Sunday, September 05, 2021

Somerville Artist Alexandra Rozenman: Looks at the world Above-Inside-Outside-Under

Somerville Artist Alexandra Rozenman: Looks at the world Above-Inside-Outside-Under

Article by Doug Holder

I met Somerville artist Alexandria Rozenman, under the thick, tangle of vines, in the courtyard of the Neighborhood Restaurant in Union Square, Somerville. Trying to make small talk, I told her that I was of Russian Jewish heritage--like her. She looked at my bagel, dripping with onions and smoked fish, and said, " Yes, I can smell it."

Rozenman, 50, is a resident of the Brickbottom Galleries in the hinterlands of Union Square. Originally from Moscow in Russia, she is the child of dissident parents and trained with dissident artists, some of whom became prominent in the West, like the noted Grisha Bruskin. She explained that creating art under a totalitarian regime, can be much more vital-- than when the artist is in a comfortable, uncensored environment.

Rozenman had a long journey before she landed at the Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville. She taught and worked in places like Minneapolis, the Lower East Side of New York City, and locally in Allston, MA. She told me she is related to the first wife of the artist Marc Chagall--who often appeared in flight in the master's paintings. And indeed her own work is influenced by Chagall. This is quite a lineage for an artist, me thinks. 

 Rozenman showed me some collages she has been working on. The works are full of enigmatic landscapes, personified animals, mysterious lovers, etc... She told me they were created from scrap paper she gathered from other artists. These will be part of  a series she is working on, that in someways is influenced by her own life story.

I asked Rozenman, " How should I look at art? She took a pepper shaker on the table and said, " Look above it, look inside of it, look outside of it, and look under it." She continued, " I don't want people to think we look just at solitary objects--we have to take it all in." Being a poet, I could certainly agree with this take it all in philosophy. 

And Rozenman teaches all this to her students at her Art School 99 on Joy St. in Somerville. There she has a cadre of loyal students, who helped her secure this space, and pursue her mission.

Like many artists in our city, Rozenman has to deal with the black dogs of gentrification. Fortunately for her she found a space at the Brickbottom, which houses a community of artists and other folks. Rozenman told me she found the residents warm and inviting, and seemed please to have a younger artist living with and working with them.

Rozenman doesn't identify with any particular school of painting, but a description from the Fountain Street Gallery in Boston gives us insight:

"Alexandra Rozenman’s paintings and drawings blend the styles and symbols of folk art, Russian Underground Conceptualism, illustration, and Jewish Art. She embraces and plays with Russian, European and American folk tales and myths, giving them utopian and funny dimensions in her work. She combines a universal story with a personal one, absorbing and expressing the psychology of otherness as a fundamental part of her identity and of the contemporary world in which we live. Her current series of paintings, TRANSPLANTED, touches upon issues of artistic influence and dialogue, emulation and creativity. Her work can be viewed as a metaphor for immigration and the cathartic journey of re-inventing a new personal and artistic identity."

Rozenman will have a showing of her work at the Fountain Street Gallery on Oct. 22. To find out more about her go to:

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