Monday, March 26, 2007

In a Silent Way

Ed Pettit of the Bibliothecary Blog tipped me off to a CBS Sunday Morning piece on "outsider" artist Martin Ramirez, a retrospective of whom is currently running at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. Ramirez's untitled drawing of a train is above.
Ramirez spent the last 32 years of his life in mental institutions before dying in 1963. Refusing to speak, Ramirez would draw and create collages amidst the chaos around him. His work has a childlike simplicity that belies the creative design behind the composition. It is a fascinating glimpse into a mind expressing itself purely through visual means when verbal means are not an option. Sadly, many of his works may have been destroyed by his family out of fear of infection from the tuberculosis ward Ramirez occupied.

Aside from the joy of discovering a new artist such as Ramirez, I am also struck by the different interpretation of art and madness his story presents. Van Gogh is certainly the most celebrated case of artistic madness, but his letters provide a beautiful verbal accompaniment to the visual testament of his pain. But for Ramirez, his drawings and collages are all we have from him. They quite simply must speak for themselves.

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