Briefly describe the work you do.
I work around themes of landscape, religious iconography and country music to create poetic reflections on midwestern traditions and notions of place.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I am originally from a farm community in Wisconsin, am of mixed race descent, and attended the New York Academy of Art for my graduate work in painting. I am influenced by my identity, by the wealth of artists I have encountered over the years and by trying to trust my instincts.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Being trained in painting, my studio reflects the traditional concepts of making work in relative isolation.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Teaching and writing. I enjoy my work as a professor of art at Ripon College, and also write reviews for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It has been a wonderful experience to reflect on art in these different ways.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I work as often as I can. It’s hard.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I am currently working three dimensionally, and this has given me lots of ways to reflect on texture and surface that I am excited to apply to painting when I return to it. If that happens.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alice Munro, Juan Rulfo. I am only stopping here to be brief. The list continues.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I aspire to be a washed up country star someday. I may have to skip the getting famous part entirely, though.
Rafael Francisco Salas is a Wisconsin based painter. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has described him as “one of the best painters working in Wisconsin today”. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 7, 2009)
Using landscape along with narrative and symbolic elements, Salas creates artwork that investigates the Midwestern landscape, portraiture, architecture, abstraction, the legacy of Byzantine iconography and country music. His work has been exhibited in New York City, San Diego, Boston, as well as many venues in the Midwest including The Neville Public Museum, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, The John Kohler Arts Center, Dean Jensen gallery, Circa Gallery, Frank Juarez Gallery and Portrait Society Gallery. Salas is also a contributing writer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is an Associate Professor or Art at Ripon College in Ripon, WI.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.