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Public Art Monday: USPS Pays Tribute to Martin Ramirez

On Mondays, we share our favorite public art works from Houston and around the globe with you. We believe passionately in the transformative power of public art for both the individual and in communities. Check out previous Public Art Monday posts here.

In this week’s installation of Public Art Monday, we’re going postal. Well, more accurately, we’re going to the US Post Office. Since the issuance of the first postage stamp on May 6, 1840 in Britain (nicknamed the “Penny Black” because of the cost, one penny, and color of the stamp, black), collectors have existed to carefully document our postal history. Stamps have gained so much popularity through the years that in 1968, the US Postal Service began issuing a yearly presentation book of each year’s commemorative stamps.  To create a commemorative stamp, a special committee, comprised of members appointed by the US Postmaster General, convenes to review suggestions, and follows a strict selection criteria and process protocol.

With increased efforts to provide new sources of revenue for the USPS, more and more commemorative stamps have been produced, bringing attention to various historical and significant aspects of American life. Recent commemorative and collectible stamp collections have included classic cars, super heroes, scientists, historical landmarks, landscapes, birds…you get the idea. The USPS even has a special website dedicated to all things stamps — with a blog, dates of issue for new stamps, and peeks inside the process.

We’re particularly interested in the focus on artists, and through the years many commemorative stamps have been issued featuring the works of Andy Warhol, Alexandar Calder and more. On March 26, the USPS will issue a new commemorative stamp featuring the hand-drawn works of self-taught painter Martin Ramirez. The new stamps will feature five designs from his more than 450 works, and will be offset-printed, issued in panes of 20. The drawings represented on the stamps are from a body of work Ramirez completed during his long-time hospitalization in a Northern California mental hospital, while receiving treatment for schizophrenia.

An opening ceremony for the first day of issue will take place on March 26 at 6pm at Ricco Maresca Gallery; the ceremony coincides with the opening of the gallery’s exhibit “Martin Ramirez Forever,” which runs through May 2.

To learn more about Martin Ramirez’ vast body of work, click here.