Chuck Ramirez lived with HIV. It didn’t kill him and it wasn’t going to. He was tragically taken from us in a bike accident over two years ago. The heart of San Antonio’s art community was sundered. He is missed.
Angela and Mark Walley are a local wife and husband filmmaking team that focus on documenting and advocating the arts in San Antonio.
Their most recent work: "Excerpts for John," is the eighth film in a series of short documentaries produced by Walley Films in association with Glasstire.com. Filmmakers Mark and Angela Walley began documenting the creation of a large scale painting by artist Vincent Valdez in the fall of 2010. The painting depicts Vincent's childhood best friend, John Holt Jr. An Army combat medic, John died in 2009 after serving in Iraq. The couple followed Vincent over the course of two years as he completed the painting and came to terms with the loss of his friend. The short documentary film includes musical tributes to John performed by Vincent on trumpet, recreations of Vincent's last moments with John, and insight into the creation of a powerful portrait of a soldier lost in the fog of war."
I spoke to them about their latest project, Tia Chuck, a documentary on the legacy of Chuck Ramirez they are currently in the process of researching, planning and funding.
Jacob Coltrane Burris: What are the advantages to working as a husband and wife team? Disadvantages?
Mark & Angela Walley: Collaboration has always been at the heart of our relationship, so working together came naturally. We trust and respect each otherʼs opinion and are open to giving and receiving feedback and encouragement. Over the years we have developed different skills that balance our working relationship out, so we can manage both the business and creative sides of our work.
JB: What drew you to film as the medium for artistic expression?
M&A: We began making films together as teenagers and in college found that filmmaking was the culmination of all our creative interests - image, sound, and storytelling. We were drawn to documentary films as a way of preserving history and capturing ephemeral moments in the lives of our subjects. The work weʼve produced following artists embodies our love for revealing an artistic process through cinematic storytelling. Our films give us the opportunity to captivate an audience with intimate stories, and meaningful revelations from the artists about their work.
JB: Describe your first encounter with Chuck.
M&A: We met Chuck Ramirez in the summer of 2009 at The Colloquium II, a series of presentations from artists on their work. We screened our most recent films at the time, along with presentations from five other artists, including Chuck. At the end of the evening Chuck approached us with great enthusiasm. We were new to the downtown art scene, and felt like Chuck embodied the welcoming spirit of a supportive and encouraging community. He was immediately interested in collaborating with us, and we all became instant friends.
JB: Itʼs been a little over two years since Chuckʼs passing, what do you think is his biggest legacy/ impact on San Antonio (particularly in the art community)?
M&A: When Chuck died the community responded in a way we could have never imagined. The sentiment we remember hearing from friends was that Chuck was the heart of the art community. Not only was he at the center of the art community, living in the house behind Sala Diaz, an artist-run exhibition space in Southtown, he also represented a love and support for contemporary art in our community. We hope that through the development of Tia Chuck, a feature-length documentary film following the life and work of Chuck, we will begin to understand his impact on San Antonio and the legacy he left behind.
JB: Please describe the project.
M&A: In the summer of 2010 we discussed producing a short documentary with Chuck for our series with Glasstire.com. He passed away before we began filming and we felt like that opportunity had been taken from us. Our reaction to Chuckʼs passing was to document the events our friends, and friends of friends created in his honor. Weʼve been thinking about producing a documentary about Chuck for over two years and are now committed to seeing it through. Weʼre in the research and development stages and are seeking financial support in the community. We hope this film will allow the San Antonio community to find closure with Chuckʼs unexpected death, and will ensure that his legacy lives on - bringing his remarkable life and work to new audiences.
JB: Some of Chuckʼs art involved portraits of the banal, everyday objects we tend to pass by or discard. In some ways, weʼve done the same with HIV. World Aidʼs Day is Dec. 1st. In what ways can art and film be used to highlight this problem?
M&A: Chuck addressed mortality through his work, due in part to living HIV positive since 1990. HIV wasnʼt going to take Chuckʼs life, but he was aware of the lives lost by those who didnʼt have access to treatment. Today in the US, nearly half of the 1.1 million people living with HIV are not on treatment. A great example of how film can be used to highlight this problem is How to Survive a Plague, a documentary film about how activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Visual media is how people are most able to relate to the world around them, so works created in response to AIDs or as educational tools are invaluable.
Learn more about Chuck Ramirez:
Documentary site: tiachuck.com
Memorial site at goodbye.chuckramirez.com.
Collection of work at Ruiz-Healy Art.
Jacob Coltrane Burris comes from a line of Texas rebels and bootleggers. Attempts to settle a restless spirit included stints traveled along the westernmost states, from the Pacific fogs of the Bay Area to the frozen mountains of Montana. Somehow San Antonio always pulls him back. On occasion, he’ll write for Mondo Nation, an online music magazine.