Atomic Eagle/Åguila Atomica, 2017
Terracotta, gold luster
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.
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.
Salvador Jiménez-Flores is an interdisciplinary artist born and raised in Jalisco, México. He explores the politics of identity and the state of double consciousness. Jiménez-Flores addresses issues of colonization, migration, “the other,” and futurism by producing a mixture of socially conscious installation, public, and studio-based art. His work spans from drawing, ceramics, prints, and mixed media sculpture. Jiménez-Flores has presented his work at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and Museum of Art and Design amongst others. He served as Artist-In-Residence for the city of Boston, Harvard Ceramics Program, Office of the Arts at Harvard University, and Kohler Arts Industry. Jiménez-Flores is a recipient of Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grants and The New England Foundation for the Arts. He is an Assistant Professor in ceramics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.