Artist Announcement: Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams is a painter and muralist residing in his hometown of Portland, Maine. He began emulating the work from his comic books as a child, but when he received his first copy of 'Subway Art', at age 10, his life became consumed by bright colors and bending letter forms. His current work is inspired by his experiences in graffiti culture and a pure obsession for letters; as well as conveying human emotions and insecurities using bold imagery inspired by traditional tattoo flash.

Here is an Interview we conducted with Ryan: 


What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Ryan Adams and I am from Portland, Maine.

What did you want to be growing up?

I wanted to be a ninja turtle, a lawyer and DJ. I’d say that I did a pretty good job following up on all of those.

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech?

I am a painter, muralist and graffiti writer. My current work is inspired by life experiences and a serious passion for letters.  My watercolor pieces express the perpetual struggle: trying to navigate life and love as a grown man with the mind of a 16-year-old at summer camp. My series of acrylic letter studies use light and shadow to create movement and depth amongst geometric breakdowns of sayings and phrases.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

Dondi White, for showing us all how to beautifully bend and stylize letter forms. Steve Powers, for showing me that vandalism can still be creative and that those who partake in said vandalism can have a legitimate future that still includes letter obsession/study. Dave Chapelle for showing me that conveying human emotions and social issues that are often very uncomfortable to address, is best accomplished through humor and excessive flatulence jokes.

What is inspiring you right now?

Mainly my inspiration comes from the cornucopia of experiences and ‘feels’ that I have as I grow older and move on to the next phases in life. The uneasiness of not really knowing what tomorrow holds is a constant in my life (see, "anxiety", 2011) and I like to embrace that feeling and really analyze and break down all of the feelings, thoughts, images and happenings that occur throughout my day. Also, Instagram and Pinterest.

What kind of environment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

I like to create in a space where I can have music playing very loudly and not judged for my intermittent dance moves. I may not be the best painter or the best dancer, but I am a serious contender for the best studio paint-dancer. As of lately, I have been listening to my normal, inspiring ignorant rap music (Future, Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Travis $cott, ASAP Rocky), lyrical rap music (Run The Jewels, Kendrick, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom), classic rap music (Wu-Tang, Nas, Slick Rick, Company Flow), instrumental rap music (Dilla, Madlib, Flying Lotus, Pete Rock) and Rush – “Tom Sawyer”.

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

The ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ wall at the Asylum in 2000 completely blew my mind. All of the distinct graffiti styles coming together to make one cohesive wall was something that I had only seen (or payed attention to) in magazines. I stared at that wall for hours. Also, the fact that it was created by these elusive figures added an extra bit of appeal.

How long have you lived in Maine?

Born and raised. Only left for educational purposes and quickly returned.

What do you like about the art scene here?

I really like how accepting a lot of the local business are to artists at all levels. Everybody needs that shot to show work and I think it’s awesome that you can pretty much find some place to show in town if you’re a freshman at MECA or showing at museums every month. I also like how the city is supportive of the working artist and the value they provide to the community.

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

I’d like to see more people be rewarded for going apart from the heard and trying new things by the more big name outlets. Nothing stymies artistic progression like making people scared to try something new. It would be great to see more popular galleries, magazines, and websites that have the ability to showcase artists to a wide audience, take a chance on someone who is not as well-known or doesn’t paint Maine landscapes. They may not bring in the immediate dollars from the tourists/collectors that are looking for certain names or styles, but there will be those breakthrough gems that inspire others and move things forward.

What’s next for you? Anything upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

 I just had one of the craziest spring/summer/fall stretches that I’ve ever had. Winter is approaching and I have already chosen the pajamas that I will not shed until April 2016. I have some smaller mural jobs that need to be completed, then I plan on hibernating in my studio and completing a new body of work before the nice weather returns.

You can check out more of Ryan's work on his website here