“I think happiness equates to peace of mind. And I think, yes, people need to work for happiness. I don’t think anything in life comes without hard work, and if it does, then its probably undeserved. I’m an advocate for perseverance, and once one attains what it is they aspire, then I am an advocate for humility and appreciation.”
Introduction by Adria Leeper-Sullivan
Interview by Theo Constantinou
A folded map bears lines of journeys taken off course; a cracked window reflects an expanded prism of events. Andrew Salgado uses the human body to hint at inner development and physical trials molded by an individual’s experiences. His works are much like the disjointed reality from the film I Heart Huckabees, where chaos and unity are one. Salgado strives for a loosened grip of interpretation between his artwork and audience, and between the subject and its copy; eye sockets and mouths filled with flowers and faces in an excess of angles showing agony and happiness. I feel drawn to gaze upon each image as a story with numerous hardships breaking the spirit, while new growths melt these experiences together with a learned strength. In Proppian analysis, a harm or lack is identified before addressing the body of the story. This lack results in an epiphany. The paintings of Andrew Salgado document the learned love toward one’s own essence through sexuality to access identity. Salgado uses personal traumas and knowledge to teach that bodies and souls heal themselves, creating a universal message.
Andrew, you are quoted in your artist statement saying, “The objective of this pursuit is to challenge a perspective of identity through heightened, purposefully self-aware representation, in which these representations refer to their own physicality and question their legitimacy and even the very nature of my practice.” Can you talk about your self-awareness further, and representing the physicality in your work along with questioning that same legitimacy?
Self-awareness or reflexivity is something that I always strive for within my paintings, in the sense that I’ve always felt it too superficial to simply aim for likeness in representation. In this regard, it’s important for me to question the nature of the painted image, the figure, and also those concepts not-so-visibly evidenced such as masculinity, sexuality, and identity. I suppose that the way I go about drawing attention to this is by loosening the grip on representationalism; I want the viewer to be very aware that they are looking at a reconstruction – a mark of paint might vaguely (or not so vaguely) represent an eye, or the tip of a nose, but it also exists purely as a mark of paint, nothing else and nothing more. It is this duality of forms that I believe allows me (and hopefully the viewer) to question the painted image. In the act of questioning that, I think the entire figurative form becomes questioned. For me, the fact that I don’t implicitly ‘buy in’ to the image on the canvas, and am concerned about its (de)construction, prevents the work from becoming too solipsistic, self-indulgent, or banal. I like to keep things uncertain: the form, the concept, the figure itself.
“My work often uses personal history to approach universal themes, and a politics that I view as deeply personal, yet resoundingly human.” What is your definition of a universal theme and, can you talk about some of this personal history and politics that are deeply personal to you?
I think universal themes are pain: joy, loss, ecstasy, sadness, time, convalescence. These are all broad, deeply passionate themes that resound universally. My work became a lot more personal and political in 2008, when I was confronted with a very violent personal experience based on my sexuality, that caused me to consider painting as a means to defense, even in some instances an equally violent act. My 2011 painting, Bloody Faggot (ca. 2008) is actually a second version of an earlier 2008 painting of the same name, and engages the same theme with a distance of three years. There is a lot of space between these two works, but for me, this growth equates not only a technical growth, but also an emotional maturation that comes with time. As such, I don’t think that anyone necessarily has to relate to the precise sources of inspiration that I am drawing from, but certainly ideas like pain, and the passing of time are universal. For me, these themes are what keep my work politically equipped and purposeful.
In your new exhibition Anxious, your work was described as having a “schizophrenic energy, suggesting both a serene recollection of memory and convalescence.” Is this a fair representation of your work and, can you talk on the statement a bit further?
I think my work is quite schizophrenic, yes. I bore easily. Lately, people (mainly art students) have been asking me to explain my technical creative process, which is (at least for me) a bit of a silly question. I have no requisite order in the studio; I do what comes organically and naturally. One day I might paint in a certain style, the next day completely differently. I have, however, stopped viewing this as a negative thing and now I have learned to embrace this unruliness as a strength. I appreciate uncertainty. I often say that an artist’s worst enemy is an undeserved sense of confidence in the studio. Certainly, a certain amount of conviction is a necessity, but my desire to challenge myself means that I am never working without a healthy amount of anxiety and unease. That’s where the very title from the NYC show, Anxious, was derived: purely from that state of unease while working, which permeates and energizes much of my work. So yes, it’s fair to say that the work technically is quite schizophrenic, but often comments on ideas of calmness, moments of distance, and removal from presence. Faces and bits of figuration often become erased and deconstructed to reflect this.
Andrew, I recently just did an interview with Henry Rollins. I thought I would preface a very personal question for you that you don’t have to answer if you don’t feel comfortable. Henry was quoted saying, in one of his previous works that, “Knowledge without mileage is bullshit to me.” I read that a number of the works feature mouthless boys, perhaps suggesting your victimization in a 2008 hate-crime assault in which he lost his teeth. This may be too personal a question to ask, but how do you feel that moment in 2008 shaped who you are as an individual and, the knowledge and perspective you were able to gain from that moment in your life, whether it be positive or negative?
Really nothing is too personal, because it’s all put out there with the artwork. While I no longer feel that my work is directly related to that event, it certainly refocused my direction, and I do feel that all of my work is in some way directly related to that catalytic event. I’m not sure how much mileage I have, but the space between who I was at that moment and who I’ve become as a result of it, is something I would never wish to change.
In the majority of my deep conversations with people, they are always talking about trying to be happy, or their search for this state of happiness. What is your definition of happiness and, do you think if people are searching for their definition of happiness that they will find it?
I think happiness equates to peace of mind. And I think, yes, people need to work for happiness. I don’t think anything in life comes without hard work, and if it does, then its probably undeserved. I’m an advocate for perseverance, and once one attains what it is they aspire, then I am an advocate for humility and appreciation.
Andrew, I know this quote is really long, but I would love to hear your thoughts. How would you answer Sterling’s question: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?
“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… ‘cruising,’ it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.
‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.’ What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of ‘security’ we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.
What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.
The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice.
Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?” –Sterling Hayden
While I love the quote – its quite eloquent and poetic, I think the answer is quite simple…of course bankruptcy of purse is preferable to bankruptcy of life. Are they mutually exclusive? I think this is similar to your question on happiness. I guess I maintain that, in a lot of respects, I have attained what I desire in life: to paint and to share those paintings. Unfortunately, I live in a city where one cannot escape capitalism and that is a reality I face. So, I must join the rat-race despite the fear and burdens I feel from ‘the voyage;’ I get from this a thrill that keeps me going. Its easy to be lazy when nothing is at stake, I fear.
What does fragility of self mean to you?
I think the concept of identity is a porous thing. I think one’s sense of self is a relational idea … perhaps more often defined by ‘what it is not’ than by ‘what it truly is’. In many respects, this is what I’m trying to explore with the paintings.
Andrew’s work will be featured at Tache Gallery (Booth E-11) at the Affordable Art Fair, New York City (April 18-22)
He also has two forthcoming solo exhibitions of new paintings, In Order to Rebuild, with DOSI Gallery & Hada Contemporary in Busan, Korea (opening July 16 – August, 2012) and also The Misanthrope Falters with Beers.Lambert Contemporary in London, UK (opening October 4 – November, 2012).