“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” -Leonardo Da Vinci
There is so much to be said about the present moment . This moment right now is already changing and moving; and everything that moves in turn moves something else. Da Vinci made a poignant observation that is valid for all ages. Water, just like time, is always in motion. No moment will ever be the same as another. No water molecule will ever be in the same place that it already was.
Living in Jacksonville, we are surrounded by water. From the beaches to the St. Johns River to the Intracoastal Waterways, we are blessed in our geographical location by the presence of water. Water sources provide us with a place to come together, to recreate, to educate, to explore, to relax. And just like in art, water sources offer us a place to be quiet, to contemplate, to reflect, to heal, and even to transform.
Alma Ramirez is a familiar friend to water’s transformational power. She has been in a difficult place before that both water and art helped pull her out of. By slowing down and taking the time to look, really look at colors, shapes, water, Ramirez noticed her work start to change, to progress, to adapt, and take on a new life of its own that allowed her to heal in the process. On July 18 th from 530-730 in the Heather Moore Gallery at the Cathedral Arts Project building in Downtown Jacksonville, there will be an opening reception for Alma Ramirez’s most recent body of work “By the Water”.
Although she has become a regular at Vilano Beach, Amelia Island, St. Augustine’s Marinas, and the Jax Beach Pier, Ramirez is originally from Mexico, born and raised. She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes in Chihuahua, Mexico which she described to me as a university that valued and trained in a very realistic, almost Renaissance style of painting we might compare to Florence’s Academia D’Arte. As with so many other painters throughout history, Ramirez learned the tools to create representational paintings, then decided to take the road less traveled and pave her own way into an abstraction color-field style all her own.
When you look at Ramirez’s paintings, you see bright patches of color. You see versions of what water might look like under a bold sun. You see an abstracted, almost pixelated scene of boats resting in a marina. You see a glimpse into the world as Ramirez sees it. Calm. Peaceful. Colorful. Being that she was classically taught, Ramirez didn’t consider her new style of painting to be validated as real art when it began taking shape. She told me that one day, she was taking pictures from a dock and accidentally dropped her camera into the water. Once the images were retrieved, they had this pixelated look to them; the water and the boats were broken into squares and other geometric shapes. This happy accident prompted her to look closer at scenes she was already accustomed to seeing.
Ramirez started to notice pure colors, shapes, forms, and consequently, she started to feel pure emotions. This was the birth of her newest body of work, and her reawakening as an artist. Vibrancy and tranquility coexist in Ramirez’s work. She explores this concept of the broken image by juxtaposing organic forms found in nature with geometric shapes and lines created by man made boats. At first glance, something in these paintings feels broken or perhaps pieced together, like viewing a mosaic or stained glass. Then you take a second glance and you stop, you look closer at the paintings, and this is the exact effect Ramirez is hoping she will elicit from every viewer. She wants to offer us an opportunity to slow down, look closer, to see, really see her work, just the way that she now sees water. “Those colors are actually there if you look closely, and the colors can tell you a story. We are so accustomed to seeing everything as these images, like we are already trying to recognize something how it is supposed to look. You have to really observe what you see and let the colors speak to you.”
Alma Ramirez doesn’t just spend all her time in reflection, however. She collects these images, colors, emotions, and then she works and works. She wakes up with intention, gives her art the same enthusiasm, and once she starts painting, she can’t stop. “The catalyst for me in becoming a professional artist was when I started believing in myself, when I stopped asking. Some days are very hard, but I show up for my art. The more I believe it’s possible, the more real it gets. If you paint just for selling, it becomes only a product. Painting for me is a means of experimenting, playing, healing. Some days I start painting at 10am and don’t stop until 10pm. I want to be there.” Ramirez has taught herself how to stay in the moment, to work, to believe, and to allow the elements that constantly change to do just that, and she will adapt with them. Just like water.
A few years ago, Ramirez donated a piece to a fundraising training event for the sailing team at Jacksonville University and they took her out on one of their boats. She watched the sails dance in front of her- an energetic, dynamic movement coming from a geometric shape that delicately cut everything organic around it. The clouds, the sky, the water, the sails, all dancing and moving together. Transformation is an ongoing process, as is the passing of time and so, the movement of water.
You can find the work of Alma Ramirez at Southern Grounds and The Vault in San Marco, Holly Blanton Art Studio Gallery in Atlantic Beach, and at the Cathedral Arts Project building Downtown. Join her for the opening reception on July 18 th at North Laura Street, Ste 300, from 530-730.