Is your art political?
Yes. My art is very political. I am primarily a portrait based artist who focuses on friends and family from different musical, artistic and activist communities around Los Angeles. I like to depict people who I see as art already by virtue of their style, voice and lifestyle. That being said I’m not so much interested in notions of exceptionalism or excellence, but as I get older I do find I can’t socialize on a casual level as much (this year especially) and find myself reaching out to friends and peers in a very calculated way asking to do their portrait. Like even if you are not a famous artist or anything just my friend- I’ve done your portrait. I also have started to revisit the idea of memorial. Most of the first opportunities for me to show art was to display work at open call Dia De Los Muertos exhibitions so I began to think about memorial, and how we might mourn and release trauma through art practice. I first started doing memorial flower pieces first in honor of my mom’s side of the family who were survivors of the Japanese Internment camps using paper flower patterns from prison camp archives and now they’ve sort of morphed into ‘Ojo de dios’ flower patterns on chainlink as a way to honor those within, and to call attention to, current immigrant detention centers, the prison industrial complex, and the targeting of iBipoc by law enforcement and ICE. Also the labor and time of making each flower and constructing each piece has also been tremendously therapeutic. The earlier portrait work as well honored friends and peers who I would party and dance with through what I like to view as a collective release of historical and familial trauma. I see all of it as political.
Your favorite political artwork?
Too many to mention. Maybe its the time of the year or what, but lately I’ve been thinking about side-walk memorials and community altars which are incredibly powerful collaborative pieces that honor people who have passed on who otherwise might be forgotten. They are personal, honest, cathartic and created out of love. They also usually address systemic problems that caused someone to die. They allow space for mourning, reflecting and healing. We all need more space to process and mourn.
How do we move forward?
This is such a hard question for me to answer. On a personal level I feel like i’m still trying to figure out how to survive not just because of the pandemic or the current administration but because I’m a mom to a 4-year-old and I can’t just self-medicate and check-out to cope anymore. Being present and grounded is so difficult now but so crucial for the well being of my child. I’m trying to figure out how I can be a decent mom with my child at home with me all day now and still make art (which is crucial to my happiness and well being) and still be healthy. I sound like a shitty mom but I have to constantly check myself not to feel resentful towards him or my husband who still works full time. I would say one thing we can all do is check in on your family- chosen or otherwise. Community build. Ask for help if you need it. Give help if you can. I am so thankful for the friends who have come over to hang out and distract my kid while I try to work and realize the importance of friendships and community. I’ve always been super grateful for my friends and I think maybe thats why I focused on portraiture in my art practice.
Your inspiring plans for 2020?
I hope I can figure out a system or routine to help me be a present, grounded mom/ person while still being able to create artwork that is born out of an inspiration of love and happiness rather than my current depression and paranoia. I would also like to balance my gut flora so its ok for me to enjoy a cocktail again, once in a while. And I would like to see my kid’s grandparents again so they might watch my child and I might get to experience solitude again…although not permanently of course. These are all aspirational plans plans by the way…not grounded in reality.
Shizu Saldamando a visual artist who lives and works in LA. She received her B.A. from UCLA’s School of Arts and Architecture and her M.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts. Experimenting with a broad range of surfaces and materials, including video and tattoos, Saldmando’s portraiture enlists painting and drawing on canvas, wood, paper and cloth, and functions as homage as well as a documentation of subcultures within and around Los Angeles. A selection of her solo exhibitions include: “LA Intersections,” OxyArts, Los Angeles, “California, When You Sleep: A Survey of Shizu Saldamando,” Vincent Price Art Museum, East Los Angeles College, Monterey Park, California, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; “Shizu Saldamando,” Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and “To Return,” Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles, California. Selected group exhibitions include “Phantom Sightings” at LACMA, “Drawing the Line” at MOCA San Diego, “We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles,” an official collateral exhibition of the Venice Biennale, “Trans-Pacific Borderlands” as a part of the Getty “Pacific Standard Time” initiative at the Japanese American National Museum, “Portraits of the Encounter” at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and “The High Art of Riding Low” at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
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