Professor Mojica
17 June 2018
MAFAH (Cynthia)
Chuck Ramirez’s MFAH (Cynthia) presents an Image of a handbag and provides insight
into arguably what is one of the most private sectors of a female outside of their mind itself. It is
not, however, meant to marginalize or presume the essence of who the subject is based on the
content of their bag. Rather, Ramirez provides a glimpse of the many facets of their sense of self.
Presenting an intimate window from which the audience may look in without passing judgment.
Chuck Ramirez accomplishes this by using visual and conceptual techniques found in
contemporary graphic design as a way of having familiar objects represent something more
profoundly human and a different aspect of the subject’s personality and real life experience.
Ramirez’s work is titled MAFAH (Cynthia), named after the owner of the handbag
depicted in his print. At first glance the bag seems to be overflowing with items haphazardly
stuffed together until one of the flaps of the bag doubles over from the weight. The bag itself is a
vibrant red each detail noticeable down to the finest stitch. While the contents of the bag seems
to have no significance upon further inspects there are items ranging from the practical to the
religious, a melting pot of different ideologies. A slyly placed pamphlet with the words NAFAH
serve as the artist’s signature. In spite of the handbags elegance and detail it becomes quite
obvious that Ramirez’s predominant focus was the content within the bag itself. A pair of worn
working gloves, a snow globe from Paris and the cork from a spent bottle of wine, mundane
items that form in direct opposition to the quality of the bag.
The visual and expressive elements used by Ramirez are mesmerizing.. While the print
itself is two dimensional, the artists masterly manipulates color, light and shadow with the
variation of lines and organic shapes of the bag to create a vibrant three dimensional effect. The
contrasting between the shadows near the pair of gloves crossest to the lower foreground giving
the appearance of a bag that is slightly tilted in your direction, while the top of the print is cast in
less shadow giving it the bag a more subtle curve and the appearance of volume. The negative
space around the print only serves to solidify the three-dimensional effect even furthered while
also drawing even more attention to the space and items inside the bag itself. What truly
animates this photo of something so mundane is the implied intimacy, the nonchalant way the
handbag is left open prompting the viewer to investigate even as social etiquette has conditioned
us to look away.
Upon further inspection its obvious that many of the items were placed deliberately either
by the owner or Ramirez himself not as a way to fool the audience but possibly more of a
method to truly capture a more accurate portrait of the owner. The strength of this technique also
lends to the limitations of the medium itself. While digital print recreates every detail flawlessly
with such vibrant expression of color, it tends to give a hyper realism that begins to looks staged
an unreal to the human eye. The more I observed the print, the more I found myself needing to
be reminded that it was a photo and not graphically simulated or a hyper realistic painting from
the mind of imagination. Especially in areas where color saturation was at its deepest, the edges
of the handbag, the blue ribbon that seemed to inexplicably shimmer depending on where I
stood, the deep brown of the worn leather gloves and the edge of a yellow glasses case all
became a bit of a distraction as I was half expecting them to fall out of the bag at any moment.
However, this hyper realistic unease adds to the intimacy a reminder that the audience in this
instance is tuning in on something that traditionally is very personal and to not feel to
comfortable doing it often and without permission.
A woman’s purse has always had somewhat of mystique around it. Almost acting as an
extension of the woman herself, a representation of her style the handbag representing the “ outer
layer” the image of ones self that is presented to the outside world, while the content within
represents “inner self” each item representing a different facet that is rarely seen all at once but
caught in glimpses by the lucky few. Each item seems meaningless when viewed separately, But
taken together you begin to form a deeper understanding of who Cynthia is. Chuck Ramirez’s
NAFAH (Cynthia), while being presented as a digital print of inanimate objects, is more
representative of a self portrait each object bringing the viewer a deeper more intimate
understanding of the subject. In a time where gender equality is such a hot button issue pieces
like these serve to humanize us all and bridge the gap that threatens to keep us apart.
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