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Artist Audrey Ryan "Wolves Like Me"

“So much of art is trying to make a personal connection,” says Audrey Ryan. “The most frustrating thing about the culture in which we live is the huge amount of personal disconnection and emotional disconnection. Through my work I just hope thatpeople feel more connected to someone, not so alienated.”

Ryan wants you to meet her friends.

The artist uses bold brushstrokes to present her audacious cadre of connections.

“I like to paint people who I know because I am more interested in the psychological state behind the body,” Ryan says. “I like to paint people who know me and can take being painted in a not-pretty way.”

Because people tend to gravitate toward people like themselves, the rawness inherent in Ryan’s work matches up with the grittiness of her inner circle. Her subjects all have a seat, nay, stool, at the cool kids table in dive bars around the New York City-area, most specifically in Jersey City. Of course, they are inked.

“Speaking of tattoos,” she says. “I just hope that you see them as part of the whole painting and as part of the whole person. Rather than focusing on one image on a body, I hope that the tattoos give you a sense of who the person is and maybe they can help connect you to something within that person.”

Ryan herself has a number of tattoos, all her own artwork save one of Bunny Rogers’ My Apologies Accepted. “I have been exploring what tattoos really mean because they have had such a huge impact on my family relationships,” Ryan says. She grew up in the “fifth most depressing town in the US,” Binghamton, NY and claims that her childhood clothesline looked like it belonged to the Addams Family. “My parents are otherwise open minded, but when I got this self-portrait inspired by the Converge album 'Jane Doe' their immediate reaction was ‘You are ruined!’”

“I think that they saw the tattoo and said, ‘I guess she is an adult and makes her own decisions,’” Ryan continues. “My parents are great, I love them and deeply appreciate their eccentricities but the immediate reaction not necessarily a healthy way to react.” Even not being one of her parents, it is easy to see how the initial markings on her body might be jarring, as Ryan’s visage is damn close to one of Margaret Keane’s big-eyed girls. She’s 82% fulgid eyes, cherubic cheeks and lucent smile. But she is also a tomboy who slammed through the hardcore scene and has inner-demons that materialize to the outside world by way of brushstroke.

“People often think that my work is made by a man,” Ryan says. “An aggressive brush stroke is traditionally a male move in this society, but the whole direct mark-making is what I am into. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself for making these aggressive marks. Goddammit, why am I so angry?”

We need more artists like Ryan who embody and can capture the rawness of our culture. There’s an old adage for authors that directs “write what you know.” You would think that notion would carry over into other creative endeavors but when we Googled “paint who you know” only one entry came up. One entry. Perhaps in this Facebook and Instagram generation of chasing Likes, a painting of Eleven from Stranger Things or a Disney character has a better chance at becoming viral, but in this, the most-plugged-in society in the history of humanity, our artists are missing our most viable connection—the personal one.