Goldies 2014 Visual Art: Michelle Ramin - Page 2

Up from Etsy, and beyond the masks we paint with social media

Guardian photo by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover

Yet her Portland community still inspired. "I had been thinking about masks for awhile, inspired by [San Francisco artist] Desiree Holman's work. While I was back home in Portland in 2010, my husband and I organized a weekend trip with a bunch of our friends to the coast. On our way out of town I had an inspiration. We drove past an outdoor store, and I stopped and picked up 12 ski masks.

"At the beach house, I asked my friends if they were OK with putting the masks on and having me photograph them — acting normally, holding hands, walking on the beach, all with ski masks on. I took a bunch of photos of them in hopes that they'd turn into a new body of work. It must've looked really bad to the neighbors, hipster 20-somethings riding around on tricycles with ski masks on. Because we were told not to return to the house again!"

Since drawing that series from those photographs, and another luminescent series of female nudes (often in balaclavas) in office and classroom settings that raise questions about women's bodies in arts institutions, Ramin has begun to move on from the masks. "My most recent work has to do with escapism and complacency. I'm still taking photos of my friends, but without showing a literal mask. I want to find another way to talk about the public vs. private 'branding' that we all have to invent for ourselves. It's extremely exhausting to keep up with the latest social media fads, but the reality is that it's really difficult to remove ourselves completely, especially for artists.

"I'd be happy to 'go off the grid,' but a huge part of an artist's job is to be a social networker. So I suppose sites like Facebook can be a necessary evil for us. The new direction in my art involves discussing the place at which these opposing ideas cross."


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