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What’s New: For Stone Sculptor Jonna Ramey, 2018 is About Action

Stone sculptor Jonna Ramey was educated at Stanford University with a degree in filmmaking and art and, in the 1970s, created feminist performance art and environmental sculpture with performances and installations throughout California. For 30 years she made her living as a film writer/director in San Francisco.

In 2002, she moved to Salt Lake City and saw the Chapungu exhibit of Zimbabwean stone sculpture at Red Butte Garden. The sculptures spoke to her, Ramey says. She studied with several visiting Zimbabwean masters and has been sculpting stone ever since. “I am a direct stone sculptor,” says Ramey. “I carve with hammers, chisels and grinders. My work is often abstract, sometimes figurative but rarely literal,” Ramey explains. “Making sculpture is a way for me to examine emotions, cultural concerns, myths and taboos.” The artist has worked with stone from all over the world. “I enjoy working with alabasters from southern Utah and honeycomb calcite from Hanna, Utah.”

Ramey moved to Sonoma, Calif., in 2008 and worked at the Petaluma Arts Center, becoming, for a time, part of a large community of artists. In 2015 she returned to Salt Lake City. Her work has been shown in exhibitions and galleries throughout the western United States.

“My sculpture has been evolving over the last two years, motivated by . . . the tumultuous presidential election, the heroic Women’s Marches in early 2017, the terrifying rise of American fascism and the courageous #MeToo movement. These events have given rise to frustrations, angers and the need for action that I haven’t felt since the 1970s and 80s. As one protest sign said: ‘I can’t believe I have to protest this same old shit again.’”

“Breaking Our Silence” © 2017. Sculpture by Jonna Ramey. Honeycomb calcite on granite. 13.5 inches high by 4.75 inches wide by 5.75 inches deep.

For 2018 Ramey has been thinking about early feminist artwork and artists whose work she admired such as Louise Bourgeois and Judy Chicago. “I’ve been musing over women’s issues around the globe. I’ve been contemplating fierce female imagery such as ancient Sheela-na-gig carvings, and I’ve been pondering storytelling in my art,” says the sculptor. “My work going forward will continue to explore images of transformation and transmutation (relevant to the aging sculptor) and include strong, fierce, positive imagery . . . I want my sculpture to invoke an internal conversation with the viewer, not unlike the dialogue I have with the stone as I am sculpting it,” Ramey explains.

“Breaking Our Silence” is a sculpture she recently finished for “Truth or Consequences,” an exhibit at Art Access in Salt Lake City through Feb. 9. “I was so moved by the actions of women across the country and world as they protested the election of [Donald J. Trump], an avowed misogynist. . . . This sculpture began as a statement showing the strength and power of women in protest but as it evolved, I came to realize it shows the strength of all of us raising our fists and our voices together,” says Ramey.

Every January we check in with Utah artists to see what the new year holds in store for them.

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