Chuck Ramirez: Outsider Objects



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Chuck Ramirez, a graphic designer for H-E-B, a Texas-based grocery store chain, spent his workdays communicating ideas through the products he promoted in glossy advertisements and posters. His professional career undoubtedly influenced his artistic endeavors, which revolved around producing images of everyday objects. He often photographed his subjects out of context, isolated against a stark white background, thereby provoking the viewer to reexamine them. What was it about coconuts, grocery bags, pillboxes, piñatas, raw meat, wilted flowers, and worn brooms that enthralled Ramirez? What ideas was he communicating through the idiosyncratic objects he chose to photograph? This thesis will illustrate how the quotidian objects Ramirez chose to examine were linked to his liminal identity. While Ramirez’s photographs on the surface appear as merely images of simple objects, in reality his works play out like self-portraits, reflecting the overlapping complexities of his identity and the struggle to come to terms with who he was. A self-proclaimed “coconut,” Ramirez was a Mexican-American who was reared like a “white kid;” a designation that made him neither Chicano, nor Mexican nor Anglo. Furthermore, he was a gay man contending with HIV and struggling with a serious heart condition. The objects in his photographs serve as stand-ins for himself and are metaphorically connected to his self-proclaimed “outsider” status. Ramirez’s objects became a medium through which he contemplated his race, upbringing, sexuality and illnesses. This thesis will examine Ramirez’s work in a broader context, considering the influence his environment and heritage had on his artistic themes and techniques, while also assaying the personal discourse embedded in his creations.



Ramirez, Chuck, Rasquache, Rasquachismo, San Antonio, Texas, Identity, Infinito Botanica