We’ve all been to art galleries and enjoyed wandering through each space to discover classic and contemporary works of art; but have you ever seen oil paintings that capture that experience? Of people in art galleries looking at art?
American artist Michelle Ramin decided to paint about her trip to the Louvre in Paris – something she’d dreamt of visiting her whole life – and created a series of oil paintings that capture the maddening crowds and excited atmosphere of France’s most famous gallery.
However, during her first visit – she and her husband didn’t anticipate just how busy the space could get, or that people would be fighting over each other to take pictures with their cameras or smartphones. On seeing the Mona Lisa she said: “I looked through the doorway and the excitement quickly turned to frustration and anger. Where was she? All I could see was a huge pile of people, pushed up against each other like an ant hill that’s been disrupted. The Mona Lisa was hidden behind a sea of endless faces. And not just faces – but cell phones, screens, cameras and arms stretching as far as they could get their tech into the air.
"It was kind of an amazing experience. Not at all what I had expected – much more grotesque in a way. But also so much more contemporary and a representation of us, of me, of you, of all of us. This is what life is like now – waiting in line is no longer about making awkward eye contact with your neighbour and possibly striking up a conversation about the weather or the untimely death of a rock icon. It’s about living alone in our worlds through a glowing, swiping screen.”
When she returned to America, Michelle decided to make this body of work about the distance created between reality and our digital lives. She added: “Rather than rely on the endless flood of photos from social media, I use oil painting as a means to force myself and the viewer to slow down and dissect these moments of group interaction/disconnection. Recreating not just famous artworks, but also the portraits of those experiencing them has led me to a deeper questioning of art history’s evolution; how will the canon of essential art be considered once it becomes merely another set of digital blips in the social media feed, one that is ever-faster flying by?”
Hailing from North Central Pennsylvania by way of Portland, Oregon, Michelle received her BA from Penn State University and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She has exhibited locally and internationally, and was awarded the prestigious San Francisco Bay Guardian 2014 Goldie Award for Excellence in Visual Art. She currently lives and works in San Francisco.