I first saw Abigail Rivera Ramirez’s painting show up on my Instagram. I was immediately stunned by them, then it said her paintings would be at a local event for people to see. When the event happened, I raced down there, and there they were, attached to a fence outside in the open air. I stood there staring at them, so many characters on the canvas, each with their own personality, but at the same time, they seemed one with everyone and everything in the painting. The paintings captured my imagination, it was easy to make up stories for each person, to believe you had met everyone in her paintings, to think you were one of the characters. The attention to detail was astounding, all the little tattoos, the way the eyebrows were done, the ghostly iconic figures such as Jesus and Micky Mouse in the background. You can look at her paintings for hours, and every time you see something new, a different person or object lurking in the background, and you find yourself completely surprised again by what is happening. Abigail Rivera Ramirez doesn’t allow for a focal point, you think the focal point is this one person or object, but then your eyes drift somewhere else and you find a new focal point. It feels like an abundance of communication like she is trying to celebrate the entire emotion, an emotion that can’t be put into words.
Noah: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like? Were you into sports/solitary/goth, etc?
Abi: I was born and raised in East Las Vegas. I lived with my grandma for most of my childhood with my whole family in one room. I grew up with a lot of boy cousins and a brother so there wasn’t a lot of femininity brought upon me at a young age. We played the Nintendo and boxed a lot. Living with my grandma was always hectic, it led to me developing anxiety at a very young age and have dealt with it all of my life. It was always hard for me to stick to one thing I’ve always picked up several hobbies but painting is the only one that stuck.
Noah: When did you realize you could paint and people liked it? What was it like learning you had a special talent in this big world? Was your family supportive of this creativity?
Abi: I’m grateful to have had parents and family who gifted me coloring books and sketch pads as a kid. I’ve always drawn and painted. It’s crazy because I’ve really been able to see my growth from when I was like 6 until now. I think the only reason I’m able to do the things I do now creatively is because of what I did then. I’ve learned so much. I always did it for fun and I think it’s always helped with my anxiety. Highschool was the first time I wanted to actually learn and improve so I decided to take a painting class. I would mostly paint from reference and paint album covers or pictures I thought looked cool. At the time not a lot of my pieces were original but I was very consistent and got invited to attend local backyard art shows on the eastside. I met a lot of other young artists and it was inspiring to me. I found myself wanting to pursue painting and find my own way. It wasn’t until 2020 that I began to find my own style in painting. It was so exciting for me. Once I figured out how I wanted to paint I began thinking of so many ideas to create. I still haven’t brought them all to life. I think when I really realized I had potential is when I had my first solo show and so many people showed up to view my work. I felt so supported and loved. My parents are supportive of what I do. I don’t think they really understand the art world or how far I want to get with it. They don’t take art serious but they do support most things I do.
Noah: What art/music/movies/tv shows, etc. inspire you? Do you listen to music while you paint, if so what music? What other artists blow you away? What are the things in your little things in your life that inspire you?
Abi: Two artists who have inspired me since I’ve started finding my own style are Michael Alvarez and Sickid. They include bits and pieces of Mexican culture and a lot of their work always felt comforting and familiar to me. Keith Haring was also the first artist I was interested in I loved the pop of color he used and that he was an activist and you could see that in his work.
I’ve never really listened to a song and that inspired me to paint anything specific. Music just always helps me in general and motivates me to paint. I always listen to it while painting and it varies with my mood. I like to listen to ska, reggae, old-school rap, or sometimes just very calm instrumentals. Sometimes I will even listen to frequencies because when I’m stressed on a painting, I get anxious and it gets hard to focus. Frequencies help.
I get inspired by things I see daily. I get inspired by my community. This city (Las Vegas) has always inspired me and the experiences I’ve had here especially. Women and feminine people inspire me, they have always made me feel safe and beautiful. Anything that speaks to my soul inspires me. I could be walking down the street and see someone with cool hair or makeup and that will inspire me. Or I could see a cool looking building and it will inspire me. Sometimes other people’s experiences inspire me as well. I’ve heard a lot of stories that I’ve wanted to bring to life.
Noah: How would you describe your painting? What does it mean to you? What is it you are trying to express in your heart?
Abi: Painting means everything to me. It has helped me heal in many ways. I’ve painted through a lot of struggle and trauma and I believe sometimes it shows in my work. I try to bring awareness to struggles I have had that other people may relate to. More than anything it helps me process things and understand what I am feeling. I try to include small things that bring comfort to me like memories from my childhood or things I see in Las Vegas.
Noah: What makes you choose your themes? When I view your painting, it seems like you are celebrating Las Vegas and its cast of characters. How does Las Vegas inspire you? What do you think is distinct about living in Las Vegas?
Abi: A lot of themes I choose come from moments I am reflecting on my life and experiences. It felt like my thoughts were constantly consumed by my past and I didn’t know what to do about it. I would turn those thoughts into ideas, then ideas into paintings. I am for sure celebrating Las Vegas. I think this city is very unique and I love the sense of community I’ve always felt here. I love all the neon lights and the orange sunsets. I like to include a lot of pink/orange sunsets because it feels warm, like home. I find inspiration in the fact that this city doesn’t sleep. There is always something going on here. I like that people come here from all over the world but you also meet people who’ve been here their whole life. So many stories here. I find that the experiences people have here are ones you couldn’t have anywhere else and that I relate to a lot of people who grew up here. Whether it is struggle or love, I always find inspiration in everything here.
Noah: How did you learn to fit so many people and things happening in your paintings? It reminds me of Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, a lot is happening, there is depth to the picture, and the audience can wonder for hours, what everyone is doing.
Abi: People are my favorite to paint. I love to paint makeup on characters in my work and give them their own style/ story. I forget that others don’t see my thought process and what each person represents. It’s always something different and usually all align with my theme. I like to bring the working class, sex workers, street vendors, and queer people into my work. Representation is important to me.
Noah: I have a lot time of looking at your paintings, to me, it seems like the people are mountains. When anyone drives outside of Las Vegas, in any direction, you see staggered mountains, you see the first closest mountains, and then in the distance, greater mountains. I’m from the Midwest and only been here ten years, but you are a native Las Vegan, how has the desert backdrop of our lives, affected your art?
Abi: The mountains have definitely made me feel trapped in a sense at times. I love to connect with nature I love to paint outside but growing up in Vegas this has always been hard due to how hot it gets. 117 degree weather makes everything a lot harder and frustrating. I think my relationship with the mountains would be better if it weren’t so hot. If I wasn’t in the desert. I paint a lot of pink sunsets and I try to exude heat in my paintings and how it effects the people here. I see how short tempered and exhausted they are. On the other hand the mountains have also given me a sense of comfort. I look at them all around me and realize how small I am. How little my problems are. This allows me to paint without worry. Allows me to do things that make me happy without feeling guilty
Noah: The way you see people is really astounding. The world is full of criticism, ranking systems, hierarchies, patriarchies, race/religious/class divisions, etc. People are doing terrible things all the time to each other. It is easy, to become a “fuck you” person. When did you start to see the beauty in people, this immenseness of each person I see in your paintings? How do you keep from falling into the mindset of negativity and cynicism?
Abi: I didn’t grow up in the best circumstances myself. I wasn’t treated the best and lived in an area where I was exposed to a lot of struggle. I saw a quote recently that explained it best by Dennis Lehane. He said, “Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye and realizing you could be them and all that separated you is luck.” I think I’ve always been empathetic. I remember as a kid I would make hot chocolate for the houseless folk around my house during the winter time and always felt emotional doing it. Regardless of how people treat me or the world, I see them for their individual life experiences. And products of that. Hurt people hurt people and I’ve always kept that in mind. I am no one to judge another person.
I don’t sell most of my work but prints can be bought on Instagram @gooodnewz
Business inquiries are also taken through Instagram or email: Riveraabigail49@gmail.com