Alejandro Salazar—originally from coastal Colima, Mexico—is a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based artist whose work is hanging in the At Liberty arts collaborative gallery in downtown Bend this month. He's also this week's cover artist. The Source sat down with Salazar to talk about his work.
Source Weekly: Let's talk about the body of work hanging at At Liberty right now.
Alejandro Salazar: The work that (curator) Jenny (Green) and some of the other people at the theater selected, they kind of wanted to show some of the body of work since I started painting. I haven't been painting for that long—I wanted to be a painter, but my dad wouldn't support that so I became an engineer. So I started to paint in 2012 when I really committed, and when I say committed, I say I had my studio and I would go like every day. Some of the work that is there is probably from the period of 2013 and through 2017.
SW: Do the paintings appear in something of an order in terms of time?
AS: We really spent a lot of time hanging the show, and we tried to make an order and it was working, but it was not as exciting, so we kind of mixed it up, too. So the work is not really in order but you can tell if you look at the paintings—you can see that the painting technique is, in the later work, is a little bit more controlled and classical.
SW: You mentioned you haven't been painting that long—what was your art training like?
AS: I started to do a lot of works on paper, that was my first step into the art world, with works on paper, and I loved it. I still think works on paper is probably the most—you know, some of the things that I can say is very good for me, natural, the paper is super close to you, in terms of the physical, the paper is really close to you and you don't have to think a lot.
I started with works on paper, and then I started to put in some color, and then watercolor and acrylic and then my works on paper started to become like paintings and you couldn't tell what was a painting and what was a drawing—and that was the point that I just said you know let's just switch to painting and see what happens.
SW: Tell me more about the really big pieces on paper in the gallery right now.
AS: There's three drawings that are made on butcher paper, you know, craft paper – those pieces were not meant to be final pieces. I used them as like a study just to see what the medium does, but Jenny liked them—Jenny always liked them—and she wanted to be, this show, not so much pieces that people would buy, but that people could look at. So they could learn, you know, what is the process.
SW: Those pieces remind me of the Mexican muralist tradition. Did that tradition influence those works?
AS: Yes, totally. I am actually fascinated—there's so much talent in Mexico. Even though I don't try to record political events, just to look at the technique of those great painters—Diego Rivera, Siqueiros—just to look at them, you learn so much in terms of technique, composition, expressionism... there's so many things to learn, so whenever I have the chance I just go and look at those murals, and I think one way or the other, my paintings, when I have like a blank piece of paper or a blank piece of canvas, I use whatever history has given to the art world to create something. So yes, I actually take from all the people that I admire.
SW: Can you talk a bit about the piece we're featuring on our cover this week, "4 Figures & A Spirit?"
AS: That painting was based on one of my sketches.
...I look at my drawings and my sketches and you know, most of them have to do with the basic human questions, like about who we are; we are pieces of flesh, but also, what's beyond that that makes us human. For me, a lot of the work has to do with those types of questions, with the spirit, what happens when we die, what happens that makes us who we are and you know, traditions and feelings, so some of my work has a lot of that theme—I would be lying if I would tell you that it is rational. Some of it, the drawings, I wouldn't say like 100 percent of them, but most of these drawings, they start with that intuition, with a necessity to put something on the paper.
Peña Cultural with Alejandro Salazar, poet Alberto Moreno, musician Miguel de Alonso and dancer Xeina Ccallo
Sat., Feb. 17, 4 pm
849 NW Wall St., Bend