Meet the Instagram sensation whose rainbow art make us see the good in things
Seeing the positive in our messed up world today is a tall task ... unless, of course, the part of the world you're talking about is swathed in cotton candy rainbow technicolor.
Then, it's real easy.
This is the job of Ramzy Masri, a designer and Instagram sensation who makes mind-expanding rainbow art in order to project a more joyous, positive feeling on landscapes, structures or situations that would otherwise feel dreary or distant.
New York City, his home and playground, is the perfect muse for such a practice.
"NYC can be a cold and lonely and gray place, full of trash and grumpy people; but I choose to find the joy and wonder in it," he says. "It's a vibrant, incredible, exciting place to live full of colorful people and a really specific energy. I hope my edits show people another side of the city, how I see it."
For Ramzy, rainbows have become his primary medium because of the important symbolism they hold.
"I'm attracted to rainbows for all the typical semantics," he says. "Luck, unicorns, magic, fairies, youth, etc. Those are definitely part of my own mythology, but for me, they're more about joy. Rainbows are happy, fleeting and mystical. They are also a little kitschy and self-indulgent. It's really rich territory for juxtaposition — for example, I found a pile of garbage bags and edited the colors to be like rainbow Easter eggs. The contrast between subject matter and color palette can be pretty fun."
To make each piece, Ramzy uses touch-screen tablet to hand-paint each color onto the photo in Photoshop. Each finished piece takes about an hour, although some give him guff and take all day. No matter, it's a process he thoroughly enjoys.
"Repetition and drone is the gateway to mysticism," he explains. "It's super time-consuming, super repetitive and mind-numbingly mindless .. which is why I love it. Editing these photos feels like a moving meditation."
However, beneath the inherent whimsy and magic of rainbow upon rainbow, there's a larger, more impactful meaning behind Ramzy's work.
"It's about choosing to see the good in the world, the optimism," he tells us. "Also, I'm proudly gay and a queer activist, and there's something punk and cool about envisioning the world as a giant pride parade. We've been marginalized, social outcasts, in the past and taking over the world's most recognizable landmarks as queer spaces feels like a dream come true."
We caught up with the happy little guy himself to find out more about his joy-inducing rainbow pieces. Interview and artwork below.
When did you start making this stuff?
It sort of evolved out of a daily practice to start making my Instagram an outlet for my art. I've always been interested in color, so my feed became a color journal. Over time it changed — I noticed I was running all over NYC to try and find colorful places (gallery shows, murals, public art, etc.) and the lazy girl in me was like, "I already know Photoshop. New York is an epic canvas to project my imagination upon ... why not start editing the world around me to fit into the gallery?' Also, I started "rainbowfying" buildings as a way to commemorate pride weekend on my Instagram, and the response was so humbling that I've been doing it ever since.
How do you chose your subjects? Do you take the photos of buildings or landscapes, or do other people send them to you?
Half the time its totally random, like I'll walk past a building and be like, 'Oh shit, that would look cool.' The other half its stuff I've seen on Instagram from other people's feeds who bebop around the city and find the best architecture/environments. Some subjects take better to the process than others — generally I'm looking for medium gray colored spaces that are segmented or fractured — like a coloring book almost. The more lines I have the more complex the edit can get, and for the most part I like when I can be really dense and tedious.
Also yeah, people send me photos or I request permission to edit other photographer's work as part of my #spectrumedit series. This gives me the opportunity to edit buildings in faraway lands.
You've said that this practice helps you choose to see the good instead of focus on the bad ... has making this art had any influence on your life outlook since you've gotten more involved with it?
Absolutely! Editing these photos is a daily reminder to focus on the good. When I meet new people (or even people who I've known for a while) I try to focus on one thing I really like about them, instead of finding things about them that annoy me. I try to practice a daily ritual of gratitude. Its not about ignoring the bad things in the world, just choosing not to engage with them spiritually.
Right now, with the election and a myriad of other factors that should be contributing to our country's growing collective unhappiness, you've been able to shake that off and show that there's still some good left in the world. Where do you find motivation for your optimism? What makes you want to see the best in things?
Haha, well thank you! I think its a matter of survival. Anxiety and depression are so common, even within my own family. The motivation comes from seeing firsthand how debilitating depression is, and how easy of a nosedive it is. It's so easy to complain, to want more, to feel disenfranchised (especially by the dogmatic sociopolitical systems in place that are immovable) but it won't serve us to succumb to the ennui of that bullshit. Sure, it sucks ... whatever. But pessimism and optimism are contagious. When you look around at your friend group and your family do you want your energy to be a blessing or a virus? These are the questions I ask myself.
What kind of response have you gotten so far?
It has been super humbling and surprising! I'm thankful that people enjoy looking at the work as much as I love making it. As time-consuming as it is, the positive response has made the whole thing worth it.
You also make quite a valiant effort to communicate with your fans and respond to their comments in on your social media. Why is doing that important to you? Do you think artists have a responsibility to communicate with their fans in ways other than through their modes of expression?
Yeah! I'm super thankful for anyone that stops and takes the time to comment. Instagram is all about community, and I want to contribute to that community as much as possible, instead of being a passive user. I don't think artists should feel pressured to communicate with fans, I think it suits my work because its all about positivity and community.
And as for future Ramzy? He plans to expand his practice into people and other animate objects.
"I'll continue to experiment as time goes on," he says. "It's inevitable I'll need new challenges to feel inspired."
When he's not art-ing, you can find him "scribbling," "making contact with aliens," and "learning to make the raviolis." Follow him as he brainwashes America's youth into happier, more optimistic mental states over on his Instagram.