By Nohemi Rosales
Where does art originate? How can art be healing?
For Ricardo Bouyett, a fine art photographer and filmmaker, making art starts with two things; emotions and colors. It starts inside his mind; he experiences everything through color. To him, is a very intimate experience.
Inspiration also comes to him through his emotions. When asked why he makes certain pieces, Bouyett states that his feelings guide him. “I’m just a big bag of emotions. So when I feel something, it just floods until I explode,” he says. “When I see something in my mind, I just know I have to make it. I feel like something is taking over me."
Ranging from fine art portraiture, to short film narratives, Bouyett's art is subversive. Though it is fictional, it makes an impact by telling stories of real life issues. His photographs and films grapple with the complexities of toxic masculinity, homophobia, sexual and domestic violence, rape culture, gender, and race.
One of his very first projects was a poetry series titled Letters for My Body that he wrote for himself as a form of healing from the trauma of being a rape survivor. “At the time, I didn’t know who to talk to about it,” he says. “I had never heard men talk about [rape]. I had never even heard them mention it, so I didn’t know where to go.”
When asked about his work, Ricardo doesn’t really refer to himself as an artist, but rather someone who is just trying to get a story out there. In the photography and film industry, there is a lack of discussion on how men are involved in conversations and discourses about rape. “At the end of the day, all of these issues on domestic violence and sexual violence are men’s issues. And I don’t think they get addressed in that manner,” Bouyett says.
“We all know how crooked the system is,” he says. “But we’re not having conversations on how we can hold ourselves accountable. Let’s start with our homes, with our communities, and ask ourselves how we can change.”
“Ultimately," he says, “what I want to do with my art, is spark some inspiration in men, so that they can look within themselves and ask ‘how am I [contributing] to rape culture, how can I be a voice to change this culture?”
As a gay Puerto Rican, he lives to defy expectations imposed on him, whether it be about sexuality, gender, or race.
In his work, Bouyett beautifully confronts trauma, abuse, love, and desire. His photographs are whimsical, and slightly fantastical. They speak to the feelings we have, but cannot always explain.
In “Oh Buoy”, a collection of fine art photographs paired with poetry, there is a poem that examines manhood in American society, part of which reads;
“Shove me into a lilac bush.
Crush my bones and my heart,
So I can learn to unfeel.
Teach me the ways of men.
Bury me in the ground for refusing hate.
Scold me for loving other men.
Kill me in the name of machismo pride.
Teach me the ways of men.”
While going through Ricardo’s collection of short film narratives, entitled Lionheart, it is hard not to feel enveloped in a world that was at once both beautifully fictional and painfully real. The narratives pull at the heart: a mother who finds her son wearing lipstick, a man being beat up and called a faggot by his own brother, a woman being choked by her husband.
Though I don’t know the actors, the fictional victims of violence and hate, I know and feel their pain. The way Bouyett creates their realities is a mirror of our own lives, and he sparks the necessary reactions we should all have towards this violence.
His pieces are visually and emotionally invoking, truly provocative, and inspiring. Bouyett’s beliefs and creations leave viewers thinking that if we only had more art makers who are as in tune with their feelings and ideas and as passionate about transforming the current rhetoric of violence, rape, and identity as he is, we would see great, monumental change.