Through rich and colourful symbolism, Bony Ramírez uses art to reflect on his Caribbean culture
The artist, now based in New Jersey, refers to his aesthetic as “pre-colonisation Caribbean luxury”. Here, we discuss his thought-provoking practice.
- Ayla Angelos
- 27 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Bony Ramírez finds working in a single medium restrictive. Rather, the Dominican Republic-born and New Jersey-based artist prefers to use a whole host of mediums. This includes 2D mixed-media paintings, polymer clay and resin sculptures, all the while using clay, acrylics and oil pastels to reflect on social and political topics – themes spurred on by his Caribbean upbringing.
Born in Tenares, Bony moved to the US with his family at the age of 13. “I grew up in the countryside of DR, so the streets are not even paved – they’re just rocks, dirt and lots of trees,” he tells It’s Nice That, pointing out how he had a great childhood no less, and how he was shy and reserved yet “always had a crazy imagination”. Although art was not so much pushed in the nation’s education curriculum, Bony always found a way to channel his great interest in drawing and colouring books. “When we moved to the US, I was able to learn new techniques and be better at it, specifically during high school,” he adds, explaining how despite graduating with a 4.0 GPA with multiple honours, he still wasn’t able to attend college for both financial and personal reasons. “Initially it really affected me mentally, thinking: ‘How am I going to get into the art world with no higher education or connections?’ So my path to success was really blurred. How was I supposed to grow as an artist and have teachers recommend me for different exhibitions and positions? It seemed really impossible, so I was stuck in that negative mentality for about two whole years.”
Fortunately, Bony was able to break free of this mindset and began taking action to follow his dreams. As such, he commenced work on his practice, which later transpired into the development of a more polished and original style. “This unique style later caught the attention of different galleries and curators,” he says, “and it has taken me to places I thought I'd never reach as a self-taught artist.”
Describing his aesthetic as “pre-colonisation Caribbean luxury”, Bony is tremendously inspired by people and his culture. It’s the rich, colourful symbolism and cultural narratives that he pulls from Caribbean culture in order to consciously share with the world: “Our unique customs and traditions are a great source of inspiration,” he says, recalling how his nature-filled childhood in the Dominican Republic was an effortless part of his journey as an artist. “The trees, the beaches, the animals are all an important part of my creative feed,” whereby the Renaissance period and interior design play a welcomed and juxtaposing part of his practice.
Now spending approximately nine hours a day in the studio, the artist juggles multiple projects at once – making sure there’s a healthy mix of both paintings and sculptures. The more the merrier, as Bony’s works are immensely layered and take various steps to complete, so he will start work on something new while a piece is drying or setting. Most recently, he finished up a few pieces for a group show at Thierry Goldberg Gallery on the Lower East Side of New York. “I experimented a lot with these pieces, so I love how they turned out,” he says. One image specifically, titled I Miss The Ocean, plays up to this experimental practice; Bony collaged hobby knife blades on to the panel, and paired it with a “strong solid blue” background that he adores. Other pieces include The Coconut The Tide Left and The Storm, in which Bony has formed a patterned texture with oil pastel, “that came out really good on both pieces,” he adds. “It’s definitely something I will be playing with in the future.”
All of the aforementioned pieces play important components to his exploration and depiction of Caribbean culture, “and all have different motifs that are unique to the Caribbean too! Whether it’s in the fauna depicted in the pieces or the objects in them, I really think I succeeded in representing my people and my culture in this show.” A medley of culture, history and symbolism, Bony’s work is a thought-provoking pool of aesthetically and cleverly thought out art. Not to mention his exuberantly positioned characters, that inadvertently evoke questions into the narrative behind his works. “I always try to make my figures interesting enough so they’re just more than a pretty image. Even if it’s a negative reaction, as long as it made you look, I know that I did my job.”
“On the other hand, I really like sharing my culture with the world through my work," he continues. "I feel like Caribbean culture is so rich and wonderful, and it’s sometimes overlooked because the Caribbean itself is very small, but our people and our cultures are very complex and full of colour.” Concluding on the matter, Bony leaves us with his final and impactful thought: “I really want to represent for my people and give Caribbean art the place it deserves in the contemporary art world.”
Bony Ramírez: No Toques Mis Guantes (2020) Salomé