Los Caminos de la Vida | Salvadore Jiminez-Flores

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Portfolio Commentary by the Artist

No One Discovered The Americas / Nadie descubrió las Américas, 2016
Porcelain, synthetic hair, and terra-cotta slip

I am interested in events that have shaped history in the Americas and its people. In this body of work titled "Nadie descubrió las Américas," I explore the questions of what does it mean to discover or to be discovered, and what are the consequences of the imposition of religion, language, and culture to the “discovered” group. Through a visual and cultural syncretism in this series of self-portraits, I combine Pre-Columbian imagery with relevant, present-day imagery and symbols.

No One Discovered The Americas / Nadie descubrió las Américas, 2016
Porcelain, synthetic hair, and terra-cotta slip

I painted directly on the white walls of the gallery with terracotta slip as a way to claim space and to frame the ghost-like portraits that reference the indigenous people who were living in the Americas before colonialism.

I Am Not Who You Think I Am Installation, 2014-15
Porcelain, terra-cotta, oil, graphite, black stain, gold luster, and terra-cotta slip

This body of work consists of self-portraits that allow me to mask myself with stereotypes, perceptions, and expectations assigned merely because I am a member of an ethnic group within the dominant White culture in the United States. By confronting these assigned personas in this way, I remove the baggage that I have accumulated and carried for years. Through these works, I am digging deep down into my inner self —hoping to find universality and humanness in my work that transcends adaptation and blurs the division of dominant and ethnic groups.

The Alien / El marciano, 2014
Porcelain, terra-cotta, oil, graphite, black stain, gold luster, and terra-cotta slip

This is a reaction to my legal status at the time when I migrated to the United States. I was legal, but labeled an “Alien.” I am labeled as a U.S. citizen now, but on a regular basis people still look at me as if I were an alien.

I Am Who I Am / Soy quien soy (Grand Rapids Art Museum Collection), 2014
Porcelain, terra-cotta, oil, graphite, black stain, gold luster, and terra-cotta slip

I have always been inclined to make art that reflects upon my curiosities, passions, and struggles. Consequently, since I migrated to the United States my research and practice have been an investigation of the hybrid “American” culture, my understanding of the United States as a country, the influence the U.S. has had in Latin America and the world, and the role I play as an artist in the Americas. Our hybridity can be revolutionary and seamless, or it can be the result of a painful culture clash. The best step moving forward is embracing who we are.

 

The Dance of the Serpent / La danza de la serpiente, 2018

This print was created for a portfolio print exchange with the theme of immigration. I wanted to use the serpent as a symbol that represents the danger and the multiple ways people migrate to reach for a better life.

I was trained as a graphic designer and have always been interested in graphic arts. For seven years I have been an active member of Instituto Grafico de Chicago, a Latinx group of artists dedicated to maintaining the critical activist tradition of printmaking that unites communities of struggle around the world. We believe that art is not separate from public life.

The Resistance of the Hybrid Cacti / La resistencia de los nopales híbridos, 2016
Terra-cotta, porcelain, underglazes, gold luster, and terra-cotta slip, 96in x 96in x 96in

(Installation view) La resistencia de los nopales híbridos is an exploration of the themes of colonialism, oppression, identity, and futurism. The cactus is a resilient plant that can survive extreme weather conditions and I use it as a symbol of resilience and hope for a better future.

The Resistance of the Hybrid Cacti / La resistencia de los nopales híbridos, (Installation detail), 2016
Terra-cotta, porcelain, underglazes, gold luster, and terra-cotta slip, 96in x 96in x 96in

I am using Afro-Futurism and Funk Ceramics as the base for this work. The framework of Surrealism allows me to create these dream-like hybrid forms as a way to make sense of the double consciousness and the anxieties that the Latinx community experiences in the U.S.

A Desperate Cry / Un grito desesperado, 2017
Three color screen print, 11in x 15in

This print was a response to our political climate and xenophobia. Throughout my work, I use the brown eagle and the serpent found in the Mexican emblem as well as the American bald eagle found on the great seal of the United States. I am interested in the semiotics of these animals and I want the audience to bring their own experiences and decide for themselves which animals do they consider the oppressor or the oppressed.

An Imaginary World of Rascuache-Futurism / Un mundo imaginario del futurismo-rascuache, (Installation view), 2017
Terra-cotta, porcelain, underglazes, gold luster, and terra-cotta slip, 96in x 96in x 96in

Through mainstream media and in most science-fiction content, the future is typically imagined as white. People of color have been erased from the future altogether. My latest research is about exploring and developing a Rascuache-Futuristic aesthetic in my artwork where I could articulate pre-Columbian, colonial, and post-colonial histories. I try to imagine and create a future where the good guys look like me, understand me, and others can relate as well. This is an ongoing project and I will continue to mix ceramics with found objects to expand on this series.

An Imaginary World of Rascuache-Futurism / Un mundo imaginario del futurismo-rascuache, (Installation detail), 2017
Terra-cotta, porcelain, underglazes, gold luster, and terra-cotta slip, 96in x 96in x 96in

In this image, you see a close up of a masked superhero El hombre nopal, Cactus man. A speech bubble comes out of his mouth saying, “Our existence is our resistance,” echoing the chanting of thousands of undocumented DACA students whose status is on limbo. This also speaks to the resistance of indigenous people in surviving genocides, cultural erasure, and oppression. Yet, we continue to sprout fruitful lives.

Atomic Eagle / Águíla atómica, 2017
Terra-cotta and gold luster, 12in x 22in x 4in

This piece is part of an ongoing series of work titled Kitschy Americana. This is an appropriation project that uses popular images and figurines of “American” culture and blend them with contemporary images and objects that reflect our current social and political climate. Through the process of slip casting, I appropriate commercial, kitschy ceramic molds and combine them with hand building or contemporary objects. Some of the combinations of these dichotomies might be seamless or crude depending on the desired expression. This process is a metaphor for the many millions of people who deal with the complexities of individuals who have migrated or were born and raised in a cultural blending or syncretism.

Open Veins of Latin America / Las venas abiertas de America Latina, 2019
Brass 24in x 24in x 3in

I titled this piece after the book by Eduardo Galeano with the same title. I never had such a visceral reaction to a book like I did with this one. Here is one quote I would like to share: “Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others: our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others–the empires and their native overseers. In the colonial and neocolonial alchemy, gold changes into scrap metal and food into poison.”

Space Cactus / Nopal Espacial, (Installation view), 2019
Brass, cast iron, rose gold plating, and brass hose 72in x72in x72in

All metal sculptures were done during my art residency at the Kohler Arts/Industry, a highly competitive opportunity to make metallic-based work in their foundry with all the resources of an industrial manufacturing facility. All the forms were first sculpted out of clay to create the pattern, then cast in metal. Prior to this residency, I had no experience working in a foundry. This residency pushed my series of works on Rascuache-Futurism in an exciting new direction. I plan to continue working with metal and also introduce wood and found objects into my work.

Space Cactus / Nopal Espacial, (Installation detail), 2019
Brass, cast iron, rose gold plating, and brass hose 72in x 72in x 72in

Growing up in México, we used to make our toys with anything we had available. My friends and I would inscribe our names on trees or cactus leaves to record our existence and, years later, we revisit those places and look for our mark. This detail demonstrates the found metal hose that was repurposed, connecting each cactus leaf. The words “We survived” are inscribed on the top cactus, representing the ongoing struggle of colonization. Throughout the piece, I inscribed a few statements for the viewer to find little surprises along the way.


Artist Statement by Salvadore Jiminez-Flores

All over the world, we identify people by their physical appearance, residue of colonial labels still persists. As an artist of color, I might be forced to identify with one, many, or none of the labels assigned to me, such as Latino, Chicano, American, etc. The act of resistance starts when we fight against those who attempt to prevent us from growing. By reimagining what an alternative future could look like through my art, I seek to resist labels put on myself and other people of color.

The move from a rural town in México to a major metropolis in the United States had a tremendous impact on my life and my art. At first, art was merely a way of coping with the transition, but due to my limited English in those early years, art eventually became a tool for self-expression. In my work, I document the journey of adapting to life in the United States, all while looking back at what I left behind in México.

 My work explores the politics of identity, the state of double consciousness, and the outlook of “the other.” I address issues of colonization, migration, history, cultural appropriation, and futurism. I create hybrid portraits that represent my anxieties of living in a constant state of double consciousness where I feel like my identity is divided into parts. The challenge of being bicultural and bilingual is that I live concurrently in two different worlds. I adapt to both worlds, but adapting involves losing some part of myself in order to grow. I embrace these two worlds in my art, melding visual and cultural references from both to produce artwork with a magical realism twist.

 My work reveals this hybridity. I draw on elements of Afro-Futurism, Funk Ceramics and Robert Arneson’s satiric comedy and powerful ceramic self-portraits, as much as the music and films by Sun Ra and Mexican singer-songwriter Rodrigo González, also known as the “Nopal Prophet.” I am drawn to how these artists created their own imaginary world through their art. I use these influences to create my own imaginary world of Rascuache-Futurism where I can articulate pre-Columbian, colonial, and post-colonial histories and aesthetics through ceramics.

 Clay as a material has a physicality that immediately evokes the past and gives infinite possibilities to visually create a future. I use clay because its versatility and intuitive nature allow me to translate my ideas quickly into tri-dimensional forms. Through mainstream media and most science fiction content, the future is typically imagined as white. People of color have been erased from the future. I am trying to imagine and create a future where the good guys look like me, with the hope that others will be able to see themselves in this future as well.

Declaración de artista

 En todo el mundo, identificamos a las personas por su apariencia física, el residuo de las etiquetas coloniales aún persiste. Como artista mestizo, podría verme obligado a identificarme con una, muchas o ninguna de las etiquetas que se me asignaron, como mexicano, chicano, americano, etc. El acto de resistencia comienza cuando luchamos contra aquellos que intentan evitar nuestro crecimiento. Al reimaginar cómo podría ser un futuro alternativo a través de mi arte, busco resistirme a las etiquetas que han sido asignadas a mí y a otras personas mestizas.

El cambio de una ciudad rural en México a Chicago, una gran metrópoli en los Estados Unidos tuvo un tremendo impacto en mi vida y mi arte. Al principio, el arte era simplemente una forma de enfrente a la transición, pero debido a mis limitaciones del idioma en los primeros años, el arte finalmente se convirtió en una herramienta para la autoexpresión. En mi trabajo, documento la aventura de adaptación a la vida en los Estados Unidos, todo mientras recuerdo todo lo que dejé en México.

 Mi trabajo explora la política de identidad, el estado de doble conciencia y la perspectiva de "el otro". Emprendo cuestiones de colonización, migración, historia, apropiación cultural y futurismo. Creo retratos híbridos que representan mis ansias de vivir en un estado constante de doble conciencia donde siento que mi identidad está dividida en partes. El desafío de ser bicultural y bilingüe es que vivo simultáneamente en dos mundos diferentes. Me adapto a ambos mundos, pero la adaptación implica perder una parte de mí mismo para crecer. Le doy la bienvenida a estos dos mundos en mi arte, combinando referencias visuales y culturales de ambos para producir obras de arte con un toque de realismo mágico.

Mi trabajo revela esta hibridación. Me baso en elementos del afro-futurismo, funk ceramics y la comedia satírica del escultor Robert Arneson y sus autorretratos nitidos de cerámica, así como la música y las películas de Sun Ra y el cantautor mexicano Rodrigo González, también conocido como "El Profeta del Nopal". Me atrae cómo estos artistas crearon su propio mundo imaginario a través de su arte. Utilizo estas influencias para crear mi propio mundo imaginario de Rascuache-Futurismo donde puedo articular historias y estética precolombinas, coloniales y postcoloniales a través de la cerámica.

La arcilla como material tiene una fisicalidad que evoca inmediatamente el pasado y brinda infinitas posibilidades para crear visualmente un futuro. Utilizo arcilla porque su versatilidad y su naturaleza intuitiva me permiten traducir mis ideas rápidamente en formas tridimensionales. A través de los principales medios de comunicación y la mayoría del contenido de ciencia ficción, el futuro generalmente se imagina atraves de un lente gringo. Las personas mestiza han sido borradas del futuro. Estoy tratando de imaginar y crear un futuro en el que los protagonistas se parezcan a mí, con la esperanza de que otros también puedan verse en este futuro.

For more information, visit the artist's website: https://www.salvadorjimenezflores.com