By Rose Watson
Angelica Salazar, a 25-year-old dental student, has recently become a new face on the Las Vegas art scene. Her paintings are a fascinating blend of bright pastel color and dark imagery that really capture the imagination. Salazar’s work also uses a variety of textures and levels to her pieces; some canvases feature drips of paint, others crosshatched knife work and roughly pilled paint. Salazar’s subjects vary from landscapes to abstracts as she feels out her creative consciousness, but all of her pieces have a unique blend of beautifully charming and slightly unsettling imagery.
Salazar first came to the United States from the Philippines when she was 14. Her parents made the decision to immigrate for the wider opportunities. Through living here for over a decade, she has embraced American culture and sees the U.S. as her home. Salazar is also an immigrant to the art world, though, as she only started painting a year and a half ago.
The genesis of Salazar’s art actually comes from a bad breakup she experienced. After her serious relationship fell apart, Salazar did the usual things to try and dispel the funk that had overtaken her mood. She’d go out with friends, have girl nights, go to parties, work more, study more and generally try to stay busy. But she found that she couldn’t escape.
“I would come home, and I was forced to face my feelings again,” she explained. Salazar felt like just putting the situation out of her head wasn’t helping her feel better. She knew she needed to find a way to work through her emotions, and it was imperative that that method was healthy. It was a comment from a friend that helped Salazar decide to try painting. The advice was that Salazar needed to not just close that chapter of her life but to also close the entire book and start fresh. Laughing, Salazar said, “Fresh book, fresh canvas … canvas!”
That evening she picked up canvas, acrylic paint and brushes. The first painting didn’t come easy though; the white space was intimidating. Salazar decided that she would start with landscape, primarily trees, remembering how she had drawn trees as a child. As she painted more, positive encouragement flowed from her friends and family, and the seed of passion was beginning to bloom.
Salazar’s art is still connected to her emotions. Even the creation of one of her pieces is very much from the heart. “I still don’t know what the piece is going to look like,” she said. “There’s a vision in my head, but every piece is still a surprise.” Salazar is a mixed-media artist, using more than just paint in her works. She utilizes several mediums, such as molding paste and pumice, to create different textures. Salazar believes that art shouldn’t just be one dimension but should extend into the tactile.
Salazar is a young artist and the Las Vegas art community has opened its arms to support and guide her. One of the unexpected struggles of being a successful young artist is trying to balance painting for money and painting for passion. According to Salazar, money has a seductive hold on all artists, but especially to someone in Salazar’s position with college loans and unsteady income, it can become the hardest line for an artist to draw.
Her mentor in the art world, Alexander Huerta, helped her draw that line with the advice to “paint for passion.” Another guiding light for Salazar is her friend James Shoe, who helped push Salazar into her first show, throwing her into the deep end of emotion and forcing her to publicize her work. His advice to Salazar was, “Being uncomfortable can open up doors.” That advice has certainly helped Salazar as she moves to more daring projects and bigger shows.
As Salazar continues to draw inspiration from her emotions and the world around her, she is also moving toward new media. Salazar has been experimenting with mixing her art with textiles by creating hand-designed prints for scarves. Her interest in wearable, livable art doesn’t stop there though.
“I want to design furniture and clothing. My boyfriend and I love interior design,” Salazar said. “I used to do art as my sanctuary, but maybe I could do this for a living someday.”
The exciting opportunities that have opened up for Salazar have only deepened her love of art and passion for the craft. “It’s a universal thing. Art with its colors and message, it can communicate with anyone. It is always open to interpretation, and that’s an amazing thing. Between the artist and the viewer there’s an immediate connection,” Salazar explained. This connection has helped Salazar become part of a wonderful community of artists and art lovers, and she reaches out to other young artists. “Keep going, paint for passion and have your creativity take the wheel when you create. That’s my advice,” Salazar said. “Look at your surroundings to find inspiration; it’s everywhere.”
Salazar’s story of self-discovery demonstrates that art heals. Art speaks to everyone in the way that they need hear at the moment. It’s a universal form that can be an incredible force for good. Salazar’s experience shows how transformative art can be as she shares her personal journey with others. For more information on Angelica Salazar’s art, visit angelicasgallery.com.