“I moved quite a bit as a kid,” Kramer recalls. “My father traveled for his business, and my mother was from the Dominican Republic. By the time I was seven, I’d lived in three different countries and moved back and forth between South America, the Caribbean and the U.S.”
For a short period of time, Kramer’s family lived a sort of nomadic lifestyle, but wherever they lived, art was a constant presence in the household. Kramer’s mother, Noemi Mella, was a well-known painter in the Dominican Republic. Her mother would work in any available space and was dedicated to creating regularly.
“(Making art) seemed like a very normal thing to do with one’s time,” Kramer explains.
These early experiences shaped young Kramer’s outlook. “It was very clear to me at an early age that there wasn’t just one way to live in this world,” she states. “I have an appreciation for different cultures and different ways of being.”
Moving around also opened Kramer’s eyes to how geography plays into local culture and how it affects the way people see themselves.
“Right away you can see that people have a certain way of life and are proud of it. Everybody thinks they’re the center of the universe,” she laughs.
Prior to being an artist, Kramer had a background in human resources and social work. Art was something she had “done as a kid, but put aside.” In her 20s, Kramer felt the urge to go back to school. She began to take classes at Parsons and the Art Student League, eventually earning a certificate in fine art from Parsons in 1988. In 2004, she left Oakland, California, for the nurturing arts scene in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kramer still spends quite a bit of time going back and forth between cities, finding a great deal of inspiration.
“More than anything I’m attracted to the kinds of things that people ordinarily overlook. (The city) is a living collage — centuries superimposed over one another. We’re often rushing by, and we miss these things.”
In subtle ways, these observations inform Kramer’s artwork, which she uses to explore concepts of place and awareness. Twelve years ago, the artist began a series of landscapes. In the images, she combines different locations to create a new place or space. “It’s not unusual for me to have a little bit of Mexico with a little bit of New York with a little bit of San Francisco,” she states.
Kramer’s process has evolved over time, and she started incorporating digital photographs as “collage armature” for her painting. Five years ago, the series became increasingly more complex, “more and more detailed — more and more recognizable as interiors and landscapes.” The increased realism intensified the awkwardness in the images, making the juxtaposition of disparate elements and different perspectives more obvious, calling viewers to take a closer look at the world around them.
In newer works, Kramer has begun incorporating maps: “There’s something about the flat, stylized space on a map juxtaposed with the specifics of a photograph that I’m exploring.” Having considered inside and outside spaces, aerial views now fascinate her. “Looking at places I’ve lived, getting this anonymous view from above,” she explains. “I’m floating.” AC
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