A place for more stuff
Two artists and two shows take summer residence at Humanities Center Gallery
It is not surprising that digital artist Jesus Ramirez gives his current exhibit in CSU, Chico’s Trinity Hall the simple, understated title, More Stuff. The talented artist comes across as a very humble man.
Ramirez is the man responsible for the large mural commissioned by the city of Chico, “Downtown Kaleidoscope,” in Ringel Park, as well as murals in his native Mexico, among others. Now, due to time and fatigue constraints brought about by the thrice-weekly kidney dialysis he must go through, he no longer can paint with oils and watercolors, “the natural media,” like he used to.
“I’d love to be up on a scaffold painting a mural eight hours a day, but I can’t,” the 47-year-old husband and father of two says.
Ramirez was born in Jalisco, Mexico, moved to Chico in 1978 and was granted U.S. citizenship in 1985. “I don’t have time to paint with oils and watercolors any more, so I use the computer. Life deals you with different cards. You do the best with what you’ve got.”
His collection of digital paintings in the Trinity Hall show is proof positive that his “best” is excellent. There’s a striking painting of a red-and-green cactus that gives the impression of being both a watercolor and a photograph at the same time, and the powerful “Fallen Angel,” a surrealistic piece with Catholic overtones featuring a rather sensuous-looking angel “with vampire wings … being cast down to Hell” hovering above a stylized version of a bull’s horned skull. Ramirez’s work invites the viewer to wonder, to imagine and to enjoy.
“I don’t claim to be really philosophical about my paintings. … I try to put my feeling into [my paintings],” the passionate Ramirez points out. Of “Cyberman,” another surrealistic piece depicting the writhing legs and arm of a man (which brought to mind Christ for this viewer), Ramirez says simply, “It is an interpretation of energy, what’s happening in hi-tech. Again, I’m not going to get too philosophical about it.”
Ramirez’ Humanities show partner is encaustic painter and registered art therapist Cynthia Schildhauer. Also currently showing her artwork at Chico Paper Co. and in Sacramento, Schildhauer arrived at her collection of 10 pieces—Places—after reading a book on mathematics, A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, by Michael Schneider.
“I was kind of seeking a peaceful understanding of life,” Schildhauer starts out. After going through what she cautiously refers to as some “family chaos,” the mother of two found the respite and healing she was looking for by reading Schneider’s book, which chapter by chapter lays out, in essence, the meaning of life according to numbers, to mathematical principles, and then interpreting what she read into Places.
The pieces in are numbered “One” through “Ten.” The first nine are large, colorful paintings done in the encaustic method of painting with molten wax. “Ten” is simply a white pedestal with a plain white deck of cards—"a full deck"—sitting atop it.
“I painted them in that order,” Schildhauer points out. “It was a very synchronistic compulsion,” given that her brother-in-law had just given her the copy of Schneider’s book at the very time that she most needed the spiritual guidance that the book provided her.
Schildhauer stands before “Two,” a dream-like painting with the numerically appropriate price of $1244.22 that gives one the feeling of being inside a room looking out onto a moonlit alley at the same time that it draws the viewer into studying the mathematical principle represented in the intersecting circles at its center. Its title card quotes Bob Dylan ("Everybody’s shouting, ‘Which side are you on?'") as well as Schneider: “Two is the only case where the addition of a number to itself yields the same result as it does multiplying it by itself.”
“It’s all about relationship,” Schildhauer states, as she motions to the two intersecting circles. “For reflection of a complete number one, you need to have two,” she somewhat mystically adds.