Helen Ruiz

Helen Ruiz, a New York City native now living in Mechanicsville, shares her memories of life in the Big Apple through a series of paintings.

RICHMOND – Mechanicsville resident Helene Ruiz will display a series of acrylic on canvas paintings starting on Sept. 6 in the second floor gallery of the Richmond Public Library at 101 East Franklin St. in Richmond.

The New York City native said, “Each one of us has a place which brings back good memories and feelings of connection and comfort. Home is culture, objects, buildings you’ve lived in, friends, family, fun, games and even where your heart ached for the first time, where you fell in love and out of love for the first time, your first friend, your first fight, your first everything; where you laughed, cried, worried, and felt powerful and determined as well as where you first felt powerless and confused.”

She recalled that “memory of double-dutch and that jump rope made out of anything you can find like old Venetian blind cords or an old rope you found in the trash, it’s the stick and the ball, it’s hop-scotch, it’s a game we called skullies where we used old soda caps to play, it’s the fire hydrant which was the urban public pool to cool off on hot summer days, it’s the people peering from their windows watching over us, it’s the sound of the mister softee ice cream truck and its tune that made your mouth water for your favorite ice cream treat and it’s a reminder of how naturally we shared our ice cream with the other kids and they shared with us if any of us didn’t have a quarter.”

The NYC experience for her also included: “The fire escape was where your mom put a small hibachi grill and we had a family ‘barbeque’ and if it was a very hot day you can sit on the fire escape and get some fresh air and maybe even a cool breeze.”

“Home, my home, NYC is a city of diversity, a city of many different people from all around the world all packed into a small space. It is where we all become one as we lived side by side. It is where we grew up together and respected each others’ differences and where one another’s differences enhanced each of us as human beings with an ability to adapt to differences and embrace those differences. Home is where we remember being brought up. Home is a huge part of what has molded us and remained in our spirit no matter where else we may have relocated. Home is where we feel a special connection to something. Home is like an old huge tree with large, long, thick and very deep roots.”

Ruiz said the paintings were done from her imagination and the memories of growing up in NYC, which she says is “my home, always my home and although I have relocated many times, it remains the place where I can truly call ‘home. It is where my memories of being creative enough to participate on a daily basis with other kids in order to create a playground within a concrete and a very cluttered compact space. All this has been influential in my artistic creativity and in my imagination. It is a part of what made the artist in me. It is both my most painful and most pleasurable of memories.”

She also said that she yearns “to see kids playing and people interacting like they did when I was growing up.I yearn to hear the ‘New Yawk’ accent that I know so well and is so strongly embedded in me.”

Ruiz described her series of works as “a juxtaposed dreamlike portrayal of the paintings I have done from my memories and my imagination of growing up in NYC. I hope it can help to show the other side of what has always been a stereotypical portrayal of a dangerous and harsh city, and, although that also is a reality, the memories of this side of life in NYC are also a reality. Everything has its Yin and Yang.”

While Mechanicsville has become her home, she said to her native New York City: “You remain in my being.”

Local resident brings memories of NYC to life through her art

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