“Have a nice day and thanks for the CD,” reads a piece of crinkling lined paper taped to the back wall of Ramon Garcia’s office. Garcia was recently chosen for a fellowship program to write a monograph on a Los Angeles artist.
The thank you letter from one of Garcia’s students includes a small sketch of what is unmistakably Garcia’s head, wearing a beret slightly tilted to one side and with an expression of intellectual hipness.
“He’s different from other teachers,” said sophomore Eric Mata, 19, Chicano/a studies major. “His teaching style is different. You learn how to analyze critically, even within your own culture. You have to try harder than your average class.”
Garcia, who teaches Chicano/a studies, was selected by the 2010-2011 College of Humanities Research Fellow program for his proposal to write about Los Angeles photographer and artist Ricardo Valverde.
After turning in his proposal early in the year, Garcia said he was very pleased to hear his proposal was selected in February, only a month after turning in the application.
“I was delighted, of course,” Garcia said. “It’s very validating and meaningful because the professors that comprised the selection committee are scholars and teachers themselves.”
Garcia said he chose Valverde because he found him to be an interesting and deserving artist. According to Garcia, Valverde is widely respected among artists because of his contributions in the field of Chicano art and photography from the 1970s -1990s.
“He used his camera to document artistically whatever interested him, photographing various landscapes of the city and especially the various communities of Los Angeles.”
Garcia’s monograph includes the entire breadth of Valverde’s work and art.
“An artist’s monograph is kind of like a profile but of the entire work of the artist, so you have to cover to some extent the biographical history because it’s meant to represent his life as an artist,” Garcia said.
Chicano/a studies professor and artist Harry Gamboa knew and worked with Valverde and says Garcia’s work will help to expand people’s awareness of Chicano art.
Margarita Nieto, who teaches Chicano literature, said Valverde laid out significant groundwork for future Chicano artists and photographers.
“A lot of Valverde’s work has been marginalized,” Nieto said. “We need to have writers and historians documenting his work and giving new directions to younger artists who are working with this community focus of the experience of being a Chicano in Los Angeles.”
Gamboa like Nieto agrees that Garcia’s work will expose Valverde’s work to those who are not aware of it.
“I think it’s important to be exposed to Valverde’s work because then the other option is that you’ll watch only TV or pop culture and everything is distilled through mass media,” Gamboa said. “And he had a very private vision of what he experienced and as human beings that’s what we all experience, our own personal vision, and he was able to share that intimately with people.”
Garcia’s office is stuffed with books overflowing on shelves ranging from Oscar Wilde to Octavio Paz and includes books given to him by publishers who he hasn’t read through yet.
“I have to do a lot of work,” Garcia said. “I’m continuing to do research and study photography. He (Valverde) left a lot of accomplished work that merits attention and I think we have a lot to learn about it.”