Leina Kunst’s paintings are bursting with color and brush strokes. They would be whimsical if they weren’t so bold; they’re exuberant and fancy. The paint is thick, tactile, and topographic, luxuriant proof that they are unique and performed with brushes. Her paintings are always next to toilets.
I’m ardent admirer of graffiti in bathrooms. This may be the result of a childhood habit of reading on the toilet that is still quite strong. A bathroom experience is always more pleasurable when someone has taken the time to impugn the morality of BJ’s mother in sharpie on the wall, or has drawn some sexually explicit stick figure on the toilet paper dispenser.
On a recent visit to a cafe restroom, however, my conception of toilet art was brought to an entirely new level when I discovered one of Leina’s Stroilet Artworks. Leina’s bathroom paintings are obviously not part of the official bathroom decor, and yet they are also quite clearly artwork you would expect to see framed, hanging in a gallery. The contrast is pleasing.
Leina paintings highlight the strange contrast of space found in public bathrooms. Public bathrooms are very public: lots of people occupy them over the course of a day, usually for free, often out of necessity. And yet, when occupying a restroom (or stall) it becomes a very private space–they even have locks on the doors. It really feels like your personal space when you’re using it. And it will for the next person, too.
Finding something you recognize as artwork in the context of bathroom graffiti brings up where we draw our lines: are Leina’s paintings art? Are the paintings hanging in the (public) New York Metropolitan Museum graffiti? While these aren’t novel questions, their silliness gets me thinking. I’m pleased with the wonderful way Leina’s paintings bring them up.
And of course, this applies to garbage: things in the trash are garbage because they’ve been put in the trash, not always because of an objective quality they possess. Think about Leina’s Stroilet Art the next time you visit your garbage can to throw something away. And if you’re really lucky, maybe one day you’ll have the urge and find Stroilet Art in the bathroom.