Talking surrealism, spirituality and kitty clothes with senior artist Storm Ritter

‘Everyday, I try to figure out how to fuck the system’

What’s it like to be an artist, designer, small business owner and a month away from graduation?

For Storm Ritter it’s all about finding a balance and making time for art.

We spoke to the senior artist about her work.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m an artist. Obviously. But I didn’t call myself an artist until perhaps last year. I was really against the term because school was so demeaning towards art. Even in college I would have to feel lesser because everything was so academically focused where as I was concentrated on art. I saw myself as a creative person in a business world.

I think moving to New York was what made me realize I need to do what I fucking want because you work too hard here to not do what you want to do. That experience has affected what I am currently thinking about and channeling through my work.

Tell me about your artistic process. Where do you get your inspiration?

Both of my parents are artists. They raised me on art. Before I was at Gallatin I was at a couple different schools specifically for fine art and for scenic design and then I was at Tisch for costume and set design. I studied quite how to create a cohesive concept through visuals quite a bit. In the past year and a half I started going back to painting. I basically work everything out of my sketchbook. I have around 20 sketchbooks that I’ve had for the past four or five years.

I’m influenced by what I’m learning about in school. At Gallatin, my colloquium is about didactic education, which basically is a method of self-education that I am applying to art. So everything that I have learned from all the different schools and all my classes has contributed to my art and has developed my perspective, which is rooted in surrealism.

I take a lot of esoteric influence from different centuries – from the Sixth Century to the Fourteenth Century – and philosophy. Most of my paintings are concentrated on symbols and color. Since I learned to paint with both hands the paintings became much more pop-y and whimsical. It’s been quite a journey.

Tell me about some of the symbols and colors that reoccur in your paintings.

I have a lot of religious, Italian Renaissance, bible-based concepts that imply more of an understanding of a divine or eternal as opposed to a belief in God. I was raised a Catholic and now I am a very spiritual person. I do tarot cards and I’m learning how to do palmistry with a celebrity psychic named Frank Andrews.

A lot of what he teaches me ties into my artwork. I’m on a journey and I’m trying to figure out how things in paintings from the sixth century are able to retain a similar meaning today.

How’d you meet your mentor?

I found his name online. When I moved to New York I had a few questions for him so I called him up, he invited me over to his house, we chitchatted for a while and then he asked to be my mentor.

Why did you start designing fashion?

I worked as a stylist assistant and I saw a lot of the fashion industry that I didn’t want to be a part of. Everything was so pre-created and lacked artistry. Designers are just making what can be sold and fashion has become so rooted in consumerism that I didn’t feel like it was right for me. I’ve always collected vintage clothes and I always dress a little crazy so I just decided to turn my paintings into textiles. I created stuff that I wanted to wear.

Why did you pick the name Graey studio?

I was writing a paper and I couldn’t remember if you spelled gray with an “a” or an “e” so I googled it and I realized you could spell it both ways, which I thought it was really silly. I fucking wanted it both ways so I spelled it “graey”. It was an act of rebellion and it stuck with me. I liked the idea of it being an inbetween space and I think it is something that consumers will be able to understand.

Describe your brand.

Let’s see. In both my brand as an artist and my brand as graey studio there is a sense of eccentric rebelliousness. Everyday, I try to figure out how to fuck the system. Goal of the day: fuck the system.

Can I meet your cat?

This is Velvet. Say hi!
Is Velvet wearing an outfit?

Of course! She’s always dressed. I got her when she was six weeks and she’s been wearing clothes ever since. I usually buy baby clothes for like a quarter from Goodwill and cut them up to fit her. She’s only naked when I leave. Sometimes she stays naked and she gets a little too wild and free and then I’m like, “Come on girl we’ve got to lady you up.”

Are you constantly creating?

It’s definitely constant. Ever since I started working as an ambidextrous artist I’ve become overly creative. I’ve been trying to develop two different creative styles. My right hand is more technical and my left hand is more expressionistic. I’ll use two different paintbrushes with two different colors at the same time, which allows me to kind of sculpt the painting. Painting keeps me balanced. As long as I keep artwork in my day I’m able to get everything else done.

Check out Storm Ritter on Instagram.

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