The walk through industrial Bushwick seems neverending until I finally reach 513 Johnson Avenue, to meet Ryan Ford…and himself. That’s a joke I’ve been making in my head ever since I saw one of Ryan’s paintings, called Me Vs. Myself. Ryan is portrayed in blue boxer shorts in a ready-to-fight posture next to a huge flesh monster with several mouths, releasing what I believe are evil demons.
Ryan is a funny, laid back guy with a healthy sense of self-irony and a passion for good food. He’s leading me to his studio, we’re stepping onto iron stairs in an old factory building as he’s explaining how he saw this huge bald guy in a restaurant who had thick rolls of skin on his neck; Ryan decided to make a painting of a skinny vegan neck and a thick, fat “BBQ neck,” in a park. The painting isn’t finished yet, but it’s pretty hilarious already.
I can’t stop looking at the peculiar artifacts in Ryan’s studio as he, dismissing my objections, is serving delicious crackers, big fat black olives, ricotta cheese and a home-made iced tea, served in a jar filled with ice cubes.
I point my finger, as a request for an explanation, at a large pink mask with a number of tiny toy figures attached. Ryan inhales deeply, makes his typical grin and says, just like it was the most ordinary thing in the world, that it’s his shaman mask. Naturally.
I’m getting slightly distracted by the sweet pineapple cubes Ryan has served on a small painted table, while he’s explaining how he heard his calling–and, oh, did he hear it loud–during an art history class in college, when the teacher mentioned Native American shamans and their rituals. “That’s what I wanna do with my life!” young Ford exclaimed to himself. “I wanna be a shaman!” And he began to research the topic thoroughly, as every young aspiring shaman should. Later Ryan came to a point where dusty books ceased to be enough, and he longed to practice his newly developed shaman skills.
So, every once in a while Ryan opens his studio to his friends, especially to the friends with infected brains, and he performs in a shaman costume and a mask he created for these festive occasions.
Ryan says that in addition to the rituals he read in books, he does what he feels intuitively.
And so this Saturday at his studio at 513 Johnson, #1 at 8pm, the fires will be flaming, infected brains will be purified, possessed bodies will fly in the air, and Ryan will laugh. You think I’m making this up? Come to the Bushwick Shaman’s performance and we’ll see! All of Bushwick Daily’s friends are invited!