José Ramirez

Nature of work

My artwork reflects my experiences as a Chicano who grew up in Los Angeles with many diverse experiences. It relates my life as a teacher and father and is inspired by my family and culture at large.

My art has been shaped by childhood exposure to murals in Los Angeles and Mexico, pre-Columbian, Mexican, and Chicano art as well as my high school experiences at a boarding school in Sedona, Arizona, which were both negative and positive. It is also a response to my experiences in graduate school at UC Berkeley. The constant challenges, obstacles, and opportunities left an indelible stamp my will to struggle and strive in an academic art structure.

Through my paintings, I try to document contemporary Latino life in Los Angeles by addressing sociopolitical conditions affecting that population. They are painted in a representational and figurative style. My paintings combine references to history and culture to provide a context for understanding recent issues like Propositions 227, 187, and 209–immigration, education, and welfare reform–which directly affect Latinos in Los Angeles, the students I teach, and our culture as a whole. I try to convey these struggles as well as the hope and strength evident in the children I work with at school, their parents, and other members of our community.

Artistic goals

As an artist I feel a responsibility to my community to offset negative images and stereotypes seen in the mass media. I want my artwork to speak a language that is easy to access.

By working in my community and being visible, I attempt to document contemporary life. Continued involvement with Self Help Graphics, Plaza de la Raza, Dolores Mission, Los Angeles Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, and Los Angeles Unified School District on a variety of different education and artistic projects is a definite goal.

My work is not necessarily aimed at an academic audience. It is not art for art's sake. My passion for art lies in hoping to inspire and instill an appreciation and pride for oneself and culture. For me the most powerful forms of artistic expression challenge, redefine, and push the boundaries of established artistic and social norms. I know it's not always easy, but finding alternative spaces and other ways of exhibiting work through websites, murals, posters, magnets, and T-shirts will help bring my work to my audience. I hope to always remember why I started painting–to express my experience and find clarity for myself.

In order for my work to continue to evolve, I have to evolve as a person living in society. With technology, I would like to learn more about publishing, illustration, and marketing strategies. I always welcome opportunities in art to lead me in my artistic development.