Storm Ritter takes the Manhattan art world on a wild ride in the Meatpacking District

Storm Ritter in her studio
Artist Storm Ritter in the environment she created for her shop/gallery pop up at Gallery 23
Photo by Bob Krasner

Storm Ritter just keeps moving forward. A painter first and foremost, she is also an entrepreneur who sells a line of hand-painted clothes, a designer of textiles and the creator of her own line of jewelry.

Although she had a shop for a number of years on 8th Street near the Electric Ladyland studio, she has no immediate plans for another retail outlet.

“I never do the same thing twice,” she explains. At present she is ensconced in a “pop up” at Gallery 23 on Washington Street in the Meatpacking District — a situation that was supposed to go for two weeks in September but continues on through at least this month, with the possibility of staying on through March up in the air.

Now 30, Ritter celebrated that milestone birthday recently with a bash at the gallery featuring live music by local talent Strange Majik. Her artistic journey began in Dunedin, FL, where her “hippie rock-and-roller parents instilled a wonderful work ethic” in their daughter.

“My parents are my best friends,” Ritter declares. “My art spawns from my unique and eccentric upbringing. It’s the whole foundation of who I am.”

Ritter, in red, dancing up a storm ( sorry) to the tunes of Strange Majik – David Pattillo on guitar and Geoff Burke on sax. Patillo is wearing a suit hand painted by Storm RitterPhoto by Bob Krasner
Storm Ritter, dressed in and surrounded by her own artworkPhoto by Bob Krasner
Storm Ritter wearing a combo of her own jewelry and other pieces chosen for personal reasons. The tattoos are a mix of her own artwork and subjects of interest to her and the painter’s smock is a hand me down from her momPhoto by Bob Krasner
Storm Ritter, seated, with the founders of Gallery 23, David and Sarit Peretz surrounded by Ritter’s artwork – including David’s shirt and Sarit’s hand-painted pantsPhoto by Bob Krasner

One of the things that sets Ritter apart from the crowd is a mind for business. Even before she studied that subject at NYU, she managed to sell the giant man-eating props that she created as a junior for a high school production of “Little Shop of Horrors” to a commercial theatre company.

After high school, she jumped around a bit, studying a variety of subjects (in and out of school) such as set design, philosophy, fine art, enlightenment theory, art history and vintage pop culture while struggling to overcome dyslexia and working various day jobs while attending school at night and eventually graduating with honors from NYU Gallatin.

There was also a computer desk job, an assistant stylist gig that put her to work for Vogue and Marie Claire, and a year-long stint in the wardrobe department at “Saturday Night Live,” leaving one to wonder when she slept. “I didn’t,” she admits.

If all of that wasn’t enough, it was around this time that she taught herself to be ambidextrous, a talent that she continues to use, painting with both hands simultaneously.

Every one of her creations begins with a blank canvas, with no prior sketching. Her pieces can be small abstracts or large surrealist tableaus, with the largest to date being a 60-foot long mural in Florida. Her most visible work consists of the custom clothing that has popped up on “Mean Girls” on Broadway, various Netflix shows and celebs such as Miley Cyrus and Usher.

“The Divine Three ” is a motif that shows up frequently in Storm’s work – seen here on a canvas and worn by the artist on a leather jacketPhoto by Bob Krasner
Storm Ritter with David Pattillo – aka Strange Majik – holding the artwork that Ritter created for his latest singlePhoto by Bob Krasner
Ritter frequently paints simultaneously with both handsPhoto by Bob Krasner
Storm Ritter at Gallery 23Photo by Bob Krasner

Ritter’s work sometimes gets influenced by the music that she listens to as she works — anything from 1920s jazz to 1960s psychedelia, with Cher, Muddy Waters and Elvis Costello thrown in from her large vinyl collection.

Her canvases are filled with what she calls “the cool people,” who are “the divine, spirits, entities, guardians, people in your head. There’s a divinity about them.”

Continuing, Ritter adds that, “Everything I do is organic, with spiritual relatability.”

Sarit Peretz, one of the founders of Gallery 23, recalls when she first discovered Ritter. “I bought tank tops, jackets, jeans, t-shirts – everything. I feel amazing and empowered in her clothes. I love it!” she exclaims.

Her brother David Peretz is equally enthusiastic, telling us, “She’s very unique, very different. She reminds me a little bit of Dali, but she has her own style.”

“Working here at Gallery 23 has been great,” Ritter notes and lays out a possible plan for the future. “I think if I do something in retail again it might be a bar that is a collaboration with a gallery and a record shop. I’m a believer in talking to the universe and I’m a believer in bringing in positive energy. At the end of the day, though, I just want to have a studio where I can paint and sell my paintings. I want to be financially successful enough so that I can have a simple life. That’s the end game.”

Storm Ritter is online at stormritter.com and on Instagram at @stormritter.

Gallery 23 is at Gallery23NY.org and on Instagram at @G23NY.