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Arts & Culture

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Meet the Artists Behind SA’s Most Iconic Restaurant Interiors

Photo: Courtesy, License: N/A

Courtesy

Duran's Día de los Muertos-inspired remix of Renoir’s 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' at Bistro Vatel

Photo: Rolando Ramirez Ramos, License: N/A

Rolando Ramirez Ramos

Tatum's Mellow Mushroom Man in Space mural at Mellow Mushroom


Could you pinpoint a signature piece and give us the story behind it?
Well I do like the Frida Margarita. You know that painting is really popular. When Diego Rivera’s daughter was here in San Antonio years back for a book signing at La Mansion del Rio, she was presented one of the prints of Frida Margarita ... Frida Kahlo was her stepmother at one time.

What can you tell us about the legacy of the Stone Oak Fork?
Well, I was commissioned to do it by Damien [Watel] from Bistro Vatel. And so we did it; we accomplished it. It took a long time to do it, because it was my first public art. It was just heartbreaking to put a wall around it, for a piece of public art, it felt like it was a little Berlin Wall going up around it. It really was not a sign like they said it was. A sign would be by the curb ... this was between two courtyards, two buildings. ... But the fork suffered and my publicity was cut in half.

In terms of venues where you have your work, have you sought any out or do they find you?
No; it just happens by chance ... I’ll be getting information that there’s a place that’s going to open up ... and it turns out to be one of my friends and, “Hey, if you need anything let me know” and “Oh yeah, we do.” But they do come look for me.

Did you make a conscious decision to move away from galleries to show in non-galleries?
At the time I had a home studio in Whispering Oaks ... I didn’t really need to be in galleries because I also did weekend shows all over the state—the Laguna Gloria show in Austin, the River Show here, the Art League show here, the Rodeo and the Kiwanis Club ... I used to sell out.

Do you remember what your first show was in San Antonio?
One of my very first exhibitions of my art was at Christie’s restaurant on Broadway, the fish place. I was painting at the time and I think I had just done one or two starving artists’ shows.

How did that happen, the Christie’s show?
They had other paintings on exhibit and had prices on them. So I just asked them if they had room for any more art, and they said they did. I took them one and they called me the next day and it sold. And I took them another one and it sold. I mean it was like maybe like $40, $60, which was pretty good money back then.

And when was that do you think?
I would say the early ’70s.

Wow.
But I remember the first person that bought one was an executive at Frost Bank.

I guess that might have opened the doors for you to approach other restaurants?
Exactly. Well, the way I see it, back in the turn of the century, there was Gauguin and Van Gogh; they were being refused left and right from galleries and museum shows. So they would hang wherever they would let them. And they would trade for food, for drinks and they’d sell something and they would just spend it all there. And the restaurant owners knew that.

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