Our Stories Are Ancient: A talk with artist Rony Armas

Pia Henson, Writer

I have always been entranced by the human face and the stories embedded in every laugh line, forehead wrinkle, or scar. The chasm of experience in a person’s eyes holds the ecstasy and angst, the vibrance and exhaustion, and the past, present, and future

— Rony Armas

I had the incredible opportunity of attending Rony Armas’ art exhibition, Our Stories are Ancient. Armas grew up in the United States and learned about the angst, pain, and struggle of humans from our elders, those who helped to get us where we are, and inspired him to find a way to facilitate conversation about the people. It also helped him to find a way to create our own stories. Using photography as his medium, Armas tells the stories of eight different cultures, ranging from Mexico to Japan. This has shed light on the importance of learning from our ancestors, listening to their stories, and incorporating the lessons into our daily lives.

Rony Armas with one of the subjects of his art show (Hugo Aguilar)

Halfway through the viewing, the guests were invited to listen in on how one of Armas’ photoshoots became a vessel for inspiration which led to many more. Rony Armas collaborated with the subjects of each session to bring in articles of clothing or have their makeup done to represent each culture and their current emotion.

Subject of Rony Arma’s show standing next to her portrait at the art show (Hugo Aguilar)

While the attire does not make the culture, each element photographed was crucial, as it does not only signify one’s culture but also one’s personality. It is not just a costume or makeup, it is one’s warrior spirit. Each piece contained a symbol curated by Armas, and the subject told their story, the life they lead, and educated viewers on the importance of learning about oneself.  With the few hours I have spent at the art gallery with Armas, I realized that I was not only learning the history of the people in each piece, but that I needed to learn from my own elders and people from my community.

Professor Maria Lopez standing next to her photograph at the Rony Armas art show (Hugo Aguilar)

I also learned the importance of doing a better job at standing next to my people to fight for our history, just as Armas and many have before us. Armas noted that poetry is the language of revolution and announced that his project will be a growing and traveling exhibition, so I hope that you soon will have the amazing, eye-opening opportunity that I and many others who attended have been given.