All the Missing Pieces, the most recent exhibit from artist Isabella Kelly-Ramirez, highlights a collection of her mixed-media collage work, custom wallpaper, and even an altar, cleverly named The Ego Altar. I talk to Kelly-Ramirez as she shares her thoughts on gender, beauty, and All the Missing Pieces within herself.
Why was it necessary for you to create All the Missing Pieces?
I had completed a collection of the collage portraits as well as the papier-mâché “accoutrements” and I needed a mechanism to tie them together. The Ego Altar and the wallpaper tied the installation idea together nicely. The elements on the altar served as offerings to the mythological icons in the portraits. Dually, The Ego Altar represents an altar to self consumption and vanity. The 2-D and 3-D elements supported each other’s meaning in context with each other.
Why should your audience care about your work? What’s in it for us?
The audience should care because my imagery is familiar and attainable, but it also can be interpreted in many serious ways. It’s a glimpse into an alternate reality, and a reminder that we should be subverting the commonplace. It’s a new mythology that is ironic, but playful and self-aware.
Does All the Missing Pieces seek to uncover any new ground in the art world, or in the feminist world?
All the Missing Pieces aims to draw attention to a set of specific issues with a visually accessible presentation. I am using a vocabulary of familiar imagery cut out from art and fashion magazines. The medium that the artwork is made up of directly references itself in an ironic, but playful way. Generally, All the Missing Pieces visually represents all of the products and objects, etc., that are made to fill the void and fulfill personhood. The extreme feminized aesthetic that I use points to the hyper-gendering of products, which in turn implies how one can never be feminine or masculine enough. I am visually interpreting this through an aesthetically feminine lens. It is important to regard the polarization of genders, because I believe it leads to gender inequality.
Why do you think the world needs your interpretation and commentary regarding female beauty?
Idealized images of women with hyper femininity are all around us. It is unattainable. Same with masculinity. We are fed hyper male/female stereotypes that polarize the genders further. So I enjoy playing with that idea of hyper-feminizing by embellishing objects to the point of absurdity.
In a general sense, why do you feel you are called to create?
I create because it is naturally the most fluent language I can communicate with. With fine art I have the most elements on hand to express myself. The work can be interpreted many ways which is also a calling. I enjoy hearing a set of unique interpretations about my work.
Is there a specific point you’re trying to convey with All the Missing Pieces?
I hope all All the Missing Pieces conveys [is] that we are all allowed to have a unique visual identity and that beauty is a fluid, ephemeral ideal that is constantly changing. Nobody should be beholden to narrow perspectives on beauty. I hope All the Missing Pieces reminds all to reinterpret familiar imagery into something new and to never be complacent with what imagery that is fed to us.
What do you want your audience to take away from your most recent project?
I just hope people are inspired to find their own creative language. I hope they get to see something new and different and I hope it will stick with them. More than anything, it would be cool if people found their own interpretations of the work since I hope it offers more than one meaning.
If no one were to show up up to your exhibit, how would feel? Would you continue to create?
Aww, that would be really sad. But, of course I would continue to create regardless. My art isn’t only a form of communication with others, but it is also created for my own selfish satisfaction. My work is constantly changing and I’m working with different mediums so if people don’t like it, I’ll be moving on to the next thing soon enough anyway.
Did you work take any unexpected turns during the process?
The project took many turns, too many to mention. They are always calculated into the process because it’s natural for there to be changes with the progression of the idea. Luckily I did complete what I could early, so there would be time for shit to be able to go wrong.
Are ever you faced with self-doubt when creating your work? How do you move forward?
I think everyone faces self doubt. I do all the time. I have to just hope that every move I make is propelling me forward and not backward. No matter how slowly I feel my practice might be progressing, I have to remember that I am my worst critic and that I should relax a little.
Along those lines, have you ever used art to get you through an existential crisis?
My life pretty much is an existential crisis, so without art I would be done for. It sounds cheesy but it’s the best therapy I’ve got. There is a sense of control when making work. I have no choice but to focus which is hard for me to do these days. It is an exercise that grounds me.
What pieces, if any, are you missing within yourself?
My compulsive need to produce is something I am working on. I need to be constantly doing something and I have trouble relaxing and living in the moment. Therefore, I’m really impatient and anxious all the time. It isn’t healthy for me or the people around me so I hope to improve on that.
What has your current work caused you to realize about yourself, if anything?
I guess I always continue to surprise myself. Sometimes when I think something I make is particularly strange or odd I’ll just wonder about myself sometimes. So my subconscious surprises me, always. Also, my capacity for patience. I’m naturally impatient, so the collages force me to slow down and take my time.
Do you feel your artistic contributions are significant enough to make the difference you seek to make?
What do you feel your purpose in the art world may be?
It’s hard to prophesize about what my purpose might be without hurting my cause. So for now, I’m just doing what is enjoyable and feels right for my own practice. At the end of the day, it’s all just for fun.
If you could go back in time and change one thing about All the Missing Pieces, what would it be?
I probably would have added more collages! I’m obsessed with floor to ceiling salon style gallery hanging, so I probably would have completely packed the room with collages and including wallpaper on all four walls!
Finally, how did you realize that you were the person best qualified to tell the story within your exhibit?
I interviewed a lot of people but in the end my vision most closely matched my vision, so I hired myself for the job. ;)