Outsider Artist Gets Stamp of Approval
by William Grimes
March 20, 2015 – The United States Postal Service plans to issue five commemorative “forever” stamps on March 26 honoring the outsider artist Martín Ramírez, each with an image taken from one of his works.
It is not unusual to see an artist, or an artwork, on a United States postage stamp. The John Trumbull paintings “Declaration of Independence” and “George Washington Before the Battle of Trenton” were used in the 1860s, and the Postal Service honored five artists as part of its Famous Americans Series in 1940. But Mr. Ramírez counts as a highly unusual choice not only because he was Mexican-American and schizophrenic, but also because folk art stamps are rare. Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, is one of the few who come to mind.
Born in Tepatitlán de Morelos, east of Guadalajara, Mr. Ramírez entered the United States in 1925 and labored as a miner and railroad worker before being diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1930s. He spent the rest of his days, until his death in 1963, in two psychiatric hospitals in Northern California.
While being treated, Mr. Ramírez created large-scale drawings — some more than 20 feet long — that blended the Mexico of his memory with images from American popular culture. Little known during his lifetime, he achieved widespread recognition in the decades after his death, especially after receiving a retrospective at the American Folk Art Museum in 2007.
The stamps will highlight details from the following works, created between 1954 and 1963: “Untitled (Horse and Rider with Trees),” “Untitled (Man Riding Donkey),” “Untitled (Trains on Inclined Tracks),” “Untitled (Deer)” and “Untitled (Tunnel with Cars and Buses).” They will be dedicated on March 26 in a ceremony at the Ricco-Maresca Gallery in Chelsea, which represents the artist’s estate and has the stamps on its website.