If there’s anyone who can tear down once and for all the stereotype of the moody artist bemoaning the state of the world, it’s Tyler Ramsey.
The guy needs no microphone to get the attention of a room filled with people. Long-limbed and twinkly-eyed, the 38-year-old painter showed up with kitty ears on either side of his head at the launch of the shoes he collaborated on with TOMS. He was proud to announce that he got the headband from Korea.
To complement his accessory, he had on paint-splattered baby blue jeans, an equally-smudged white shirt, and a similarly-sprinkled blazer. Red shoes covered his feet.
When Ramsey speaks, everyone listens. When he opened the show, he asked the audience to wish his friend – who had just gotten out of the hospital – good health in the form of song. Because there he didn’t know any “get-well songs,” he had the audience sing the Lupang Hinirang instead, a national anthem he liked, in comparison to his own “marchy” The Star-Spangled Banner.
Ramsey’s accent bears traces of the Oklahoma he grew up in, although he has called the Hollywood Hills his home for 15 years now. He has extensive television experience, having been involved in the production ofSurvivor, Making the Video, and The Real World. Today, however, he is an artist and philanthropist who creates “shoes that tell a story of the generosity of the human spirit.”
Part of his Asian tour is a trip to Manila to showcase his particular brand of performance art, where he paints with no brushes in hand. Instead, he favors a well-aimed fling of his paint bottles, or a sweep of his fingers through the globs of color.
InterAksyon.com caught him in action Tuesday last week at the Top Shelf of Fully Booked High Street.
“I like to paint to music,” he told his audience, rearing to go. “I don’t know if anyone here’s a Neil Diamond fan. I don’t know if the lyrics are at all relevant, but we’re gonna start the show off with a little ‘Sweet Caroline.’ If you’re familiar with the song, feel free to dive into the chorus.”
So he went on to splash color on Tim Yap’s plain TOMS shoes. Yap, with his white apron on, stood on a platform for everyone to see the live art. For their part, the guests sang along, Ramsey’s energy utterly infectious.
Another lucky guest was able to take home a pair of Ramsey’s customized shoes: model and entrepreneur Mikaela Lagdameo-Martinez.
“This is all a big experiment, so everyone just have fun!” said the artist afterwards.
That big experiment will have a big impact as well. Guests were able to bid on Ramsey’s art, fans of which include United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, former US President Bill Clinton, and director and actor Clint Eastwood.
The 4×4-inch and 5×5-inch “Robot” series, as well as an 8×16-feet painting, were auctioned off, proceeds benefiting the Philippine Red Cross’ flood relief operations in response to the August monsoon, which affected Metro Manila and other areas in Luzon.
TOMS shoes from the Tyler Ramsey collection, which will be sold to the public in select retail stores in October, were also for sale on Tuesday. Proceeds also went to the Red Cross.
“Every shoe is unique,” said head of TOMS Philippines, Dimples La O’. “It’s all made by his hands. Tyler doesn’t use any paintbrushes; he just uses his fingers, so no two shoes are alike.”
“I am humbled by the work that TOMS Philippines and the Red Cross both do, and I think it’s a tremendous honor to be here in the Philippines, and a tremendous honor to be associated in any way with groups that are making such an impact to the community,” said Ramsey.
Who knew help would come in the form of neon colors?
The artist has been working with TOMS since 2006. It was in the same year that American traveller Blake Mycoskie met a group of children in an Argentinian village. He found that the kids owned no shoes to protect their feet. It made such an impression on him that he established TOMS Shoes, “a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need.” Hence their “One for One” philosophy.
Today they have expanded their generosity to eyewear, as well. As of March, they have given over two million shoes to children in 40 locations, including the Philippines, where they began distributing new shoes last year with three partner non-government organizations.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the giving itself, and it’s really life-changing,” said La O’. She marveled at the way a single idea could “spark a movement.”
TOMS began with such an idea: many kids grew up without shoes, exposed to injury and disease. They needed shoes. Other people liked to buy comfy shoes. What if the shoes they were already buying could help other people too? Thus, “One for One” was born.
In the end, TOMS hopes their work can inspire people to incorporate giving into their everyday decisions, and other companies will find ways to help, as well.
“I think they are so similar in many ways,” said La O’ of TOMS and Ramsey. “TOMS gives back with every shoe that we sell. Tyler also has his own advocacies. In two weeks he goes to India to teach less fortunate kids art. So they both have a giving personality about them.”
“It’s really been a pleasure,” said La O’, working in the midst of all this generosity.