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A dash of art

South Boston News
Wyatt Ramsey / January 09, 2014
At The Prizery this coming Sunday will be 30 faces in 29 frames. Some were friends of artist Wyatt Ramsey, others complete strangers. Each was painted in a mere two hours.

The artist admitted that two hours was an unusually short sitting, but it was a good time frame for most people. Normally, he said, formal portraits take 30 to 40 hours — too long for many people to bear holding still.

Before Thanksgiving, Ramsey put out a call on Facebook, seeking fresh subjects to paint for his upcoming art show. Responses were instantaneous.

“It was pretty freaking crazy,” he said. “I had like 40 people contact me that night.”

He aimed to paint one person a day, show it off at The Prizery exhibit, then give the painting to each subject free of charge.

Making friends and painting in Savannah, Ga., inspired him to do something similar here — prompting his unorthodox approach.

A native of South Boston who has been away at college, Ramsey wanted to reconnect with his hometown. His goal, he said, was to foster “a sense of community that I feel is waning in today’s techno-driven culture. Painting is a dinosaur compared to other art forms. It once held the status that movies and gaming have today in telling our culture’s story. But now it is a vestigial remnant of something that has adapted into the entertainment industry.”

The sessions allowed Ramsey to spend quality time with people.

“I learned some of my neighbors’ stories! I actually had a person sit for me who had been my neighbor for over 10 years, and this was the first time I got to know her. Isn’t that sad?” he said.

There is “a lot of good art in South Boston,” he said, citing other painters like Bob Cage, Betty Caldwell and Karen Shelton.

Even with his skills rusty, Ramsey met his goal of a portrait a day. He compensated for lost time on holidays like Thanksgiving by painting several on some days — a benefit of the two-hour time limit.

Said Ramsey: “This exhibition of portraits are all painted from life. There are no enhancements, retouches, or do-overs. I think in that way paintings are a lot like life. Paintings are very real, personal and riddled with the flaws of an artist hand.”

Ramsey’s exhibit opens this Sunday with a free reception for the public 3-5 p.m. at The Prizery. It remains on view for a month. Ramsey will accept commissions during the reception and plans to donate 30 percent of those commissions to The Prizery.

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