Driving by a hedge on Mountain Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills last week, a passerby might have had to look twice to see that the man pruning the bush was really a cardboard painting. And that's the point.
Artist Ramiro Gomez Jr. wants people to look at the cardboard cutout again and ponder this strange sight. He says if it were a real person, people may not think twice about it. Now they do.
Gomez is becoming relatively well-known in the art world for his work "documenting a predominantly hispanic workforce" in the California. A male nanny in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Laurel Canyon himself, Gomez believes his work gives visibility to those who labor "tirelessly behind the scenes to present the beautiful images of the ideal Hollywood Hills homes."
Watch Gomez explain:
Gomez explains that his work isn't to point fingers at anyone but to be a voice in the conversation about what a segment of the population is doing to work in this country. Gomez does place his installations on private property and understands at some point they'll be removed, but he says he isn't afraid of the repercussions because "it's not about destroying anything." "It's about bringing awareness," he said.
Here is raw footage posted on YouTube of Gomez's installation placed on Cinco de Mayo (via LAist). You can see if drivers passing by pause a little longer to take a look:
In February, Gomez gave an interview to the Huffington Post about his work, which he has been producing since April 2011. In this instance, he also highlighted how, unlike graffiti, his work is not permanent. But that's not just to avoid damaging private property. He said it also shows the transitory nature of jobs held by the people he paints:
"It is an opportunity to reflect," says Gomez. "And to show that Beverly Hills, the Westside, and Los Angeles in general, does not just happen by miracle...You don’t get that perfect green lawn without the hard work of somebody else."
"In some circles, there's nothing worse than an immigrant, an "illegal" immigrant," said Gomez. "I think the reason my work is getting the attention is because people are tired of that negative portrayal."
Three years ago, Gomez dropped out of art school and took a job as a nanny to support himself in the city. He describes his move to Los Angeles as "jarring." A transplant from San Bernardino, CA, Gomez grew up in a working class family.
"My family is the reason I paint about these things. It's all very personal. The work, especially with housekeepers and gardeners, they're reflections of me, and many other people out here.”
On a more inclusive level, Gomez said he wants his viewers to see people working, whether or not they're getting paid for it, "notice that labor and respect that work."
"You know, as little as someone might seem to be on the totem pole -- they might just be the valet outside of the restaurant -- they're important, because they're a face," Gomez said to the Huffington Post. "And they have feelings, and they have thoughts, and they have a family, and they have lives."
See more Gomez' work here.