‘There was always music’: Ramon Deanda shows work at Museo Regional de Ojinaga

Ramon DeAnda celebrated the opening of his latest art exhibition, “Mi Punto De Vista,” by performing a set alongside Los Dominantes de Ojinaga. Photo by Sam Karas.

OJINAGA — On May 25, friends and fans gathered in the courtyard at the Museo Regional de Ojinaga for music, hors d’oeuvres and a thought-provoking exhibition by Ramon Deanda. The show — entitled Mi Punto de Vista (“My Point of View”) — featured woodcuts in the artist’s signature style, depicting legendary Norteño artists and lowly ranch animals that impart big ideas. 

The show was a homecoming of sorts for Deanda, who grew up on both sides of the border and currently works as an art professor at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. “He is the pride of Ojinaga, he is the pride of Presidio,” said Efraín Luján of the Ojinaga Municipal Cultural Council in his introductory remarks. 

Deanda kicked off the exhibition with unusual flair: he performed a Norteño set on saxophone with the help of Los Dominantes de Ojinaga, a staple in the regional music scene. 

He explained that the music was the thread that connected his artistic inspiration. He doesn’t particularly like drawing or painting people, but his mom encouraged him to paint posters with portraits of his favorite artists — soon, his heroes took notice, and traded artwork for signatures and commissions. 

Norteño music runs through his veins and — by extension — his artwork. “On the paternal side of my family, there was always music,” he said. “There was always a guitar on the wall or an accordion in the living room. It triggered something.” 

For the crowd gathered at the Museo, Deanda explained that his work — both musical and visual — was political. 

He’d started generating the ideas expressed in the exhibition during the 2016 American presidential election, where candidate Donald Trump famously proclaimed, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime.”

Some of the woodcuts in Mi Punto de Vista respond through depictions of animals with human thoughts and behaviors. In “Manipulación: Hechos Alternativos” (Manipulation: Alternative Facts), a pig with a sheep clinging to its back rips pages out of a book and feeds them to chickens. In “Rumbo al Paraiso” (On the Way to Paradise), goats — violently spurred on by wolves with billy clubs — trudge single file into a pen ringed with concertina wire. 

Though the animals depicted in Deanda’s work signify different groups of people, they don’t always adhere to stereotypes of those animals in traditional storytelling — dirty pigs, clever goats, docile sheep. “I use animals to personify feelings,” he said. “As humans, we have different ways of being — we act differently in different situations.” 

Though he’s started expanding his repertoire, the majority of the animals are farm animals. “I grew up on the ranch — that’s who I am,” he said. “That’s how I started to associate animals with the traits of people.”

During shows around the U.S., he found that he could make connections with farmers’ kids who weren’t familiar with — or even afraid of — the border and Northern Mexico. “Even though I’m representing who I am and where I come from, people can universally relate to the images,” he explained. “They’d say, ‘Wait a minute, you also deal with pigs? You’ve had to chase them?’ That’s a language — there’s more of that than what we realize.”

As Deanda’s repertoire grows and galleries around the country take notice, he was still happy to have an exhibition in his hometown — eleven years after his last show at the Museo — to reconnect through artwork. “The way I view the world has changed, but the essence is the same,” he said. “I’ve grown as a person as well as an artist.”