Duplex: Tell us about your background.
Michelle Ramin: I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of North Central Pennsylvania – a small town called Williamsport. From when I was a kid, I’ve always loved art and art making. I spent a lot of time with my Mimi (my grandmother) growing up and we would draw together. When I was in high school, I took a couple of painting classes and got hooked for good! I decided to major in art at Penn State University, about an hour drive from my hometown.
After graduation, my boyfriend (now husband) and I decided to move somewhere beautiful, inexpensive and creative. I was/am very connected to Elliott Smith’s music so I knew he had grown up in Portland. We thought, “What’s good enough for Elliott is good enough for us!” We didn’t know anyone in Portland really so we just took a chance, packed up our little red Neon, and drove across the country. No jobs, little money, no secured apartment. That was 2005.
We lived in Portland very happily until we decided to move to San Francisco in 2010 so I could to go to graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute. I graduated in 2012 with my MFA and I’ve been drawing and painting and exhibiting ever since. My husband and I still live and work in SF. Read More «In the Studio – Michelle Ramin»
Duplex: Tell us a little about your installation.
Kathryn Cellerini Moore: This particular piece that I’ve been working on for Duplex brings together my recent experience of losing my mom (she passed away on Christmas) with a theme I’ve been working on for over three years now. Between ages four to six years old, I was obsessed with the movie The Wizard of Oz. I wasn’t reminded of that until a few years ago when I inherited some things from my mom that she’d held on to for me. It included an Oz coloring book I had completed with images from the movie with a dedication the inside cover to my mom, also some Polaroid images of my first pair of ruby slippers, handmade by my mom and I, and images of me dressed as Dorothy. The fact that she hung on to these items is significant to me because she lost or gave up a lot of her possessions later in her life. This included the property she called home for nearly 20 years. Those Polaroids and coloring book are relics of my childhood and I know she was proud to give them to me. Since then, I have been thinking about my relationship to Dorothy, asking “What if I had a pair of ruby slippers now? What would that mean and how would they function?” and “What is the yellow brick road?” In the movie, it’s the route that takes Dorothy home. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more it made sense to me that the yellow brick road was a bigger metaphor for life. The yellow brick road consists of many bricks that we each lay for ourselves and each brick represents a memory.
Some of the bricks, like memories, feel perfect; in brick form, very rectangular. Some of them are charred; some of them are fragmented or just little tiny glimpses or pieces. When I imagine an entire yellow brick road from beginning to end, I see a lifespan. So I’m approaching this installation as the end of my mom’s yellow brick road. My intent is to harness grief with a childlike playfulness while addressing familial relationships. For me, right now, this is both a dark and necessary topic but it is important to achieve balance with beauty and light. Grief is beautiful and ugly and everything in between. It’s uneven and so the bricks will be that way in the installation. There will be weeds and grass growing in between the bricks as though the yellow brick road hasn’t been tended recently. The wheelbarrows are vessels that contain the materials necessary to build the yellow brick road. They are called Mobile Dorothy I and Mobile Dorothy II. They are painted in a pattern mirroring the dress Dorothy wears. Mobile Dorothy I contains the bricks, or memories ready to pave the road. Mobile Dorothy II holds all the grass and dirt. Wheelbarrows are very functional items and for me they are symbolic of the maker of the road. Additionally, my grandfather was a mason so there is a family connection with these materials.