Death of an Artist, Notes from the Inside
Today I got the news that yesterday the young Raza Artist, Antonio Ramos, was shot and killed in Oakland, Califas as he was paining a mural on the wall. It is horrible to hear of any young people being murdered, but to hear of an artist, a cultural worker being killed, is something worse.
Ramos was doing the work that he loved, that is creating art which was people’s art. His gift and passion was not just used for Raza, nor for his nation but it was used to give voice and express the experience of all oppressed people. He created art for everyday people and reflected what we see down on the street level of this lopsided society. He helped create murals which helped to speak for the people who could not. For this, I have much unity with Ramos.
I think a lot about this and what kind of society creates the atmosphere where artists who paint for the people are silenced through death. The artist is after all not only a peace ambassador but a visionary for poor people. The artist is the one who attempts to paint a reality not yet here. All of this is done often without payment or with little payment. For the artist the real payment is the smile on the viewer’s face, it is the spark of ideas that arrive when one’s art touches the viewer in ways that an article cannot.
The only type of society which can create the conditions where Artistas like Ramos can be killed, is one based in extreme oppression. One where Capitalism breeds the inequality which forces people to deal with their own oppression in the wrong ways. Often lashing out at people just like themselves or whose social reality mirrors their own in many ways. We live in such a society where the easiest people to strike out at are those closest to ourselves. Often those who struggle the most, for us who suffer, are the ones who suffer the most.
I had never met this artist Antonio Ramos and yet I have met so many more just like him. This young muralist, I am sure would have liked us all to reflect on the best that he gave to his community. To die doing what you love to do is so bitter sweet. His short life, I think, allows all artists to think deeply about the importance of art and the importance of artists to create art which helps all of us deal with such a horrible existence in a dog eat dog society.
My hope is that the people think of what artists mean to our barrios and our communities. My hope is that Artists are encouraged by those in the communities and supported. Artists work for the people. People’s artists are our heroes not our enemy. If we look to history we see that it was the people’s artists that have always spoke on our behalf, often with harm or death because of this. The treatment of our artists should reflect our understanding of this.
Jose H Villarreal
Pelican bay SHU