By Amanda Nordqvist
Though starting off as a classical singer, Maryland-based Ricardo Bouyett found his way into the depths of fine art and filmmaking, and made it into a self-healing space where he explores and comments on a wide range of problematic issues in today’s society – everything from rape culture, self-harm, racism and manhood, to name only a few. His pieces are all heavy with emotion, and Bouyett unashamedly exposes his own pain and trauma, all in the hopes of starting conversations about these invaluable topics.
How were you introduced to the arts?
When I was in junior high school I joined the choir and got involved in performance art. Throughout high school I was involved in a few of the theatre department's musicals and was in the Acapella choir. It wasn't until college that my attention turned away from vocal performance and onto visual arts.
The program at the college I was attending at the time had a curriculum that I didn't agree with so I decided to transfer to a different school. During that transfer I started researching contemporary artists and reading stories about people with zero accessibility to high-end equipment, who were still making their art, which left me feeling motivated to pursue visual arts although I had very limited access to equipment.
That was the turning point in my life and it consequently happened around the same time I came out to my family and friends. I wasn't as afraid anymore to do the things I wanted to do and art gave me the voice I needed to talk about things I cared about.
Has your artistic style changed significantly over the years?
Every year since I started I've developed a different approach to my work which becomes more noticeable when comparing things I did from one year to the next. For example, from 2013 to 2014 my work got darker and more emotional and by 2014 to 2015 my art became a complete war zone for my PTSD. In 2014 I was raped and in regards to my art, that made me more critical of the images I was making.
2015 to 2016 is probably the most significant change because as I started using my artwork as a base for my recovery from being raped I started to realize that filmmaking was really where my voice was at its strongest. Not only was my recovery influencing my artwork, but it was opening my eyes up to a lot of things I'd always ignore out of not wanting to inconvenience those around me.
Have you studied photography and/or film?
I went to Columbia College Chicago for a BA in Photography. My interests were mainly in fine art practices, theory, and history of photography. Learning how to print was probably one of the best things for me, I discovered I had an ability with printing I didn't think I'd have and I really enjoyed working with different types of photo paper from glossy luster to velvet fine art mattes.
I spent a lot of my time at Columbia going against the tide and I'd always produce about three major bodies of work every semester, neither of which included conventional methods of portrait making, which was very unpopular amongst the staff and students. Mainly because they thought I was relying too much on the post processing aspect of photo and not enough on the craft of image making without digital tools.
At the time I was stubborn and just wanted to prove everyone wrong, that I could make good and interesting bodies of work with the techniques I had been using, but looking back I know I could've saved myself a whole lot of migraines if I just opened myself up to what they were saying. Because funny enough, a year out of school and here I am, loving nothing more than simple, straight out of camera work.
Don't get me wrong though, I love creating digitally manipulated photos, I don't think I could ever give that up, but I'm definitely over the whole “surrealist" approach to it. It never felt authentically "me"; filmmaking actually feels more authentically "me" than anything. But the thing about filmmaking is that I didn't realize I loved it or wanted to make that my career focus until my last semester at Columbia. I didn't want to take this retouching course everyone was taking so I opted for an independent study with one of my favorite faculty members as my supervisor. I spent the last four months of my undergrad crowdfunding about two grand, casting, managing a team of about 20 students and filming and editing my first short film. I had no idea what I was doing but I worked through it and was lucky enough to have a team that was dedicated to the project.
Unfortunately I wasn't completely satisfied with how the film came out after the first round of editing, so I kept it under wraps for a few months and released a few shorter videos that featured some of the storylines. I still wasn't 100% satisfied with it so I let it sit in my hard drive until I could figure out the best cut for the film. Now, a year later, I'm in the intermediate stages of postproduction and aiming to submit the film into several film festivals across the country. I'll most likely do an online screening event of "Poppyseed", just so everyone can see the final polished version.
Would you describe your creating process for me?
It depends on what I'm doing. My creative process is so inconsistent and can take from five seconds to five months of planning. If it's a big project like Silver Screens or Oh, Bouy or Color Me, then the process usually lasts longer and is influenced by spur of the moment brainstorms. My mind is constantly churning different versions of projects I want to make before I make them and until it lands on something that I feel compelled to make I'll stay completely inactive.
Once I have the visuals locked in my head and I know the fundamental concept or story, then I get into the logistics. I write up project treatments and lay out visual inspo for my potential models or actors and set up the project timeline.
I run my shoots like I run the H&M stores I've worked at, I keep the mood light and relaxed while still keeping everyone focused on the work. I like relating with my team and if my talent doesn't understand what I'm asking of them I always perform for them and give them a template of what it is I'm looking for. Better I look like a fool and make them feel more comfortable, than have it be hours of awkward poses and wasted golden hour glow.
What or who is your biggest inspiration when creating? Do you usually create with a message in mind?
I don't have an answer, honestly. Usually different musical artists inspire me from time to time or inform my creative decisions. I'm just emotional and like to create based off of what I'm feeling. It's always always always emotional. I don't think I ever stop to think about the message until after it's been shot. With my films I think about it more beforehand because of continuity, but photos are much more flexible since it's just one frame of content.
You incorporate a lot of poetry, music and dance in your artwork – do you have any previous experience/education in these fields?
I mentioned this earlier, but I used to be in choir and used to train as a classical vocalist and have some experience with high school theatre. I've always written poetry, I started sharing more on social media this past year. I've always wanted to be a dancer but my hips don't lie in the club so I've got that going for me.
Oh, Bouy is a massive work of art, and it speaks volumes of the many different subjects that you seem to care deeply for. How did you get the idea for this collection? Did you always intend for it to have such a wide array of messages?
Honestly, I know it's disappointing but I don't know how I got the idea to make Oh, Bouy, I just got the idea and ran with it. I remember originally I wanted to make a project that commemorated my five year anniversary of coming out but then from one train of thought to the next I found myself piecing together a project about my experience as a queer Latino in hyper-masculine, racist America.
I think once I finished the shoots and started sequencing the book, I started to decide what messages I wanted to convey and the most important one that I wanted to convey was that I don't need anyone to say sorry to me, I need them to listen. To internalize that we are all responsible for the social climate we live in and to work together for a more cooperative and decent living experience. Acknowledging a problem isn't the same as solving it, and that's my main driving point in the project.
I'm not trying to lecture men on how terrible and unfairly privileged we as a collective gender are – we should already know that – I’m holding us accountable for what we've done and what we perpetuate and how we can move forward to solve that.
Is there anything you can tell me about your coming project, Oh, Bouy Vol 2?
Volume 1 was my anger in print; Volume 2 is my forgiveness in motion. I admire books and films because they can tell the same story in a different way. A book feels more like a baptism of thoughts whereas a film feels like a kaleidoscope of sound. There's something uniquely intimate about experiencing the same story through both mediums. What one provides that the other doesn't I have no clue. That's something that changes with the individual that experiences it I believe.
Volume 2 is a bit more special to me though, because it holds sentiment I've always struggled sharing and that’s being able to forgive the man who raped me, to forgive the boyfriends that hit me for not sleeping with them, and to forgive myself for all the years of self-harm I put myself through. Having reached a point where I can forgive and move on from it and grow out of this darkness and use my experiences to help inspire conversations and action to solve these problems of rape culture is incredibly freeing to me.
The film itself is roughly ten minutes long and features five musicians who took the time to contribute original music to the project and has a cast of about 15 people. It'll also be released on my personal Facebook for a limited time. I still haven't decided if I should release it anywhere else.
Do you have a dream project? Any artist you would like to collaborate with?
I have a film that I wrote last year and just finished revising this past month that I'm dying to make. The budget I have to raise in order to make it happen is a little daunting but I'm dead set on making this film. I especially want to make it with my friend Devin Schiro who's a phenomenal cinematographer. I've been putting off making this film just so I'd be able to hire him for the job, that's how much I respect and love his work. I don't want to reveal too much about it but the film is called "As Dolls As Boys" and is a tribute piece to the victims of the Orlando shooting from this past summer.
Lastly, do you have any advice for other young artists out there?
My advice is basically Nike's slogan: just do it. You want to make art? Do it. You don't have the funds? Find a way around it. There are many different solutions to one problem and when you care and are passionate, finding those solutions becomes second nature. Be open to criticism because it can help, but don't let it stop you from making what you want to make. Also, there's a difference between an opportunist and a friend. Learning where that difference lies sooner will help you avoid being taken advantage of.