I met Ricky “Rico” Heeraman this past December during Miami Art Week at his exhibition at Spectrum-Miami located in the heart of Wynwood, the veritable National Gallery of Street Art. In a show of hundreds of artists, this man’s work beamed from the walls of his spot. Perhaps it was his energy, his originality, but most likely it was all that AND his incredible work. Within a few short minutes of making eye contact and remarking at how much I enjoyed his work, we were talking like we’d known each other for years, and we got it. It wasn’t that we’d known each other at all, it was that we were two original dudes who never asked for anything, who love art, and who did it on our own. So the bond was legit. This guy grew up, and remains today, in the veritable mecca of Graffiti culture, New York City. Bronx born, Rico fell in love and was infused with the colors, the imagination, the essence of Graffiti. Beyond the legality issue, is an identity issue. Much like the Pyramids, or the Aztec temples define a culture, Graffiti defines its own cultural relevance but it knows no borders. Where one is introduced to Street Art, is where their cultural experience begins. Where someone sparks their imagination for the first time, is where their identity with Street Art is realized. See, the culture isn’t about lawlessness or rebellion, as starchier folks would have you believe, it’s about the expression of oneself in a world built around suppressing that expression, and dulling it into one boring ass societal tuna casserole.
Rico lives above that fray, in the land of an imagination that is off the charts with themes of self respect, childlike curiosity and humor, boundless energy, and a work ethic equal to few. If you’re ever up at 2am, wondering why you can’t sleep or wondering if the next day will bring that spark, that creative energy….know that somewhere, at that very minute, Rico is up creating magic, most likely on his latest commissioned space that will likely become the backdrop of the next big celebrity tweet, or IG post. Rico is the epitome of hustle, as are most artists we feature here…because he gets it…it’s not about the finish line, he never wants to be done, and knows that fame is fleeting, but fever is forever. The fever to create, the fever to hustle, the fever of the PROCESS! That’s where creativity lives, in the process, the lives we touch through that process, and the humanity that is the platform from which we operate. We can hole up in our studios, put on our fancy clothes every few months at some gala and pat each other on the back as to how exclusive we are, and have it all captured on IG and get millions of likes….and then get dusted off in 10 years like those fancy tattoo t-shirts everybody had to have not too long ago.
But let me offer you this alternative…we can put our head down, go to work 24/7/365; breathe in the passion that is art, and exhale the process. We can give back to the community through both our art, and our time, like Rico does…making the community great by inspiring current and future generations alike. Because right now, all over the world, the next young Street Picasso is lifting his head from his shoulders, the next Spray Can Serena is looking up to the buildings she passes on her way to school everyday….and that spark…that ignition of the next great street artist is about to happen. Let their imagination witness the greatness of Ricky “Rico” Heeraman, and all street artists like him, devoted to the process, and holding that matchstick that creates the spark ….and ignites their passion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, without further adieu, Meet the incomparable Ricky “Rico” Heeraman
Articentric: Talk about how you took your art to the next level in the form of a professional adventure.
Heeraman: I used to watch my uncle draw some cool stuff as a kid so drawing & sketching always been a part of my life. Growing up where I did I was exposed to a lot of raw, and colorful street art and graffiti which always caught my attention going and coming from school everyday. So basically I was a watch & learn type of student. Throughout my life I always kept art as a hobby I never pursued it as a professional adventure. My family is old school so they never really saw art as a “money maker” or secured future, so as a teenager I folded and did the dumbest thing in the world. I forced myself to go to college to study a major I wasn’t fully committed to. I just did it to make my family proud of me. Long story short I am not the school type of person for Christ sake I was studying Biology then switched to Clinical Psychology major in which I graduated a degree with. I mainly went college as a promise and fulfillment to my mother because she never had the opportunity to go because she had me at a young age. So I felt like I owe a lot to her. Even after college I kept art as a hobby. Until I hit a pivotal point in my life, I was working to dig myself out of personal debt I had gotten into, and I couldn’t afford to get my mother a nice gift like I usually do for her birthday. This one particular year like 5 years ago I painted her a beautiful hamsa hand painting with intricate details and I put it up on Instagram. All my friends went crazy over it, cause not a lot of people knew about my artistic side, they just knew I did a bunch of graffiti and I was pretty decent with different set of art skills. I always kept it as a back burner something I did on the side. When I found out how much attention it brought, I think I used my next paycheck to buy art materials and since 5 years ago Ive been buying art materials on the regular and ive been building my empire by myself. I started off doing paintings and putting pictures up on instagram, people would like my stuff, I would go to art gallery events, just to get my name out there and network, that’s basically the gist on how I rerouted my life into the art career. In a weird way if I wasn’t in that big of a financial hole years ago I wonder to myself if I would’ve ever did that painting for my mom, or if my talents would still be a self kept secret of mine.
Articentric: Talk about how your creative environment affects your art/your style?
Heeraman: I like to refer to my creative space/studio “The Tomb” I’m a huge fan of Egyptian history and art hence why my logo is an “Eye of Horus” and why I call my studio “The Tomb” plus there’s a ton of skulls in my studio all over the place some skeletons as well just waiting to get painted. Another reason why I refer to my creative space as “The Tomb” is because just like a Pharaoh in his tomb, I’m locked away from outside, no communication to no one else but myself. I can create by myself with no interference, nothing else matters in the world but me and my art when im in my tomb. When you come into my studio you’ll see archives of old paintings ive done over the years. Pieces that have been waiting to be seen by the world. I’m a huge fan of good energy and positive vibes so very frequently you’ll catch me burning some white sage & Palo Santo. Currently, I am looking for bigger studio space I need a lot of space for the type of work I do, plus I would like big space so this way other creatives/artists in the community area have a workshop to come and work and get their ideas out.
Articentric: Talk about your creative process. Are there different stages or do you just grab the brush and get after it?
Heeraman: My absolute favorite material to work with im sure everyone who knows me can attest to it being spray paint. Ever since I did my first tag, & throw up it became apart of me. My secondary materials I like to work with is of course fluid acrylic paints, watercolors, sometimes oil paints, I use resin as well, a lot of mixed media objects. Ive used clay skulls, glass, glitter, gold, yarn, and just about everything you can think of in my paintings. If I can find a way to make it stick and look good better believe im making it work. I create in many different ways.
Also the way I create depends on my mood. Somedays ill grab some spray paint and some brushes and go crazy. But majority of the time, I carefully research on how I will execute each painting. I use my vibrant colors to attract the audience into the bigger messages of my paintings. Some paintings will have me researching topics for about 2-3 weeks. I love the notepad app on my iPhone. That thing probably has about 30 different ideas of pieces I would love to paint. Like nobody really has a clue what goes on in my head.
Im used to doing street art/graffiti so im used to hearing cars, people all that outside stuff doesn’t bother me. Do I prefer hearing that stuff? Not at all, its annoying which is why I set my mood for when I paint. This is a HUGE key for when I paint. I do not care who is around or who is watching, I just need a dope playlist playing and make sure the volume is cranked all the way up.
Articentric: Your painting “Death Comes in 3’s” is one incredibly powerful piece. Can you talk a little bit about the INSPIRATION behind that painting, and also… talk a bit about how your style has developed since you began creating?
Heeraman: This piece happened so organically I love this 3 series piece. I went to the MoMA one day in NYC for some inspiration. They were giving away these large posters at the time I thought that’s what they were. Me being the guy that I am I saw them as canvases. I think I snagged like 6 of them. Later on that day when I went home I unraveled them and I noticed they weren’t a regular poster. It was a poster with a list of obituaries on it each victim died from Gun violence. Each victim had died in the year of 2013 in a 3 month span. Each victim had a gruesome explanation on how they died by gun violence. I noticed right away I cant do an ordinary painting on them. I wanted to paint my usual surreal skull I always paint with vibrant colors. Reason being, skulls represent death, but I used my sense of vibrant colors on the skull as imagery on how the USA thinks its beautiful & glorifies guns and gun violence because so many people die everyday from guns but yet nothing is done to stop it. I then took it a little further when I thought about the saying “Death Comes in 3s” which led me to paint 3 of these pieces all different colors & numbered.
Articentric: Your work is in some of the most unique and world renowned places, not to mention the veritable capital of the universe, New York City. How do you prioritize what environments you choose to exhibit your work in? Do you create with an idea of the finished product’s destination?
Heeraman: NYC/NJ is always home so they’ll always have priority, but I usually don’t have a preference other than my home base. My art belongs everywhere for the world to see. This year my art will be seen throughout America. Im doing a short tour. Some of my pieces will find new homes throughout the country/world this year.
Articentric: Do you have any current series’ in the works? Talk about your experiences with your shows, do you seek out specific events, environments, etc. to show your work?
Heeraman: I have a very personal collection I am working on soon which will include me painting on black & white photo prints of people in different countries affected by many different issues. Cant really say too much on this project right now because as I said it is very personal and private and will only be available on a smaller scale, this will be counted as my “rare works”.
I exhibit my works in environments I feel best fit. Which means galleries, fairs, charities, etc. I usually tend to work with charities who benefits the youth. Im very passionate about today’s youth. I feel like we all have a creative outlet and if everyone is aware of that the world can be a much more vibrant and peaceful place. Its not always about being better and beating someone or putting someone down. We have one life to live and I want these kids to live their lives to the fullest and experience the most with their borrowed time here on earth. Which is why I work with charities for children, and boys & girls clubs.
Articentric: I normally ask about your most recent exhibit, but I know you just came off Another incredible mural at Jue Lan Club in Manhattan, and a stellar showing at Spectrum-Miami during ArtBasel/Miami Art Week. Can you talk a bit about those and what you brought back from that artistically/inspirationally/emotionally?
Heeraman: Yes, I want to thank the owner of Jue Lan Club in NYC for that amazing opportunity. Ever since ive done that mural its opened so many doors for me. So many people have been contacting me for commissions, partnerships, and endorsements. They loved my work, they basically told me to go wild and let my imagination run free, I love them for that. Not too many people do that. A lot of people who commission artists to do things are veryyyyyy indecisive on what they want. What gave me a boost of inspiration was seeing all the celebrities going to the restaurant and dining in the graffiti alley I painted for the restaurant. Seeing so many celebrities love, repost, and comment on my work was very motivational.
As far as Spectrum Miami during Art Basel, it was phenomenal. It was my first time ever attending art basel let alone exhibiting. This year opened up my eyes very wide on how huge Basel really is and how much people really do love this art culture from a consumer’s point of view. I met so many contacts and future commissions at this show such as a car collector from Dubai who wants to commission me for his car collection, and I even met a lovely lady who is an imagineer at Disney headquarters. Next year for Art Basel im definetly going to kill it 100 times more.
Articentric: What do you hope that the audience takes away from their time spent viewing your art?
Heeraman: I want the people to look at my art and see the techniques and skills I used in each painting. For someone who has never went to art school at all, or learned from a mentor how I can put together a beautiful masterpiece. I create pieces to appeal to peoples eyes which is why I use the colors I do. I feel like once I draw their attention they’ll look hard enough to figure out the main messages in each piece.
Articentric: Rico, I am absolutely honored to be allowed to discuss your creative life with you. Being an artist myself I know how deeply personal some aspects of our process are, and also that there are those times we wish we could reach out to our audience and give them a better context of our passion, so thank you for being so open with all of us. I know the audience will all want to know where/when they can see your work currently? What is the best way to find out where you will be exhibiting next (Website, Facebook, etc.)
My Website: www.thericocollection.net
My Instagram: instagram.com/rickyheeraman