Meet The Man Who Used Llama Selfies and Antiques to Fund A Library in his Homeland | General Arts & Culture | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Meet The Man Who Used Llama Selfies and Antiques to Fund A Library in his Homeland 

Picture a winding country road where the pavement is cracked and dust rises in clouds at the slightest sweep of a breeze. It was in the Catskills, on a road like this, that filmmaker Otto Ohle first happened upon artist Martin Muñoz's antique store. That initial meeting ignited a thriving work relationship and friendship between the two, despite their almost 50-year age gap. For the last seven years, Ohle has documented Muñoz's life between the Catskills and his birthplace, Mendoza, Argentina.

When he moved to the US in 1970, Muñoz didn't speak any English. He got a job driving horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. When he realized how much tourists loved the horses, he figured he could one-up that with a llama. So he got a llama, named Chiqui, from New Jersey and hit the streets to sell Polaroid photo ops to tourists.

click to enlarge Martin Muñoz with one of his paintings and part of his book collection. - PHOTO: OTTO OHLE
  • Photo: Otto Ohle
  • Martin Muñoz with one of his paintings and part of his book collection.
"Martin was a poet first, because, according to him, that's the cheapest way to be an artist," Ohle says. Muñoz started painting after finding a box of brushes and canvases in the East Village, and it wasn't long before he moved to the Catskills to focus on his art practice. In 2012, Ohle began filming Muñoz for a college assignment, as he worked on his dream project of establising an English library in Mendoza. The film evolved into what will be Ohle's first full-length documentary, titled The Llama Man.

Since the 1980s, Muñoz has collected over 20,000 books for his library. "It's interesting to observe Martin from a filmmaker's perspective, but also as a friend and participant in capturing his dream as he makes it a reality," Ohle says. At 79 years old, Muñoz frequently travels to Argentina with more books to fill the library.

"Martin lives without borders, creating sanctuaries of cultural exchange in his library and antique store," says Ohle. "He's a pure soul; that's hard to find these days."

The original print version of this article was titled:
"The Parting Shot: Ilama Man"

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