Grams: An elevated convo with Rawmirez
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
By Jonathan Salinas
Tomorrow, local activist, housing policy expert and multimedia artist, Josue Rawmirez will be showcasing his "stencil work focusing on the ziplock baggies that hold the good stuff," inside of Yerberia Cultura for a 4/20 event featuring a DJ set by chillwave pioneer Neon Indian on the main stage. Check out the event page by clicking the cover photo above! And get your tickets here before they sell out, as they have the last two times Alan Palomo has come to the Valley.
The Los Fresnos native's "high-end" art consists of weed baggy designs of the kind used to sell grams (Gs). Covered with creative designs from "4:20," to logos from designer brands like Nike, Adidas, Playboy on 16x20 canvases, Rawmirez decided to take these little bags he had collected over the years and put them to use in the service of "visibility" to get conversations started about something that more and more are accepting, but that is still illegal and tabooed.
I had a chance to sit down and vape with Josue about the exhibit before the show. After 32 coughs, I asked him about what inspired the exhibit, when he began arting and his views on the plant many of us have come to know and love. His canvases are featured below and they will be on sale tomorrow for $20 each.
Here is my conversation with Rawmirez (edited for brevity). Kick back, take a hit and enjoy.
How did the event come to be?
When I noticed that 4/20 was falling on a Friday, I thought it’d be a great day to have an event that was pro-marijuana and so I talked to a friend about maybe putting together like a concert and an art show so I already had some sort of collection I had already to show that was weed-related. And so I posed it to Yerberia Cultura and Patrick’s like, 'yeah, man. You can have this show inside, we’ll see about the music.' And then later on he was like, 'oh, I think I got the music but you can still have the show. And so, you know, it’s on a Friday, it’s 4/20, it’s the perfect time to show support for something like this and obviously it being a cult holiday for those that do celebrate, partake, something that they are familiar with. So pairing that with the chill vibes of, electronic vibes, it’s cool. So I’m like, I’m down.
As an activist, writer, advocate, how do you feel about affiliating yourself with the use or the sale of a substance that’s illegal and that is looked down upon in our community? Other activists and advocates who partake keep that discreet.
I mean, it’s not like I’m actively trying to promote like, what do you call it, it’s consumption, per se. But I mean, I’m showing art and people can come look at it and say what they want to say about the art. I’m just basically putting it out there for them to make their minds up about it. I’m just gonna show it! With that being said, I do think that visibility is important to change people’s perceptions of things and so the more visible we make things, the more you put them in their face so you either develop their thoughts on it or maybe change their minds because I think a lot of people, when they don’t understand something is when they oppose it or when they have certain stereotypes about it.
And so visibility is really important in that sense because you get it in front of them and they can start talking and having these conversations with them that can potentially change their minds to either be more understanding or be more accepting, or just acknowledge the fact that other people have these different ideas, or that these people have different ideas about this and that they feel a certain way about these things, and maybe that they should acknowledge that and, not support necessarily, but just respect people’s rights to be able to do that.
So I think that’s the same for any sort of activism, you know? This is just one of the many intersectional parts of everything we live in, you know? It’s just a part and it does affect two communities. We can’t deny the effect that mass-incarceration has in our communities because of this substance, because of that. And I don’t think that’s because of the substance itself, but I think it’s because of the policing of this thing and, again, because of the understanding that people have, that is based off fear of this thing that was meant to be hidden and so I think putting an art show for it and just making it visible, I think it’s a first step in having people start those conversations, or continue those conversations, and just do that.
How long have you been arting?
I think since I was introduced to it in high school. I’m self-taught so ever since I can remember, elementary kids would ask me to draw stuff for them, you know? We would have to make like Christmas cards or like Mother's Day cards. I remember one time people kept asking me to do something for them and I was like give me a dollar [laughs] and so I got like three dollars from kids that wanted, like, a nutcracker, or something. So I don’t know. I always liked it and through that interaction I think learned that I was good at it. But it's also just something that I like to do and really, that’s what it is. It’s a passion of mine that I like to not think I'm too casual about cause it really helps me relax and it's very soothing, mostly, which is why I do it in the first place.
So its soothing qualities is what's inspirational?
Yeah, I think so. That’s definitely an inspiration for making art in general. For this specific piece I just really want to showcase the designs of the baggies themselves 'cause I think it says a lot of why these images are on these bags, right? I just wanted people to think about it, think about a cute design and then see something that you see in your every day interactions, or not everyday, but, you know, things you can see in interactions of lived life and that we sometimes take for granted or oversee but it's like if we spend some time and look at it, they have an aesthetic to them and they have, obviously, designs on them for a reason because people took the time to put these little cute things on them.
So, it's just fun, and its like pop, surreal, pop imagery and its kind of realistic, but not really. I don’t know what to call that: Like realism, but not really. Street art realist? I don’t know if it’s a thing. It's like somewhat realistic 'cause I do want it to look like a little baggie from afar. I'm gonna put them all on one wall.
So have you been drawing them and collecting baggies throughout the years or did yo collect the bags and then start on it for the exhibit?
No, I’ve had some of these for a while, I just kept adding little things. The stencil has been the same for the bags so I just cut it out once and then I ended up using it over and over again. Now I'm kind of worried there might not be enough pieces. But I do have like five others. And then I want to do empty baggies laid on top of each other for a larger canvas of them. And i had a painting that said “why cant everybody get a bong?” I kinda wanted to recreate it, but I don’t know if it makes sense.
On design and concept
I just wanted them to look like bags. I was also wanting to recreate larger ones. But I don’t think I have time. And like I said, this is supposed to be fun, so I'm not really . . .
So I'd probably be fine if people were like, you know, those critiques or whatever . . . It'd be fun. I might make some stickers or some prints that people can have. But yeah, it's just like, it’s a fun show. I'm gonna hang out, listen to chillwave, actually also selling them for really cheap. The idea is that they're gonna be worth a grams-worth. So like 20 bucks, 25 bucks.
Gs go for about 10 or 15 now.
Oh, well shit. So that’s what I'm gonna do. They're gonna be 20 dollars [y'all are welcome-JS], if people wanna buy em, fuck it, its like your buying a gram your not gonna get any weed but . . . [laughs].
So will people be able to take them as soon as they buy them or would you prefer they come at the end and take them?
Yeah, just take them. Just go for it. You want 'em, you like it, go. And that’s the purpose, you know? I don’t have any need for these. I just have them there stacking up. It's for fun. It's like a fun piece. And if I sell four, I get 100 bucks.
I'm gonna have to pre-order one
It looks better when I have little buttons. It looks better also when I just play them and then I just have that thing that says "sold," so people are like “oh shit!” [laughs] I'm also gonna go in later and fill in some of the light so they can stand out, probably. I just wanted like simple, like basic, and then, you know, pop-y. The idea of buying the bags and designs to make, like, a larger story. So, for example, I combined this one, the stars, and . . . I cant think of the other one. But they were all together and the bags were overlaying and I named it “unsportsman-like conduct,” 'cause they were all like 'sportsmanly,' but I also wanted to touch on the type of people that buy baggies through the design of the baggie 'cause all kinds of people buy baggies. Like the baggies that your dealer buys. Mine would always give me the ones with the sexy lady on them. I also wanted people to think about combining them or by the way I name them. So like, I think I'm gonna name them like this one [walks to alien baggie] is called far out. So I'm playing with the idea of weed and getting high and this is [picks up baggie with "4:20"] “its 420 somewhere.” Somebody bought the original of the dice ones and it was called "roll the dice."
So I saw that you were part of the Mariconx art gallery
Yeah, Mariconx is part of Artitude and Artitude is a nonprofit that brings queers into supporting queer artists and/or artists in general. And I think Mariconx is like the queer art. They were talking about making a state-wide show in larger cities that showcased queer, Latinx artists and then have those shows, but then have a larger show in Dallas in the fall that would bring some of the work from the individual shows. These folks were asking and were putting this together and then somebody that I know from San Antonio put a call to art, but I saw that they didn’t have the Valley. They had San Antonio and I was like “what about the RGV, man?” Can other artists apply? So the guy who put the post said “I’ve been trying to get someone from the RGV but I don’t have any connections down there. Would you be down to run the show and help me set it up?” I was like, “yeah, man. I put together a queer art show just recently so it shouldn't be that hard.” So they told me what they were doing, and they brought me on board, actually last week in Austin when I was doing my show. They came down and they supported my show, and the next day we hung out and talked about the plan for doing this mariconx show.
So the idea for us is that we are applying to Pride in the Park and hopefully we’ll have a stage or hallway where we’ll be showcasing queer art from artists who identify as queer and Latino in the Valley and then later on, some of those pieces will be taken to Dallas to be part of a larger show featuring Texas queer Latinos from different regions.
Get your tickets for tomorrow's show here.
Omar Coronado assisted with this article.