Alumni Profile: Meheen Ruby

posted on August 17, 2017 by
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Huge thanks to Meheen Ruby for her fabulous interview! We are beyond thrilled to welcome Meheen as our newest member of the YAC staff! YACalum, former YAC intern, and now YAC studio assistant - Meheen is a multitalented painter, printmaker, ceramicist, jeweler, and mixed-media artist whose work is expressionistic, emotive, and always super fresh. Find more of Meheen's work or sign up for one of her classes at meheenruby.com.

Year/years at YAC?

I first joined YAC the summer before my sophomore year of high school, 10 years ago. My freshman year, I went to a small public charter school with an arts focus that closed down. Luckily I was accepted to the Monterey High Art Careers Academy and was able to transfer to Monterey High. YAC was a great “intro” to Monterey; I grew up in Marina and over the course of that summer was able to make good friends that made the transition to Monterey High much easier. I continued to attend YAC throughout my time at Monterey High and during my two years at Monterey Peninsula College. After I turned 18, I was offered the opportunity to be an intern, and was given a key to the building and some extra responsibilities. I moved away for college and spent some time in my college town, then moved back to the Monterey area in 2015. Since then, YAC has welcomed me back with open arms.

Did you go to college and if so where?

I first went to Monterey Peninsula College, then transferred to Humboldt State University. At MPC, I took many great classes from the excellent art department, but my focus was drawing and painting. I can’t say enough about my time at Humboldt State; the Art Department is full of incredible and talented faculty that truly, deeply care about student success and offer heartfelt support. My class was very diverse and represented many different walks of life. At Humboldt State I concentrated in Printmaking and Painting, and earned my Certificate of Museum and Gallery Practices. The gallery experience I gained through YAC put me ahead of some of my classmates who had never participated in a gallery show! Aside from the academics, Humboldt State gave me an endless supply of inspiration through the natural beauty of the area. It’s hard to be upset about going to a morning class if you are walking through a misty redwood forest to get there. Humboldt State also gave me many lifelong friends that I cannot imagine life without. I have also experienced the extremely supportive alumni network; I was at jury duty last year and during the selection process mentioned Humboldt State, and during the recess two different people came up to me to say, “hey! I’m an alumni too!” Lumberjacks are everywhere.

Did you learn elsewhere? Where and how?

My arts education has truly been lifelong. My family has always supported me with my artistic endeavors. My dad does woodworking and watercolor painting, and has used our garage as his studio/workshop from my earliest memories. My parent’s philosophy was that art materials were much better than plastic toys when my brother and I were young kids, and now they have two artists. Some of my earliest memories are making art. I was a bit of a brainy kid; I learned to read and write long before I entered school, and early in my school life was bumped ahead a grade. I remember one of my teachers telling me, insisting to me that I needed to go to Yale and then run for President. However, the more I progressed academically, the more time I would spend when I got home filling up sketchbooks or filling up folders on my mom’s computer of digital art. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and retrieve those old hard drives - I made a LOT of art on those old 90’s computers! It would be so on trend right now, I could just re-release it. Around middle school art became even more important. I began to suffer from migraine headaches and my class attendance was poor at times. On days when I couldn’t bear to go to school, being able to read and draw kept my mind busy. This was right after 9/11 and now after reflection I am able to draw the connection between my stressed mental state and the onset of my migraines. I went to a middle school with a large population of military families and unfortunately was exposed to a lot of hate speech, not only from students but also from staff. One of the office administrators said “We should just bomb all the towel-heads,” while my brother was waiting in the office. I remember feeling so unwelcome, under attack, and overwhelmed by the expectation to suck it all up and be blindly patriotic like so many of my classmates. During this time I used art as an escape. Drawing my favorite anime or video game characters with my good friends reminded me that I had things in common with my peers and that it was rewarding to share art together.

Tell us about what you’re doing now.

Now, I wear a few hats in the art world. I have spent so much of my art career just focusing on fine art, but recently have been focused on building my brand and branching out beyond 2-D art into ceramics and jewelry, along with blog and video content, and Sip & Paint classes. Aside from YAC, I work part-time for my parent’s organic farm, Robina's Organics, and I find it so rewarding to have my hands in the dirt and to help my family. I couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing family I was gifted, and I won’t complain about how great it is to eat fresh organic vegetables regularly! I also work part-time for Sucre Sucre Miniatures, the charm & jewelry shop of Chelsea Brest. I say “work” but when you work for such a fun, amazing, and quirky cute operation as Sucre Sucre Miniatures it never feels like work. I do everything from glazing, assembling jewelry, packaging, customer service, and giving design or content input. We are going to launch a YouTube series about knitting & fiber arts very soon, so keep a lookout! I also work part-time in sales for Brest Studios, Jacob Brest’s gallery in Carmel. Jacob Brest is a contemporary abstract expressionist painter whose work really stands out, original and unique, amongst the numerous coastal plein aire galleries dotting the town. Largely influenced by Basquiat and De Kooning, Brest’s frenetic style is unlike any other painter in town. I have my own studio through ArtWorks PG, located in the American Tin Cannery building. I produce my jewelry, paintings, and illustrations there. Every third Friday of the month is our ArtWalk open house. Typically I have my artwork up, but I am also known to do political or historical pieces as well. I am launching a series of Sip & Paint classes at my studio soon, which you can sign up for at www.meheenruby.com/classes/!

What has inspired you along the way?

Working as an artist, my scarcest resource is often inspiration. This may sound vain, but a big inspiration was the first time I looked through an old sketchbook where I hated 90% of my old work and found the 1 that was “still good.” Ever since the first moment I found myself looking at a piece of art I had created and truly decided, “this is actually good,” the accomplishment kept me creating new things. Finishing a piece that I am proud of is cathartic. Double that when a viewer really resonates with it and gives positive feedback. Who doesn’t want to be an artist in that glamorous moment? My other big inspiration is the desire to say something about our moment in time. I am tired of hearing the same stories the same way; a way that conveniently leaves me and people I care about out. Although my work is not as heavy in subject or narrative now as it once was I am still asking a question with each piece.

Favorite YAC memories?

It’s hard to pick favorite YAC memories, but my first Art-A-Thon Santoshi Lama created a princess dress out of Target bags and we did a big photo-shoot. That was really fun! Also, who can forget when YAC alum Oscar & I spent a good portion of the night before April 1st turning every single painting, drawing, and art piece (and even some of the food in the fridge) upside-down? Hmm.. maybe I should re-introduce the long-lost tradition of YAC pranking back to the new generation of YACsters… Honestly, this current crop of kids is something to behold. They are kind, talented, funny, frustrating, inspiring, and admirable all simultaneously. They are open to political discussions, they listen to each other, and the work that they produce blows me away!

A mention about the value of YAC?

YAC gave me the skills to get through high school, junior college, university, and transitioning out of school and into my career. Now, YAC is giving me the skills to help other talented young artists do the same. Marcia, Meg, Germain, Andrew, Hanni, Chloe, and the rest of the huge network of support that I won’t even try to name for fear of forgetting folks, are absolutely indispensable resources for our arts community and our young artists. YAC is a program unlike any other and I am so proud to be a part of it.

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