stoppard. I'm really drawn to their use of conventional dramatic form to portray the futility of human struggle in a senseless world, and interested in how this works in a painting. The central character is the artist-as-critic. Through this character we become an active reader in a faux world.

What is your process like? How do you get started? Do you plan ahead?

My process varies, but I like to come to the studio earlier in the morning. I usually start by documenting anything I did the night before, and go outside and have a few cigarettes and a cup of coffee. Then I might prepare a few surfaces, make a few drawings, and then start painting by noon. For most paintings, I plan ahead through a series of drawings - it is a quicker way for me to work out any kinks in the final composition. 

What is your studio space or workspace like?

My studio space is pretty clean but also messy. I would know where everything is, but if I had to tell someone to grab something, they would probably never find it. 

What has your art education been like so far, as you're still pursuing your MFA? What do you like most about it, or wish that you would have had covered more/differently?

My art education has been pretty great so far. I started to pursue painting more seriously during high school, supplementing in-school classes with after-school painting & figure drawing at the Mill Street Loft. From there I went to the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University for two and half years. I was working with a professor Ken Beck, who told me to move to New York and study - so I did. I ended up transferring to SVA where I completed my B.F.A. in 2013. I decided I was ready to apply to graduate school after a year and a half of working in a restaurant in Brooklyn, and now I am at RISD for painting. I will be graduating this June. 

I honestly wouldn't change anything about it, except maybe taking undergrad more seriously. However, the course of my education has really shaped the way that I approach and think about making things, so maybe I wouldn't go back and take it more seriously. 

Is there a piece of advice that you've received, which you find yourself coming back to?

Nancy Chunn, a professor of mine at SVA, once told me, "Do you want to be a sprinter or a long distance runner? Things take time..." 

What do you consider to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art seriously, especially as one about to leave the university setting?

The most daunting thing for me is losing the community or finding myself isolated again, being surrounded by people who love what they do as much as you is so important. Also figuring out whether or not I'll go back to Brooklyn - still on the fence about that. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of doing what you do? What drives you?

The whole process of painting is so rewarding to me. Not just the act of painting itself, but everything: from building my supports to stretching the canvas, to preparing my surface. The materiality of painting alone is a driving force that pushes me - painting these stories is a bonus to the process of getting there. 

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you're currently working on?

I am currently in a group show in Brooklyn at Orgy Park with an amazing group of painters which closes January 16th, and I will be part of another group show at Tyler School of Art's Stella Elkins Gallery in Philadelphia [in late January]. Other than that, preparing for my thesis here at RISD and our thesis show this summer. 

Anything else you would like to add?

Nope! just a thank you for featuring me on Young-Space! 

Find more on Instagram @dominic_musa!

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