Ramiro Gomez Jr., an artist from Los Angeles, had brought his “interruptions,” as he calls them, to Washington.
The point was to make the invisible visible, Gomez said.
“It’s my hope to get people to stop and stare at these pieces so the next time they see a real person working, it pauses them as well,” Gomez said. “There’s a humor involved with it, rather than standing with a sign and yelling. I feel that’s needed for such poisonous issues.”
In L.A., Gomez, 26, is starting to make a name in academic and artistic circles for his pop-up portraits of Latino laboring characters, which he disperses in rich neighborhoods and outside fancy stores in Beverly Hills. His rendering of, say, the gardener he planted near George Clooney’s house or his tableau of a janitor installed outside a Fred Segal store on Melrose Avenue, is meant to remind people of those who help make their lives so comfortable. The placement of the art is unauthorized, and property managers tend to take it down within a day or so. Gomez memorializes each work’s brief existence with photos, which then circulate on the Internet.
Gomez was invited to town by the National Day Labor Organizing Network, part of a coalition demanding a halt to deportations that brought 200 activists to attend the hearing and lobby this week.
In Washington, the results were mixed. Gomez’s installations kept falling victim to wind gusts and vigilant security. He had lengthier interactions with the Secret Service and Capitol Police officers than with curious bystanders.
And yet, by the end of the mission, the act of deploying the art itself seemed a victory to Gomez. He took his digital photos, and scores of immigrants — many undocumented and some facing deportation — visiting the Hill took heart from just the idea of this son of Mexican immigrants running around town with portraits of people like them.
“It’s a very expressive way to demonstrate to people that the invisible can become visible,” said Tomas Martinez, 49, an activist with a radio program in Georgia who came for the hearing. “He knows how to project his art, and he’s doing it with a strong message.”
Still, Washington is not a subtle town. In Lafayette Square, Gomez was competing with a guy holding a sign that said, “Stop the CIA’s Brain Bug Implanting.” And on Capitol Hill, he hauled his fruit-pickers past a bearded fellow with a backpack and a sleeping bag and a sign that said, “The State of the Union Would Be Better with Fairly Bright Hobo as Dictator.”