Manon Raman exudes her creativity. It is in her clothing, her jewelry and even her Greenpoint apartment, specifically her paint-smudged wooden dining table and her many multi-colored paintings that adorn the walls of her home. And that creativity is obviously on display in her home studio with her paintings and materials lined up. Raman wears a lavender sweater and paint-splattered white jeans with splashes of pastel. Her own earring designs, big, chunky, and colorful, hang on her ears.
She is the brightest thing about this gloomy, cloudy day in her cozy, vibrant home. She drinks coffee while I drink the lemon tea that she offered me. Potato, her adorable dog she adopted from Niger, is a bit skittish but you can tell he loves and is protective of Raman. It’s one of the reasons she loves getting to do art from home, more time with Potato.
Raman did not go to school for art, nor was she ever trained professionally. She is self taught through and through. But she has worked with many other creative mediums growing up. She studied music as a child and then pivoted to film which she studied at the Royal Institute of Theatre, Cinema and Sound. She did makeup for movies for a bit.
She first dabbled in art when she was 21 because she wanted to go to school in Amsterdam (she ultimately did not attend) for set design, makeup, hair and costume. Raman went to their open day where they asked for a portfolio. She didn’t have one nor knew she needed one. She got started right away and started drawing which turned into painting.
But it wasn’t until she lived in Niger in 2019 that she really started painting and painting seriously. Raman met her now diplomat husband and moved to Niger with him for two years. She couldn’t get a work visa and didn’t know anybody at first so she was mostly stuck home alone. So painting became something to do and soon people began to buy her art, and she was able to exhibit her work in Niger.
It took Raman a while to consider herself an artist. In the beginning, being self-taught made her feel like a fraud. There’s still so much she has to learn which is both thrilling and terrifying to her.
“It took me four exhibits to call myself an artist to my friends or to people that were like, what do you do? Like, oh, you know, I sit at home, sometimes I paint. But I was so scared to call myself an artist. And now we’re finally at a point where I can be proud of what I make, and [say] that I’m an artist,” said Raman.
Raman’s paintings are vibrant, colorful and intimate pieces of work that are abstract and involve lots of women, whether in form or face. She finds herself more interested in drawing women. The toxic relationship between society and girls/women is something she thinks about often; how young girls and boys are taught to fit into a specific box of beauty, to value beauty above all and the pressures of that. It is that same pressure she struggles with herself which makes feeling good in her own body sometimes hard. Through her painting, she gets to dissect those feelings and emotions.
Her other influences from her art are some folks she follows on Instagram. But she makes it a point to be original and focus on her own style since when learning how to first draw and paint, she would imitate. She also cites Niger as an influence specifically in how she had to tone it down with the nudity in her art so she started to focus more on faces and portraits. Her background in makeup has been especially helpful in helping Raman understand facial structure better.
Her artistry goes behind paintings, Raman also makes earrings that she sells. After taking a laser cutting class for her birthday with a friend at hacker space NYCResistor, she was inspired to make them. She continues to go to NYCResistor to makes the earrings. She makes them by painting a piece of birch wood in all kinds of colors until she likes the color combination. Then via a computer, Raman designs the shapes of the earrings (from thick hoops, dangling circles to triangular studs) and then the info gets sent to the laser machine and voila! — her earrings are born.
Doing art and being creative is something Raman has always been good at and it makes her feel good. She loves being able to have something tangible to share and seeing how it makes others feel. Her favorite part about being an artist is that she can create her own reality and it’s something that she owns, it’s all hers.
“It’s important, because my husband’s a diplomat, and we have to move… every four years. So I can take that with me. It’s something that I built and that I get to take wherever I go,” said Raman.
Greenpoint has been a wonderful place for the 26-year-old Belgian native. She moved here last summer August 2021 with her husband and her dog Potato. Raman loves the area and that there are other types of people here, not only just artists. But the artists in Greenpoint have been so supportive, specifically, the community of Greenpoint Art Circle where she had the opportunity to exhibit at a church in Kent Street. She does wish to be a part of it more but the Greenpoint Terminal Market on the weekends has taken most of her time.
Raman is just continuing to focus on her art and the exhibitions she has coming up. She has a new exhibition presenting her new project on September 16 – 17 at the Thames Art Centre in Bushwick. The new project, “Unfiltered Diary Entries To a Stranger,” is about an unknown person’s sketchbook and the artwork she created surrounding this anonymous sketchbook.
Raman held onto it for months and decided to create pieces of her own interpretation of what the unknown artist sketched. Raman showcases the relationship between her and this unknown artist who she would love to find and give credit to especially before the showing. Raman used the sketchbook as a diary for herself and to be vulnerable to level the playing field. She is aware that she has gotten a personal look into this person’s thoughts. She is honored to get a glimpse into this person and develop this sense of familiarity to them. She really hopes to find them.
You don’t have to wait till September to see Raman. She is having a pop-up show in the East Village on July 13 and 14, so stop by and witness what she’s been creating in person. Come into the world of bold colors and intimate shapes that incorporate some elements of Jackson Pollock or Van Gogh but are still uniquely all Manon Raman.