Walking up the steps of the Myrtle-Willoughby G train station in Brooklyn, it is abundantly clear that the neighborhood is alive. A youth basketball tournament is well underway on one of the many basketball courts along Marcy Avenue, with what seems like the entire neighborhood in attendance. Bed-Stuy’s vibrancy has greatly influenced artist Chelsea Ramirez. A Florida native, she has been living in the area for several years, accumulating inspiration from the community.
Chelsea graduated from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, with a B.F.A in Printmaking and went on to study drawing and painting at Edinburgh College of Art and Design in Scotland and the New York Studio School. She returned to the South for an M.F.A in Studio Art from Louisiana State University.
While her works are comprised of many different media, it is clear that drawing is at the root of the artist’s practice with charcoal stands out as a primary material throughout her oeuvre. Some of our favorite pieces in her studio were a stack of postcard sized charcoal sketches and musings that she has executed on the back of paper containing a friend’s poem. Chelsea keeps these small works, a total of 64, on her desk in a pile. The sketches range from figurative work to text-based drawings.
The artist translates these small, frenetic, gestural sketches into larger works, both on paper and with paint on canvas. For her recent series “Look at all the People” Chelsea described how she might go to a park and take a photograph of an outfit that she finds interesting. She encounters people wearing eclectic styles and striking poses that influence her process. The works in the series have several uniting elements despite their differing subjects. The drawings are executed on paper Chelsea was given from her work at a print shop, all bearing the New Yorker imprint and a Burberry logo. The irony of Chelsea’s depiction of a variety of different New Yorkers on a page with the publication’s logo is not lost on the viewer. Perhaps this aspect makes the series even more interesting as it seems that she is elevating these ideas and figures to the status of cover star. However, her loose brushstroke and the sketchy quality of her works play into the ambiguity of the individuals, as she captures the feel of a person rather than their specific identity. Several works in the series, which Chelsea plans to hang together salon-style, obscure the logos to a point where they are only faintly visible. While the majority of the works in “Look at all the People” contain figures, some focus on inanimate objects.
One theme that Chelsea has recently begun exploring is the Virgin of Guadalupe. She incorporates the Virgin into one of the works from this series. This work in particular also plays with text, layering excerpts from emails under paint and other materials on the page as a means to obscure. The words are not overt, but rather hidden for the viewer to slowly dissect. She also brings the theme of the Virgin into one of her canvas works that is currently in progress, featuring a number of jar candles displaying the Virgin of Guadalupe. This nostalgic element reminds the artist of her childhood, and she even recounted to us that she wanted to ask her aunt to ship her several of those candles for inspiration. Chelsea’s style is not lost in different media like paint as she still retains a loose brushstroke, experimenting with texture, as in this untitled, and still unfinished, painting of three figures. Here, the faces are unidentified but viewers are still able to get a feel of who those people are.