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Michelle Ramin

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Williamsport, PA

Birth year

Lives in
San Francisco

Works in
San Francisco


San Francisco Art Institute, 2012, MFA
Pennsylvania State University, 2005, BA

conceptual, figurative, realism


In my work, I feel compelled to expose the implications of masking - the kind seen in grainy surveillance tapes of bank robberies, in YouTube postings by Wall Street Occupiers, and on the face of a loved one concealing bad news. My graduate school experience culminates in one body of work, consisting of two parts, that addresses this concept. The first is a series of drawings that explores contemporary hipster culture and the identity politics associated with it. The second represents a critique on the institution and what it means to pose the question, “What’s next?”. Both iterations share similar aesthetics, discuss the figure, its relationship to the surrounding environment, and also incorporate the iconic balaclava (ski mask).  

I employ the medium of colored pencil on paper, utilizing what is normally considered a craft or low-end art material to conceptually invoke the innocence of youth. The pencil is layered obsessively as fetish in order to elevate the status of the material and, in effect, the concept. The highly-rendered subjects, central composition, and nonexistent backgrounds focus the viewer’s attention onto the intention of the work.

The image of the balaclava, originally designed as a device of comfort, has now come to represent terror through anonymity. In both series, I feature the balaclava in order to obliterate the unique identity of the figure, creating an anonymous character. However, by concealing the “true” identity of the figure, the balaclava provides a second, more challenging identity. The mask allows for a doubling of identities – a public face that is shown to others and a private face that is often concealed. 

In the first series, the images invoke a sense of youth and playfulness – a rejection of the “American Dream”, of success through ownership. My figures are all white, semi-privileged twenty-something hipsters playing in their favorite Nikes, smoking cigarettes and lounging in the banality of middle-class existence. The masks enable the adults to act as children, embracing nostalgia through riding tricycles, going camping, and watching television on Mom’s floral couch.

The second series considers an alternate side of adulthood - What it means to be part of the institution. The exposed female bodies, vulnerable and alone, live in the picture plane with little more than utilitarian chairs to keep them company. Still veiled with the balaclava, the figures all share the same identifiable tattoo. The balaclava attempts to wipe out identity but the bare skin gives the subject away. The chairs function as a metaphor for the institution – a space of transition (in effect, a waiting room). This space serves as a stage of exploration and, inevitably, competition, as in musical chairs. This body of work specifically references the process of making and of the graduate school experience.

Masks at once embody the coward and the empowered, the child and the adult. Using this image to explore the unique situation of the generation now coming-of-age and its struggle to identify its place in history, my work digs into this contemporary dilemma hoping to emerge with something that looks like truth.


Michelle Ramin was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and received her BFA at Pennsylvania State University. She graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with an MFA in painting in 2012. Ramin has recently exhibited her work nationally and internationally, most recently at at Root Division and Southern Exposure in San Francisco, and the Froelick Gallery in Portland. She has had solo shows at ANKA Gallery, FalseFront, and Bellamy Gallery in Portland, Oregon; and at the Patterson Gallery in University Park, Pennsylvania. In 2011, Ramin received the Jack and Gertrude Murphy Fellowship, and was honored with the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Painting from SFAI in 2012.



1982 Williamsport, PA


2012 M.F.A. Painting, San Francisco Art Institute
2005 B.A. Fine Art, Pennsylvania State University


2010 Don’t Forget To Write, FalseFront, Portland, OR
Shut Up, I Love You, Bellamy Gallery, Portland, OR
2009 Need It/Got It, FalseFront, Portland, OR
Exoskeleton, ANKA Gallery, Portland, OR
2005 Empires Don’t Last Forever, Patterson Gallery, University Park, PA


2012 Undressing Room, Froelick Gallery, Portland, OR
SFAI MFA Exhibition - Vernissage, Phoenix Hotel, San Francisco, CA
Contemporary Art Center’s 23rd Annual Juried Show, CAC, Las Vegas, NV
International Drawing Project, PR1 Gallery, UCLAN, United Kingdom
MFA Now 2012, Root Division, San Francisco, CA
2011 Proof, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA
Frontrunners: The San Francisco Foundation 2011 Murphy & Cadogan
Fellowship Awards Exhibition, SOMArts, San Francisco, CA
All Together Now, Space 204 Gallery, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Eye of the Beholder, Root Division, San Francisco, CA
Mondo Tondo, Swell Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Southern Exposure’s 11th Annual Monster Drawing Rally, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA
2010 BOOM!, Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA
Under 100 Show, Treehouse Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2009 Big 100 Show, Olympic Mills, Portland, OR
Enormous Tiny Art Show, Nahcotta Gallery, Portsmouth, NH
The Love Show, LaunchPad Gallery, Portland, OR
Pink Elephant Art Show, Milepost 5, Portland, OR
2008 PULSE, Children’s Heart Foundation Fundraiser and Art Auction, Curated by
Mark Woolley, Portland, OR
The Dream Show, LaunchPad Gallery, Portland, OR
Plumb, PIP Gallery, Portland, OR
Permanent Collection, Gallery L’une, Manzanita, OR
2007 Thirty Show, OM Tradition Arts, Portland, OR
Local 14 Art Show and Sale, West Linn, OR
Shell Show, Vino Paradiso, Portland, OR
Timbuk2 Artist Originals, Ace Hotel, Portland, OR
Animals, Hall Gallery, Portland, OR
2006 Art Media Group Show, Portland Art Center, Portland, OR


2012 New American Paintings, MFA Annual Catalogue, No. 99
International Drawing Project 3, Warren Craghead, 3 March, 2012, United Kingdom
MFA Now: Archive, Root Division, San Francisco, CA
“Michelle Ramin and SFAI Grad Show”, John Trippe, Fecal Face
“Next Day Flyers Presents: Michelle Ramin Drawing,” Amir H. Fallah, Beautiful Decay
2011 “Painting by Michelle Ramin,” John Trippe, Fecal Face
2010 Our Portland Story Volume One, Melissa Ann Delzio
“Fine Art of Raising Cash: Michelle Ramin funds MFA degree selling her works,” Alysse Dalessandro, AOL’s WalletPop
“Interview with Michelle Ramin,” Neely Thomas, Fossil
“Portland/Brooklyn Artist Series,” Cathy McMurray, Habit of Art
2009 “Artist Profile Series – Michelle Ramin,” Paul Culp, Cinematics
“Michelle Ramin + FalseFront on Art Focus,” Lisa Radon, Portland Monthly Magazine
“Michelle Ramin and Jason Doize,” Eva Lake, KBOO radio’s Art Focus
“Five Things with Michelle Ramin,” Virginia Kraljevic, Virginia. The Blog!
“PDX Local: Michelle Ramin,” Jena Modish, We Love Indie
“Last Friday Pick July 2009,” PORT, Listing
“Break through the recession: Michelle Ramin shows economic woes bring inspired art,” Alysse Dalessandro, Venus Zine
“Design*Sponge Pick,” Grace Bonney, Design*Sponge
2008 “Bohemian Hellhole Volume 2: Featured Artist,” Shelley Harmon, Bohemian Hellhole
“Pretty Things for an Ugly Day,” Amy Rosko, Portland Mercury
2007 “Timbuk2 Charity Event,” Megan Driscoll, PORT, Listing


2012 Teaching Assistant, Digital Painting – Mark Van Proyen, San Francisco Art Institute
2011 Teaching Assistant, Anatomy – Brett Reichman, San Francisco Art Institute
2011 Records Assistant, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
2011 Set Designer/Artist, Westernized Productions, OnLive Commercial, San Francisco, CA
2010 Arts Content Intern, SF Station, San Francisco, CA


2012 Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Painting - SFAI
2011 Jack and Gertrude Murphy Fellowship


Jimenez-Colon Collection, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Recent Exhibits

Michelle Ramin participated in these exhibits:

Mar, 2012 23rd Annual Juried Show
Contemporary Arts Center, Las Vegas
Feb, 2012 MFA Now 2012 Juried Exhibition and Archive Project
Root Division
Aug, 2011 Frontrunners: The San Francisco Foundation 2011 Murphy & Cadogan Fellowship Awards Exhibition
SOMArts Cultural Center
Jun, 2011 Eye of the Beholder
Root Division
Feb, 2011 Southern Exposure's 11th Annual Monster Drawing Rally
Verdi Club
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