Art was his only means of communication; now it’s his hope
There is a saying that art imitates life. If that is so, then the artistic genius of Jorge “JR” Ramirez reveals that he has life fully grasped within the strokes of his hands.
JR, as he is known by family and friends, comes from the streets of Chicago and moved to Sacramento at age 13.
The eldest of six children immediately fell in with the wrong crowd, joined a gang, and by the age of 16, was in Juvenile Hall facing a life sentence for a gang-related murder. While locked up, he began to learn to draw.
He was embarrassed by the fact that he could not read and write, but managed to communicate with his mom, the person he loved most, by drawing little hearts and flowers and mailing them to her. That let her know that he was doing OK.
“It wasn’t until I had accumulated a stack of letters from my mother that I could not read, when I decided to open up to my counselor, Ms. Rubio, telling her of my learning disability,” JR said.
During his interview with SQNews, JR pointed out that his counselor’s first words were “Why didn’t you say anything? In order for you to communicate with your family, you should always ask for help,” she advised.
While learning to read and write, he perfected the art of drawing. It took him approximately five or six years, he told SQNews,
As an artist, there were works he would see and admire; that drove him even harder to get the shadings in his work perfected, as the other artists had in theirs.
Watching and asking questions of other artists, JR says he became an unannounced student in the school of art.
Embracing each step, learning the magic of his pen, charcoal, acrylic, pastels, and oil graphite, JR has risen to a level of artistic creation that he is proud to display.
Modest at heart, JR did not recognize the talents he had developed until his wife and children began pushing him to share his art. He had not felt comfortable doing so prior to his family’s urging.
“Sharing my art helped me to create what I like to refer to as the book of my life,” said JR. “Everything I draw is significant to my growth as a man, as a father, as a husband, and as a son.”
His drawing of “Hope” came to fruition when a Security Housing Unit (SHU) psych tech at the California State Prison-Corcoran asked if he would draw something that she could hang on her wall to inspire men in her caseload.
His message: “Even though we are in prison and in The Hole, we never give up hope. We must always have hope that we are much more than our current situation and that things will get better. We will get better.”
JR worked on an acrylic piece titled “Dia de los Muertos” – Day of the Dead – which was done to bring awareness of COVID-19 and its deadly impact on society.
It also has a historic connotation in Mexico where, during the month of November, people go to the cemetery to honor the dead.
“My wife says my art is amazing, something that I myself do not necessarily believe, but she is fascinated by it and she says my work shows the character in me. She says it reflects my heart, the inner me.”
“Don’t Be Selfish” is a work of art that JR created in recognition of people not wanting to be vaccinated. It alludes to a pregnant woman whose embryo holds a mask. The meaning of it is simple: “Get vaccinated. Don’t be selfish.”
That message is intended to convey that the next generation of children will be faced with the decisions that we make today, he explained.