Mexico is definitely not the first country to think of when it comes to participants in events such as the International Competition of Champions in Ice Sculpture in Breckenridge, Colorado or the International Competition of Ice Sculpture in Asahikawa, Japan, but Abel Ramirez Aguilar has spent his life exploring new mediums and environments.
Ramirez is a professionally-trained sculptor, whose work in wood, brass and other metals has earned him a prominent position in Mexico’s Salon de la Plastica Mexicana. The Salon is an honor society for Mexican artists, which has included the likes of Diego Rivera, Dr. Atl and Rufino Tamayo. Ramirez’s works have been described as a mix of Cubist and Impressionist, with a touch of magical realism. To my untrained eye, they have an Art Deco feel to them as well.
However, Ramirez’s work in snow and ice has taken quite a different track. A native of Mexico City, who still lives in his parent’s home in the working-class Guerrero neighborhood, the sculptor had never seen or touch snow until the mid 1980s, when he was in Quebec visiting friends. He found snow and ice to be magical and sensual. Mexico then did not, and still does not, have an organization dedicated to professional ice and snow sculpture, so Ramirez was on his own to figure out how to work with these mediums. He worked as an amateur with northern friends and when in Mexico, arranged with a local ice producing plant to work with blocks of ice there.
He went to the Winter Olympic Games in France in 1992 to find out that friends had entered him into the snow and ice sculpture competition held in conjuncture. Ramirez not only competed, he won a gold medal. This success led to invitations to participate other ice and snow sculpting competitions and in 1995 he was the captain of the Mexican team competing in Japan. For over twenty years until his retirement from this activity, Ramirez participated in just about all the major ice and snow sculpting events in the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe.
Well aware of his status of representing Mexico, Ramirez’s snow and ice work differed from that in other mediums, tending to be more patriotic, with a particular emphasis on pre Hispanic imagery. He broke ground for other Mexicans looking to try the “new” media, both in training and connections.
Ramirez no longer works in snow and ice, but he is still and active sculptor, who enjoys a good cigar, good food and good company. In fact, he introduced me to the first mezcal I actually liked!
Photos courtesy of the artist.