Thursday, 26 October 2017

Chuck Ramirez

I'm in HEB, my local supermarket. My shopping basket is, as usual full of cat food.

'Oh. My. God.'

I look up. There is a vaguely Hispanic looking dude stood in front of me with his mouth hanging open. A couple of seconds have passed before he realises that he should probably say something.

'You are the very image of a friend of mine.' His mannerisms seem a little camp, which I realise may not directly correlate to his sexuality, but this really sounds like a chat-up line.

'Okay.' I'm not sure what else to say. If he thinks I'm hot, it really doesn't bother me.

'A friend but - well, he died a while ago. You look just like him. Have you ever heard of an artist called Chuck Ramirez?'

I haven't. I shake my head. 'Sorry, no.'

'It's the eyes…' He seems to be moving his hands as though framing a film he's planning to make. 'You could be his brother.'


I can't help but think of Richard Ramirez, the serial killer, which means at least I won't have any trouble remembering the name of my alleged doppelgänger.

'He was a photographer,' - my admirer suddenly remembers something and steps back a little. 'I need to take a photograph of you. Is it okay if I take a photograph?'


'They ain't gonna believe…' he fumbles in different pockets. 'I don't have my phone with me.'

'Well, I'm in here every day about the same time, usually buying cat food.'

'I'll look for you again.'


I'm smiling as I head for the checkout because it's funny.

'It sounds a lot like he had the hots for you,' Bess suggests when I tell her about the encounter that evening. She hasn't heard of Chuck Ramirez either, but she looks him up on her phone, and there actually is a resemblance, stronger in some photographs than others, and particularly around the eyes. A website called Ruiz-Healy Art has this to say:

Chuck Ramirez (1962-2010), one of San Antonio's most beloved artists, was a major force in the San Antonio art community before his untimely death in a 2010 cycling accident. A 2002 Artpace resident, Ramirez' work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. As an artist and graphic designer, Ramirez employed the visual and conceptual techniques found in contemporary advertising and package design, isolating and re-contextualizing familiar objects to explore cultural identity, mortality, and consumerism through his photographs and installations.

The next evening we're driving back from Jim's diner, or possibly some other diner, and something catches my eye as we cross North New Braunfels onto the Austin Highway.

'Holy shit!'

'What?' Bess squeaks in panic, almost losing control of the wheel for just a fraction of a second.

'Look!' I point.

We are driving past the McNay Art Museum. What's on at the McNay is advertised on four sides of an immense wooden cube permanently situated on the grass triangle adjacent to the museum. The side facing us is taken up with the fourteen foot high image of a woman's handbag, top open to expose key chains, pills, a cellphone and so on. Above the handbag is the name Chuck Ramirez. The poster promotes an exhibition of his work. It's just started and will run for the next couple of months.

I've lived in San Antonio since 2011.

I'd never heard of Chuck Ramirez, my double, before yesterday.

Today I see his name in letters several feet tall.

It feels a little like the universe is fucking with me, as though it's only just thought of this guy.

Next evening we go to have a look at the exhibition, which is called All This and Heaven Too. It mostly comprises large photographs of small everyday objects, handbags, a vase of flowers, trash, Mexican candies and so on. It reminds me a little of the work of Andy Warhol, which is unfortunate because I couldn't care less about the work of Andy Warhol, generally speaking. I find it bland, and that it seems in many cases to be intentionally bland is not enough to excite my interest.

Each to their own.

The gallery is packed, I guess because it's only the second or third night. I anticipate people dropping their drinks and standing, open-mouthed to point at me, maybe even a few screams.

Oh my God! It's him! There he is!

It doesn't happen. Maybe the resemblance is dependent on lighting, or whether or not the eye of the beholder finds me sexually attractive; leaving just the art as the sole source of potential pleasure, and it simply isn't the kind of art I'm ever likely to appreciate.

I think of people I knew at art college, still plugging away, these days as facebook friends who post slightly blurry photographs of an old tin mug on a piece of wood, or rusted cooking utensils. The photographs appear frayed at the edges as though printed on handmade paper, and always there's the associated information about what type of camera or lens were used. I've never worked out why they share such images with the rest of us, or what I'm supposed to get from them.

The exhibition isn't that big, and after twenty minutes it feels like we've tried, so we go to the gift shop. I look at the art books. Most of them seem to be geared towards fostering an appreciation of art amongst people who don't actually like art but might not mind getting some gifty book for a birthday or Christmas present: Matisse, van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, DalĂ­, all of those guys…

Bess buys chocolates for her grandmother, and we head out for a quick look around the other galleries, the permanent collection, the place where they hang paintings by Corot, Dufy, Renoir, Courbet, Marsden Hartley and others; and I remember how much I like these paintings, like a good beer after a bland yet efficient hamburger which I hadn't really wanted in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment