Ivan Salcido was born and raised in El Paso, TX and is currently based in Portland, OR. Salcido earned an MFA from the University of Texas San Antonio and a BFA from the University of Texas El Paso. Although primarily trained as a sculptor, Ivan is also a printmaker, painter, and furniture designer/fabricator. Their interests in art also include collecting artworks and working full-time as a preparator/art handler.
Brittany Vega: When someone asks what you “do," how do you answer?
Ivan Salcido: Interesting question, I think it depends on who is asking. Sometimes I answer that I am an artist or a preparator, and other times I say I work at a cafe. All are true but each is its own thing and I choose to depend on the situation. It is nice to be able to change it up.
BV: What themes are you most interested in exploring in your work?
IS: This changes for me all the time, lately I have been thinking a lot about legacy and memory. I react to things I’ve read or heard about or experienced, but then express that in ways that are at times abstract and sometimes representational.
BV:You’ve recently shown work at One Grand Gallery (Portland, OR) for your exhibition "For: Eva & 3V4." Can you describe for readers how you investigated topics like legacy and commemoration in that work?
IS: Absolutely. For that show, I wanted to convey that a lot of things we value as Americans have roots in ideas or traditions that have been imported into our country. Basketball, for example, I was drawing a connection between the sports of the mesoamerican ballgame and modern basketball. Both sports were played on a court, required a rubber ball to go through hoops, and are fiercely competitive. I referenced a Mayan creation story in this work by building “goalpost” sculptures using rims, backboards, nets, paint, and neon elements to represent two Mayan gods who played the ancient ballgame. In the gallery, a graphic I designed was installed on the floor that combined the lines painted on basketball courts and a blueprint of a Mesoamerican ballcourt to create a space that functioned as a hybrid court. In addition, I installed the goalpost sculptures on the sides of this hybrid court instead of at the ends to reference the stone rims from the mesoamerican ballgame. I was really happy with the way it all turned out because, to me, it felt like a space or realm that existed somewhere between both sports.
Another example was a portrait piece I made of my grandmother. One of her many accomplishments in life is that she played for a champion basketball team in Mexico in the 1940s and ’50s. Although she was on a championship team, all she has left as memorabilia from that time are a few small photographs. We both share a love for the sport and as a kid, I loved playing ball and collecting basketball cards of my favorite players. For this work, those things I loved as a young person are now in my own memorabilia to honor and show how proud I am of my grandmother’s accomplishment, while also presenting and preserving that time in her life, that memory, for my family and the viewer. The sculpture is an oversized basketball card that hangs from the ceiling. It is encased in plexiglas and has all the same attributes as the cards I used to collect, it is even “autographed” by her, in a way. The main image is of my grandmother from 1952 in her basketball uniform while striking a defensive pose. Installed in front is her autograph made out of neon.
Apart from my personal connection with this piece, I feel it is imperative to present stories about immigrants that dispel negative stereotypes and instead showcase their wonderful accomplishments. This work aims to increase dialogue about the significant value that immigrants possess and contribute to our culture and society, highlighting the importance of presenting and embracing them as an invaluable part of our history and future. There are so many varied experiences in every person, including immigrants, yet the rhetoric of the current political climate is trying to dehumanize groups of people so that we can enact policies that are hateful and ignorant and exclusive. I want to produce a stream of works that expose more people to stories or experiences that connect us to one another to ease the fear of the unknown, remind us that we are all just people doing our best. Lol, I dunno if all that actually comes across to the viewer, but at least it is something that I had in mind while creating this work.
BV: Can you provide a glimpse into your process and how new work comes about?
IS: I enjoy variety and experimentation when it comes to making new work and feels like the initial process varies too. For abstract works, oftentimes I’ll just start building something small or mask out an area on a canvas/panel and experiment with whatever paint I have available. I let that process evolve intuitively and sort itself out while working on a few different things at once. I start making connections between all the parts and then combine them in ways that feel right. If I build a sculptural piece or paint something that I don’t like, I will just pull back or start on something else. It is fun working this way because I don’t have to be precious with these pieces at first, they’re just experiments at that point. Once I find what I think is a successful composition, I’ll tighten it up to make sure it looks and feels finished.
Other times I start with a clear idea of what I want to make and plan it out from start to finish. Usually, a project grant or a commission requires me to plan it this way. This process is different but just as satisfying because you know all the steps and you can always come back and recreate or reflect on what you’ve done. If I want to work on a series over a period of time, I like knowing that I have a template and record of steps.
BV: From one art handler to another, has having a role on both sides of production (creating work and presenting the work of others) affected your own practice in any way?
IS: Yes, definitely. Once I finish a piece or sometimes while planning one, I have to set aside time to consider how it is going to be displayed. I ask myself if I want it on D-rings or cleats, on a pedestal or hung in space? If I plan on installing the work myself, knowing this information will make my life easier. If someone else is installing the work, it makes it easy to be confident that they’ll install it the way you intended. Working with other artists’ work has really taught me a lot. If I want my work to last for years, I have to make sure it is easy to hang or display and also to store. These decisions may seem unimportant but the way your work is displayed can make a huge difference in how it communicates what you want it to.
BV: Is there something in the works that you’re able to tell us about?
IS: I always try and have something percolating in the studio. I have a couple of abstract paintings and two small commissions in the works. There is a project grant coming up that I am applying for and I’m just finishing my research for that. No shows lined up for this year but I’m stoked for this interview because it’s been fun to get to talk about my art, thanks for that.
BV: Have any tips for other artists who are new to the grant application process? And do you have any personal habits or tools for maintaining focus on your goals?
IS: For grants, I would advise you to have a rough idea of what you want to see, create, produce, perform, etc. and then as best you can, fill in the details from start to finish. Call around and find out pricing for materials and reach out to galleries about shows, figure out how you would display your work down to the hardware if need be because going through that process early on will make it so much easier to answer the questions on the application. I try to do at least one thing a day that sets me up for the next, such as cutting material, priming, even just laying out my tools so I can continue working when I’m able to. At whatever stage in the process, you’ll be surprised how far along you end up going one step at a time.
1. Hunahpu (WAH-nuh-pwuh)
2. Xbalanque (shi-BAY-lan-kay)
3. Creation Myth Court
4. For: Eva and 3V4 [design front of card]
5. For: Eva and 3V4 [design back of card]
6. FOR EVA & 3V4 BY IVAN SALCIDO
One Grand Gallery, Portland, OR
Installation image no. 1
7. FOR EVA & 3V4 BY IVAN SALCIDO
One Grand Gallery, Portland, OR
Installation image no. 2