This November 16 through December 31, 2017, the Santa Cruz Art League will present Art/Now/Next, an exhibition featuring 10 emerging local artists under the age of 45. In anticipation of this event, Local Santa Cruz has handed over the mic to some of the talented participating artists whose innovative work is coming into the spotlight.
Artist Edward Ramirez works with a mix of mediums, including photography, printmaking and found objects. Originally from Los Angeles, he is now based in Santa Cruz where he creates work that consciously reflects social issues, acknowledges individuals, and inspires change within the community in powerful ways. For the Art/Now/Next exhibition, Edward’s photolithography prints and alcohol pallet transfers will be a tribute to the labor force of Santa Cruz county.
Read on for an interview with Edward Ramirez and learn more about this up-and-coming artist and his work.
Local Santa Cruz: Please tell us about your art. What inspires you and what is your preferred medium and creative process?
Edward Ramirez: As an artist, one of my main goals is to raise awareness to social occurrences that I view are controversial within our society. I utilize the medium of photography, printmaking and my sociological imagination in order to produce work that not only addresses certain issues I view as provocative within our world but also provides sociological data that can help address and come to a conclusion on certain matters. Monochromatic film photography is key for my artistic process because I believe that the use of black and white allows individuals to focus on the content and message being presented. The incorporation of printmaking is also essential because it allows me to be more involved physically with the work I am producing. I enjoy creating interdisciplinary work on the grounds that it allows me to convey a message to my audience that is both mentally stimulating and compelling in addition to it being aesthetically pleasing.
I work across several mediums both analog and digital ranging from photography, sculpture, and printmaking. I enjoy being tactile with the materials I interact with and enjoy the physicality of labor intensive mediums. I utilize my community for inspiration and listen to them in order to try to work with them, so that we can create social change. My parents are another driving force for my inspiration. They arrived in this country during the late 70’s as a result of the civil war and direct impact that the U.S. had on the small central american country of El Salvador. Their work ethic and desire to progress has been instilled within me until I am no longer breathing in this world. I work in the community of Davenport as a Teen Center Coordinator, the teens I work with are some of my biggest inspiration. They have plenty of knowledge and wisdom at their young ages. They are pure souls only wanting to do what is good and right. I have been privileged to be accepted and welcomed to such a great community.
What is your connection to Santa Cruz and how has it influenced your creative work?
Edward Ramirez: The Working for Dignity undergraduate research project is a result of the work of hundreds of undergraduate students in collaboration with the California Legal Rural Assistance (CRLA), the Day Worker’s Center, and Santa Cruz County community members and workers. While the overall project required the efforts of a large number of undergraduate students researching, conducting surveys and interviews, analyzing data, and designing an interactive website, I was responsible deciding the final selection of images that would be utilized for the visual representation of this project. My goal for this project is to give honor to individuals who are often not given the respect they deserve by our society. The processes through which these images are created are key for the manifestation of this body of work. In order to thematically connect the topic of labor with image production, I chose to create my images through analog processes that were both time consuming and physically draining. The incorporation of found objects is another unifying aspect of this project. Pallets are utilized throughout many types of work, often enduring large amounts of weight, harsh conditions, and are undervalued for their service. The workers depicted often experience the same conditions and disrespect that these items receive. By choosing to incorporate items that were once discarded, I returned functionality to the object and created a platform where the workers could be honored.
Tell us about the art you’ll be showing in Art/Now/Next . Why have you chosen the pieces that will be on display and what do they mean to you?
Edward Ramirez: The art I will be displaying at the Art/Now/Next show will be a selection of photolithography prints and alcohol pallet transfers that honor and respect the individuals that are workers within Santa Cruz county. My focus was specifically on day laborers because they are at times some of the most vulnerable individuals within our county due to their legal status or inability to communicate in English. While working at the Day Worker Center of Santa Cruz County, I connected with workers and they would express to me the horrors they would sometimes experience/encounter during a day’s work. I wanted these individuals to receive the honor and respect they should deserve so I decided to follow them during a day of work and take their portrait in order to try to honor and respect the work they do. Many times, low wage workers are often overlooked and unappreciated within society but they are often the individuals doing the most strenuous types of work.
My parents are both low wage workers, my mother has been cleaning houses for over 30 years. I remembered going to help my mom clean huge mansions in Beverly Hills. My father worked in a sewing shop for most of my adolescence and recently transferred to a food packing company. Unfortunately, he was asked to “retire” because he was too old for the most recent company he was working at. I photograph and honor workers because I see the eyes of my parents within the people I photograph. I do it to give honor to the workers I photograph; to let them know that their hard work will pay off for their children. I am a product of low wage workers and I have no shame in saying that. Without my parent’s struggle, I know I would not have gone as far as I have gotten. I owe them my life and continue to assist my family whenever the are need.
Meet Edward Ramirez and experience his work in person at the Art/Now/Next Opening Reception: First Friday, December 1, 6-8pm at the Santa Cruz Art League.
Follow this artist on Instagram: @muy_yum_