Saturday, March 17, 2007

American Folk Art Museum

It was slushy and mushy out after the snow/sleet fall of the last 36 hours, and every street corner was a lake of melted water not going down frozen drains. The sun was out, very warmly adding to the size of the lakes. And it is St .Patrick's day, when people flock to midtown for the parade and deck themselves out in green coats, scarves and hair. I had errands to do but deciced to treat myself to a stop at the American Folk Art Museum since I've been reading about "outsider" artist, Martin Rameriz.

What a sad story! So incompletely told in th show and article in their magazine that I can only imagine he did not deserve the treatment he got. Ramirez came to the US in the '20s to earn money for his family in Jalisco, Mexico. But he spoke no English and got caught in the depths of the Depression when work was not available. He was found wandering streets of L.A. and did not speak -- possibly terrified and not understanding English -- and was put in a mental hospital where he spent the last half of his life. Nothing suggests anyone tried to speak Spanish to him, or made any attempt to get him back to his family.

But he began drawing, using pasted together bit of paper that he found and whatever writing/drawing insruments he could scroung. His works are strongly and dynamicaly graphic. They are obsessively repetitious -- there are a lot of drawings of the same man on a horse with a pistol, a lot of trains comeing out of and going into tunnels, a lot of careful parallel lines in the landscapes. There are scary madonnas with rattlesnakes at their feet and sometimes he's used cut outs from magazines in a collage manner very effectively. His work is strange, as outsider art usually is -- individual and unique. His story, with so much missing makes me very sad that a man who seems never to have been violent or dangerous to himself or anyone else was kept in an asylum and never saw his family again. There are many outsiders, of course. Many artists feel like outsiders although most manage to have at least a small gruop of like minded friends to communicae with. But true outsiders, like Ramirez, obsessively making a statement .. perhaps just to pass the time but also to use his mind, his talent even under difficult circumstancs leave us pondering what it is to be human and stuck in a strange world.

No comments :