I’m sitting inside a tank with David Muenzer ’09. Above me, I can see the opening to the gun turret, but when I peer out the fine grate above my head, no war zone stretches before my eyes. Rather, we are in the center of a large empty room on the second floor of the Yale sculpture building at 36 Edgewood Avenue, where Muenzer, a senior art major, is currently housing his tank sculpture.
The construction, called “Sometimes a Tank is Just a Studio,” was completed last semester in collaboration with Muenzer’s friend and fellow artist Tucker Rae-Grant ’09. As Muenzer explains, its resemblance to a military vehicle was accidental. After installing a tube through the top of the structure to accommodate the cord from a lamp inside, the artists first noticed its resemblance to a tank and then embraced it.
This kind of evolution is typical of the way Muenzer works. “I like to have a really definite groundwork for the process,” he told me, “but I don’t necessarily want to know the output. If you can really guess how a piece is going to be, then you aren’t really going anywhere new with it.”
A few minutes before, Muenzer had urged me to “be courageous,” lifting up the door and inviting me into the tiny art studio hidden within the tank. As I bent down and extended a tentative foot, I felt as if I were crawling into a metaphor.
Inside, a light clicked on and music issued from a paint-splattered stereo. Muenzer shook a blue paint pen, and began to draw on a scrap of paper taped to the wall. From where he sat in the space — barely big enough to accommodate the two of us without our elbows colliding — Muenzer told me that being in the studio means being able to “put on your music, zone out, and make something creative.”
About a week later, Muenzer is in the process of unpacking his painting studio in Green Hall. Boxes, an old table, and some paint-splattered stools are strewn around him in various stages of disorganization.
He gestures at the mess as if by way of apology. “Most of art,” he tells me for the third or fourth time, “is moving large objects from point A to point B in public, in embarrassing ways.”
His studio is part of a row that reminds me of office cubicles, each space arranged according to the needs and tastes of its inhabitant. Each is no larger than 15 square feet and is marked with a piece of yellow paper torn from a legal pad that bears its inhabitant’s name. Muenzer’s hangs crooked on the wall next to a stain of red paint left over from someone else’s creative process.
Muenzer points out the stain to me, and leads me down the hall to show me notes he jotted on the wall of what is now the studio next door. The stain and the notes are symbolic of what Muenzer describes as the “accumulated history” of each studio that is passed unconsciously from one inhabitant to the next.
Among the boxes and bottles in Muenzer’s studio are the artifacts of his process that constitute his personal artistic history: turkey basters stained with bright pink paint he inherited from a friend and a half-empty bag of Jello coaxed from the dining hall last year to tint a batch of paint. A toy soldier stands at attention on top of a cardboard box labeled “Clothes for Senior Year 1.”
Muenzer begins speaking to me around a screw he holds between his teeth, as he prepares to drill a shelf into the wall. As he works, I can hear fragments of sound floating from the other sides of the mobile studio walls. An insistent female voice speaks of “a sense of all-over-ness at the edges” of an unseen painting; the water runs into the sink as another girl next-door rinses out her brushes. These artists, too, are hard at work, each in his or her own way.
Sorting paint tints into a drawer, Muenzer speaks of “trying to find a logic for all this,” referring to tubes of deep green and pale yellow, but suggesting a greater goal. What is the studio, I wonder, but a place to find logic for the immense spectrum of colors, experiences, and people outside?
Back inside the tank, Muenzer gestures to a bicycle tire sticking through the frame to my right. “Push,” he commands, and I do, rolling the tank across the floor. We pause, and David smiles, his profile casting a delicate shadow on the drawing he just made.
He rolls the wheel of the tank gently forward again. “I like the idea of the studio not being a fixed place, but going out into the world.”