|Object found in one of Raymond’s toolboxes.|
Every once in a while, a person will come into Thunder-Sky, Inc. and not know who Raymond was. He/she will survey the gallery and then wind up in the “the Raymond Room,” where we have some of Raymond’s work on display, as well as some of his tool-boxes and clown costumes, and a big photo of him. A lot of times the first or second question he/she asks is: “What was his disability?” Or: “Was he ever diagnosed?” Or even: “What was wrong with him?”
People read you by the way you look, of course, and Raymond in photos has a look for sure: stubborn, mischievous, a little scary to some folks. Plus the clown outfits, the construction hats, the stone-cold edge he developed inside his eyes to warn off people that wanted to mess with him. His self-created “construction-clown” personna interferes with the way we often automatically label with our gaze, searching the face in a photo or in person to find ways to connect with, recognize, or (more often than not) relegate to a category called, “Not me thank God.”
Raymond challenged you to break away from the way you pigionhole people in much the same way a drag-queen does: using a blend of style and substance to allow people the opportunity to question the way they see and the way they make meaning from what they see. Also like drag, Raymond used costume as armor, solidifying his true self into a carapace as hard and shiny as a helmet. He used a tool-box, flourescent orange road-wide-worker vest, construction hat, construction company logos, and a clown collar in order to merge worlds most people would never merge, and from that hybrid he was born: a serious workaholic clown, a show-biz construction-worker, a no-nonsense street artist. His image and identity helped to forge a beautiful myth, and yet ironically the myth also allows people to ask questions like, “What was his diagnosis?”
As far as I know, he was never diagnosed. He just needed some help getting to the doctor and paying his bills. He was very capable, and like most of us wanted to deny that he needed help. His biggest accomplishment, of course, is the work he did everyday of his life, drawing upon drawing upon drawing. But also that character and image he created stand side-by-side with the drawings: they are a package deal.
Raymond was a clown/construction-worker making art on the street. And unlike a lot of “street artists” championed today, he was not a part of a club or in search of a secret society to join. He never really pursued the spotlight or even seemed to need it. He was just out there, with his clipboard, markers and ruler standing in front of a demolition site, and when someone told him they liked his work he said thank you and would often stop and walk away.
Most of the time when people ask what his disability actually was, I just say I don’t know. Let’s leave it at that.
|One woman on Facebook, when I posted this photo, commented that it “creeps”her out because “he looks so much like John Wayne Gacy.” So yet another way to relegate. What are you going to do?|