Media Life: Philadelphia museum highlights Auburn artist

State Parks’ Lynch has new sesquicentennial assignment
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at He a regular guest on Capital Public Radio’s “Insight.” And you can catch up with Thomson on Twitter at AJ_Media_Life.



Auburn outsider artist Martin Ramirez’ star is shining brighter these days in Philadelphia.

Several of Ramirez’ otherworldly pastiche of tunnels, horsemen, trains and Madonnas are on prominent display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through June 9.

The Ramirez drawings and collages – many held together by Ramirez’ paste combination of spit and food scraps – are part of the edgy, imaginative creations collected by Philly law-firm CEO Sheldon Bonovitz and his wife, Jill, over the past three decades.

Ramirez, who died in 1963 at North Auburn’s DeWitt State Hospital mental institution, made his biggest splash in the world of art in 2007 with a highly attended, critically praised show at New York’s American Folk Art Museum. There was very little recognition of his art – first discovered near the start of his stay at DeWitt in 1948 – during his lifetime. But from the 1970s on, his limited output has been recognized for its primitive sense of wonder. Record crowds flocked to see more than 90 of his works during the New York show. That touched off a positive critical evaluation of his place in the artistic pantheon – either outsider or in the more traditional realm.

The Philadelphia showing allows his work to take its place in a less-bombastic setting. “Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection,” presents more than 200 works from 27 artists who worked outside the boundaries of the mainstream modern and contemporary art world.

The Philadelphia Museum – one of the largest in the United States – states that many in the group are iconic figures among self-taught artists who have been recognized as significant in the broader field of American 20th-century art.

And Philadelphia will continue to come under the Ramirez spell. The works on view in “Great and Mighty Things” has been promised to the museum. It’s expected to help establish the facility as one of the foremost centers for the study of the artist and others in the outsider artist genre.

It’s another nationally significant honor for an artist who lived in Auburn and produced all his surviving output here.


“Companion” on tap

Minnesota’s gift to the public radio airwaves arrives in Sacramento Community Center Theater on July 11. Garrison Keillor and “A Prairie Home Companion” will be on tour coast-to-coast this summer and tickets for the SacTown performance will go on sale at 10 a.m. April 12.

Keillor and the show have been a presence in Auburn and environs for at least a quarter of a century on Sacramento public radio so tickets should go fast. Get them at, by phone at (916)808-5181, or at the Sacramento Convention Center box office.


Sesquicentennial assignment

One of the primo promoters of local history in the area is moving on to bigger things.

Auburn State Recreation Area Sector Superintendent Mike Lynch – a presence in the park since the late 1970s and superintendent since 2008 – has taken a new assignment to work on the 150th California State Parks anniversary. His last day will be May 15.

2014 will mark the sesquicentennial of the state parks department and Lynch has become deeply involved – initially proposing the idea of a big celebration and then as a chief proponent of the concept. The new assignment isn’t a total break. Lynch says he’s worked out a plan to allow him to continue to be involved part-time on planning, including getting Mountain Quarries Mine tours up and running.

“I’m very pleased that I was able to play a part in turning around the ‘dark days’ of the near closing of Auburn State Recreation Area and the replacing of this turmoil and uncertainty with the 25-year managing partner agreement and long-term stable funding we now have,” Lynch said.


Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at He a regular guest on Capital Public Radio’s “Insight.” And you can catch up with Thomson on Twitter at AJ_Media_Life.