New ‘Forever’ Stamps Honor Mexican-American Outsider Artist
by Jane Levere
March 25, 2015 – The United States Postal Service will dedicate five commemorative “forever” stamps March 26 honoring the outsider artist Martin Ramirez at the Manhattan gallery that represents his estate.
The New York Times called the choice of Mr. Ramirez’s work “highly unusual,” not only because he was schizophrenic and Mexican-American, but also because stamps honoring folk artists are rare. The painter Grandma Moses is one of the few other folk artists honored with stamps.
Born east of Guadalajara, toiled as a railroad worker and miner in the United States from 1925 until the early 1930’s, when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Until his death in 1963, he lived in two psychiatric hospitals in northern California.
While there, he made large-scale drawings inspired by American popular culture and memories of his homeland. Although he was not well-known during his lifetime, he gained recognition after this death, particularly as the subject of a 2007 retrospective at the American Folk Art Museum in New York.
The new stamps will feature details of works made between 1954 and 1963 that depict a horse and rider with trees, a man riding a donkey, trains on inclined tracks, deer, and a tunnel with cars and buses.
According to the gallery, Ramirez worked primarily in crayon and had a firm grasp of perspective and mark-making techniques consisting of rhythmic repetition and gentle shading. Later in his life, he began creating collage-type forms using newspaper clippings and previous drawings to add depth and texture.