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Media Life: Auburn artist wins New York Times seal of approval

By: Gus Thomson
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At long last, cultural kingmaker the New York Times has given some recognition to the Martin Ramirez exhibition showing in the Big Apple at the American Folk Art Museum. The review appeared last Friday and — as with everything else written or said about Ramirez’s works these days — it’s glowing. The Folk Art Museum’s “The Last Works” opened at its Manhattan exhibition space 1½ months ago. It followed a hugely popular 2007 show of Ramirez drawings. The focus is 25 drawings that were stored in an Auburn garage for 20 years and not known to art circles until a little under two years ago. “Admirers of the 2007 show will not be disappointed,” Times reviewer Karen Rosenberg wrote. “…the latest drawings are a find. One can only hope that additional stashes of Ramirez’s art will surface.” Ramirez, who died in Auburn in 1964, gave the drawings to Dr. Max Dunievitz, a longtime Auburn doctor who was working at the DeWitt State Hospital during the artist’s last years. Ramirez was a patient at the North Auburn hospital between 1948 and 1964, creating all his known artistic output during that time. The Dunievitz collection of 144 drawings and collages was a revelation to the art world. Just about 300 Ramirez works were known to exist before local resident Peggy Dunievitz contacted the Folk Art Museum. Recent sales of Ramirez works have fetched up to $300,000. A major show in 2007 of nearly 100 Ramirez drawings was universally lauded by critics and proved so popular with the public that it was held over and eventually sent on the road to San Jose and Milwaukee. The exhibition at the West 53rd Street museum will continue through April 12, while several more paintings are being displayed at the Ricco Maresca gallery nearby in Manhattan. n n n GRAMMY COLLABORATION Auburn music producer and composer Eric Chun has teamed with Bay Area-based Claytoven Richardson on a new Christmas song called “It’s Christmas Time.” Richardson may not be a household name — except in his own household — but his background vocals have graced the recordings of quite a few superstars in music. Try Kenny G, Ricky Martin, Elton John, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. His 1999 work on Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” earned Grammy recognition. Now he’s working with Chun, whose own credits include “Ghost Whisperer,” “Nash Bridges,” and the movie “Black Christmas.” Chun’s work sits mostly below the radar in his hometown, where he’s perhaps best known as leader of the Auburn Drum Line. Chun’s Creative Music Services is packaging “It’s Christmas Time” as a digital download on iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon.com and Aimee Music, as well as the traditional CD format. All physical sales of the single are being donated to non-profit organizations during the holiday season and one of the local beneficiaries will be the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. The single will soon be available at the club’s Downtown Auburn office as well as several other local locations. Chun said “It’s Christmas Time” emphasizes the importance of family, friends, children and thanking and helping each other during the Christmas and holiday season. Richardson and Chun are joined by vocalist Kathie Rollins on a song that melds strings, pianos, guitars and world percussion. For information on other sales sites and the song, or being a sales site, contact Creative Music Services at cms@wizwire.com. n n n DIGITAL FOX FOX40 News is joining in on the digital changeover with a test on Dec. 4. Following in KCRA 3’s footsteps, the news crew will be shutting down analog transmitters for 30 seconds to simulate what will happen Feb. 17, when stations nationwide convert to DTV. The first test will take place during the 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. hour of FOX40 Live and again around 10:45 p.m. during FOX40 news. FOX40 has both the digital and analog signals now but will go to strictly digital Feb. 17. If you’re already on digital, you’ll have noticed that FOX40 has a new second DTV channel, with Spanish-language programming. It fills a void created after the demise of The Cube, a failed attempt at round-the-clock music video telecasts aimed at Baby Boomers and X-geners. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.