Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ed Almanza, presente

I spent the better part of the day looking for images of Ed.  I was reminded how very many pictures Ed had taken of the adventures he, Rita, James, and I had been a part of over nearly 20 years.

My first recollection of his work had nothing to do with photographs.  James and I were at Art in the Park in Highland Park in the fall of 1996 and had met this nice couple.  They showed us the work that they had done for Dia de los Muertos that year.

Their work was a wooden box about 6 feet by 2 feet.  In reality it was a very tall diorama.  In the box?  Well, when you pressed the button at the front of the box, the interior was lit, music started to play, and there was a Día de los Muertos setting.  Nothing macabre, but nothing that avoided the real ideas of death and the afterlife.

The following summer we were working in collaboration on an exhibit on the life of Lalo Guerrero.  I used their idea, modified it a bit, and whenever  I talked about it always gave them credit.  One must always give the artist their due.

I chose to do one of the boxes and was done with most of the design.  But I needed something that would help me give the box a feel that the box was a victrola.  I wondered if Ed could draw a crank.  Next time I saw him he gave me this drawing.  Knowing him he thought about and then drew this in one fell swoop.  I've treasured this drawing for its brilliance and for his kindness.

Image courtesy Ed Almanza
Spring of the next year, on a whim, I decided to produce a TV show that would highlight Latino experiences.  It was going to be called, "Casa Martínez - música y más". Ed and Rita were ready to put together a set.  Had they ever done that before? No.  Did that slow them down? Nope.  We set up and broke down this set more times than I care to count.

Photo courtesy Almanza family

Because we knew this was something that was unique we came up with a logo for Six Monkey Productions.  Well, I came up with the idea and the art, then Ed did his magic.  

Graphic courtesy Ed Almanza
The logo for the show was based on work done by a former student of mine.  At the time she drew the picture she was about 6 years old.  With the care and consideration of an artist, gentleman, and teacher, Ed added font and credit that was respectful of her work.  

Graphic courtesy Ed Almanza
I think the following is one of my favorite pictures of Ed. Enjoying how things look and thinking about what might be a nice touch to add.  Ed was gentle in his suggestions.  "'Have you ever thought about...?'  'I wonder what would happen if...?" The next thing you know you'd be in a discussion about how this or that might work.  It was clear that the question was a setup, but it was also clear that the possibilities were what the collaboration would be about.  

Image courtesy Rita Almanza
Ed dealt with several medical issues over the last few years.  This picture was taken by one of his family members.  I don't know whether it was son, Eddie or his wife, Rita.  It's a fine portrait.  

Courtesy Almanza family
In some ways I prefer the last image.  
He knew he was ill, but I can't help but think that he wondered what was next.  
Now, he knows.

Courtesy Almanza family


  1. It sounds like will miss him. I'm sorry you've lost him.

    1. I will. He was a dear friend. He and Rita, James and I did a lot of good work together. He and James shared a passion for things mechanical. Especially for old fashioned trains. He and I enjoyed silly cartoons and the wonder that is life. He and Rita were married over 40 years.

  2. What a lovely way to be remembered. Thank you for sharing him with us.

    1. We were lucky to be his friend. His service was lovely. It was a fine combo of sentiment that didn't breach sentimentality. A good bit of creativity on hand, too. His wife, Rita, had markers that were handed out to folks at graveside. Those that felt comfortable doing so, wrote last thoughts on the coffin. It was done in a way that felt appropriate to the time and place. As funerals go, it was a good time.