Whether he is painting, teaching, curating or creating a video, multimedia artist Humberto Ramirez is likely to be thinking about social issues and the power of art in shaping values and perceptions.
In his exhibit at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret, Vermont, on view from May 17 through June 1, Ramirez’s abstract paintings allude to botanical gardens that use the conventions of abstraction but go further, delving into the deeply rooted experience of the body and the world. In a way, he explained, “they are less a radical denial of social reality than a reaffirmation of the desire for creative space and autonomy. The works are about form, space, light and color,” he added. “They point to the corporeal world and seek to transcend it.”
If this concept seems difficult to grasp, it may be because Ramirez is trained in both the sciences and the humanities, and he applies both when reflecting on contemporary cultural theory and experience. In addition to working in various media, he also teaches and lectures on topics as diverse as post-modern theory, cultural criticism, psychoanalytic theory and globalization. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting, both from Florida State University, and he also attended medical school for a year, deepening his interest in molecular biology — all the while writing poetry and identifying as a writer.
His education began when he left Chile in 1975 during Pinochet’s reign of terror. Coming to the United States where his father lived, he soon found that studying the sciences for a clinical career was not so interesting to him as depicting politics and culture through an empirical lens. “The experience of scientific research was immensely influential,” he said. “Life was visual under the microscope, and it was beautiful. There were riveting images that looked abstract, but they were complete representations that most artists are never exposed to.”
Now a professor of art at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, and at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, and a Vermont resident, his work has been widely shown in the U.S. and abroad since his early days as a New York-based artist. Recently, he participated in a video exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), and in a video series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.