An Interview with Avi Ram
By John Hayden
The “Airbrush Hero” is a South Florida and reality TV success story. Avi Ram may have grown up in Israel but he now calls South Florida home. And, Wilton Manors is more beautiful and interesting because of it.
Ram, a talented airbrush artist, creates sprawling murals that lasts for years. However, his body art is soon washed away after its creation. Most recently, Ram painted two stunning murals both at Hunters Nightclub Wilton Manors and the wings at Wilton Manors’ Hamburger Mary’s. But Ram’s work can be seen all throughout South Florida. While body painting may be his true passion, he relied on his initial skills during the COVID pandemic. “I am currently very busy with projects and work,” Ram told OutClique. “Most events were cancelled due to COVID. However, I gained many new opportunities. My murals became my focus.”
Ram titles his business – Airbrush Hero. Some of his latest work is featured in Bona Italian Restaurant, Tulio’s Taco and Tequila Bar, and Bar Rita. Ram’s work can also be seen at Wilton Collective, a local non-profit thrift store. Owner, Julian Cavazos, had worked with Ram for nearly a decade before choosing him as the artist to create the building’s mural. “After Lori Pratico finished our beautiful Butterfly on the side of the Wilton Collective I felt like the wall didn’t look finished. So I contacted Avi and in true ‘Avi style’ he came up with an amazing add on to an already beautiful mural.”
Ram came to America with the goal of not only developing his art but also developing as a person. He left Israel to take a chance on himself to develop personally and professionally. “I wanted to be free as an artist but also for myself. My passion was to come to Florida and open up.” In South Florida he finally felt comfortable being openly gay and today, in addition to being a nationally recognized artist, he has a long term partner and is close to his family back in Israel.
While his murals are mesmerizing, his true passion and claim to fame is using his airbrush for body painting. “When I moved here I opened my first shop in a flea market and airbrushed t-shirts and hats for tourists for six years. Then people started asking if I did body painting. I never did. I lied in a way and said of course I did.” Ram first made his mark on Halloween at Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar in Wilton Manors. “They gave me a tent outside and I did body painting. Since then all the clubs in Wilton Manors call me to do body painting.”
Then, he received the call that brought him national attention. “I was discovered by a body painter from the first season of Skin Wars. Seeing me on the street, she took a photo of me and sent it to the producers.” As part of the process Ram found himself learning new skills and succeeding quickly. He did his first full body in waterproof paint then put the model in a pool. Producers loved it and he made the top 12 and appeared on the show.
He finished second but came away with a huge following of fans. They rallied around him on social media and helped him visit Israel to see his family for the first time in seven years. “By not winning I won the crowd of the world. They crowdfunded so I could go see my family.”
Since then he’s been on other competition shows as a contestant and as a mentor and judge. Ram never envisioned himself on reality TV, but Skin Wars and its analogs appeal to him. “I never saw myself on a reality show. Every time I saw a reality show I thought ‘I don’t want people to know my business.’ This show is different. It is about talent rather than digging in and filming you in the bathroom.” Making celebrity connections are helpful. “Businesswise, the reality shows opened a lot of doors in the body painting world. I do a lot of conventions and events. I painted Cardi B, Tyra Banks, Rebecca Romijn. I worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger a few times for his events with bodybuilders.”
Ram’s artistic philosophy incorporates storytelling and body painting. “I have a passion for body painting and looking for adventures.” Now he combines both his specialties of body painting and murals. “It’s cool when I do wall murals that also incorporate body painting into the wall, like camouflage. It’s a win-win. I like doing the wall murals, I like doing the body painting, and then merging it together into one project.”
“What I like with wall murals versus body painting is when you do body painting for hours it’s coming off soon because people are washing it off in the shower. You have to take a good picture to have it as a memory. What I like about wall murals is it stays there a lifetime.”
His family once worried that he wouldn’t make it as an artist. “When I used to be doing a lot of body painting, my family always told me you need to find a better job. Go be a doctor.” Their opinion has changed. “Then I was on reality shows and started working with Arnold Schwarzenegger and painting famous people. They became so proud of what I do.”
Ram is proud to be a part of the growing art scene in and around Wilton Manors. “I really think art is important on the street.” He believes all art, from his murals to the work outside the apartments at Equality Park, to Pride Bridge, makes the community stronger. “When you bring art and colors into an environment you bring life into an area. Pushing the art into locations creates an environment that’s pleasant to be around.”