New mural in La Jolla pays homage to Nina Simone and ‘the freedom to disagree’

"To Reflect the Times" by Marcos Ramirez ERRE is newly installed on Fay Avenue in La Jolla.
“To Reflect the Times” by Marcos Ramirez ERRE is newly installed on Fay Avenue in La Jolla.
(Philipp Scholz Rittermann)

Marcos Ramirez ERRE’s ‘To Reflect the Times’ features a quote from the late musician and civil-rights activist about the duty of artists.


Closing out a collection of pieces by Marcos Ramirez ERRE inspired by the Snellen eye chart, the latest installation in the Murals of La Jolla public art program pays homage to late singer, songwriter, pianist and civil-rights activist Nina Simone.

The mural was installed Feb. 8 at 7744 Fay Ave., where two of ERRE’s pieces — “Is All That It Proves” (2015) and “In Chains” (2020) — were previously on view.

The latest piece, “To Reflect the Times,” includes lines of a quote by Simone in place of the letters one would read for an eye test. The quote: “It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times.”

“Some people think artists should stay out of politics or societal issues,” ERRE said. “Others see art as a reflection of what is happening in the world. So the fact that there is disagreement on that is healthy.”

ERRE said he feels that Simone, who died in 2003, “reflects the times we are living in.”

“I have worked on a series of eye chart[-inspired murals] and I found the perfect ones for the times in which we are living,” ERRE said. “I had one about respecting the opinions of different people (“Is All That It Proves”), then we had one that was more about African American people bringing jazz and other things to the United States (“In Chains”), so the [Simone] quote had to work well with the first two and say what needed to be said about how we perceive reality.”

Murals of La Jolla Executive Director Lynda Forsha agreed, saying, “We thought it would be engaging for the public to present not one but three works from Marcos’ Snellen eye chart series. The format of the eye chart works well on this intimate site, which pedestrians can view as they walk by and test their vision and perceptions.”

ERRE “brings a conceptual and poetic dimension to the project with his text-based works,” she added, and “Nina Simone’s quote summarizes Marcos’ trilogy, which focused our attention on the thoughts of some of our most important philosophers, writers and artists throughout time.”

Artist Marcos Ramirez ERRE created the new La Jolla mural "To Reflect the Times."
Artist Marcos Ramirez ERRE created the new La Jolla mural “To Reflect the Times.”
(Coco Gonzales)

ERRE said he’s pleased with how the new mural turned out. “I thought it would be a good closing to the mural collection. I have loved executing the whole idea that you can see something differently from afar and up close. It’s important to think differently and even disagree on some of those ideas and quotations,” he said.

“I want people to go by and actually stop and look. If I can grab the attention of a person and they realize they don’t agree, that’s wonderful for me. If they think and feel something, that’s important, too. But at the end, I want the attention of the public and their reflections of an issue. That could reflect the times or not.

“The piece poses a question and opens the door for discussion. That’s healthy, I think. Sometimes society only goes in one direction; that can be dangerous. We want the freedom to think and speak the way you want. That includes the freedom to disagree.”

ERRE was born in Tijuana and immigrated in 1983 to the United States, where he worked for 17 years in the construction industry. He came to prominence in the 1990s with large public installations dealing with immigration and border control, focusing on the Mexico-U.S. border crossing. His work has been featured in many major international exhibitions.

The Murals of La Jolla program was created in 2010 by the La Jolla Community Foundation and subsequently relinquished to the oversight of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library.

There currently are 16 murals in place around town, funded solely by private donations. For more information, visit ◆