There’s art and then there’s provocative work by individuals like Salvador Jiménez who use their creativity and intuition to spark debate on issues like immigration and identity.
Jiménez became a well known artist in Chicago thanks to his extensive production on the immigrant experience from a young student’s point of view. From his photography to his murals and mixed media collection, Jiménez’s work is often political and reflective of the shared experience from Latino neighborhoods in Chicago.
Today, you can catch him teaching other young students the art of murals, design and multi-media works across the city. His latest show, “El Nopal En La Frente” is a satirical commentary on the Mexican saying that reminds us that no matter how detached one can get living away from the motherland, you can never escape the nopal in your face or the roots of your identity.
Roots: Mexican Born, Naturalized American
Where do you live now: Chicago, near Midway Airport
Day job: Graphic designer & art teacher
Where were you and what were you doing 5 years ago? Five years ago I decided to take my role as an artist seriously, which is something I can no longer stop doing—and will do for the rest of my life.
Current obsessions/addictions: Art, design, and traveling
Guilty pleasure(s): Coffee, beer, and seafood
Recent musical discovery: Austin TV
Best recent meal: Frijoles con Nopales y queso
Last book you read: Ensayo Sobre La Ceguera (Blindness) by José Saramago
Where would we find you on a Saturday afternoon? Drinking coffee at the Jumping Bean or creating art in my garage
Inspirations? Life in the USA from a immigrant perspective, Latino Studies
How would you describe your work? My art is a mixture of painting, drawing, photography, collage, sculpture, and design. Most of my artwork is intuitive, meaning I have no specific expectation of what I am creating, but rather my hands roam free and record struggles, frustrations, and emotions at the moment of conception.
When did know you wanted to be an artist? Five years ago, when I was going through a big transition from High School to College and the feeling of not fitting in the American society (It was my third year living in the U.S. since I first immigrated) . Also the pressure of not knowing what career to choose. I started creating a visual journal became my museum without walls, it was a way of putting together many different ideas, thoughts, believes, and contradictions all in the same book. I inclined to art as an alternative remedy—creating art would make me forget all my problems, stress and frustrations. Replacing all that with peace and calmness.
Tell us about your current show, “El Nopal En La Frente”? First of all I wanted to see people’s reaction towards the art. In most of the cases it was a grin or a smirk smile from the Mexican community. “El nopal en la frente,” is a very old Mexican expression that translates literally as “The cactus on the forehead”. It is also used to identify a person who by his skin color and facial features looks very Mexican, particularly indigenous with rural roots. Some people usually associate the cactus as a Mexican stigma or a mark of disgrace. In this body of work, I intended to do the contrary and see the cactus as a Mexican prize and as a symbol of the homeland. Furthermore, I used as the Mexican Emblem from the Aztec legend in which war god Huitzilopochtli was commanded to find an eagle perched atop of a cactus with a serpent trapped in its mouth to mark Lake Texcoco, what is modern day México City.
Why do you use the image of yourself so much in your work? It’s the best form for me to literally state that what I create is my own perception of the subject matter. It’s the best way to perform self-analysis and to try to find my identity.
How does an artist measure his success? The art I create is for pleasure and to explore themes of my own interest and curiosities. The way I measure success is by knowing that the viewer relates and feels connected with that art I create.
Whats your favorite medium? I consider myself more of a mixed media artist because I enjoy combining drawing, painting, print-making, sculpture, collage, video, sound, design, installation, and found objects.
Favorite piece so far? “The Search of Identity in an Unknown Land” was created in 2008 as part of the “Nopal en la Frente” series. In this piece I don’t take the phrase literally, instead, I drew a self-portrait in a position of wanting to catch something with a type of barbed wire, in the drawing what I’m trying to reach out is the ciruete of a prickly pear cactus as a homeland symbol of the country I left.
Current projects: Finishing up installing a multi-media mural where I led 12 students at Saint Anthony Hospital with Yollocalli Arts Reach (a youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art, is an arts education and career-training program for youth between the ages of 13 and 21). I also teaching a “Youth Curators class” (at Yollocalli), guiding the students on how to organize and curate an art show that speaks for them (the youth). They learn how to design promotional material for their show, make a website for their gallery, select art, and design and paint the gallery space of the gallery.
Biggest challenges? Creating something unique, something that no one has done. That’s a constant battle with myself, where I always try to push my creativity beyond it’s limits and come up with a new idea, a new concept or a new combination of different medias. When I’m stuck creatively, I like to go running because not only it’s great form of distress but it’s the best way I can concentrate on profound thinking of what I’m gonna do next or how can I make better what I’m working on.
Plans for the future: To obtain a MFA, afford a working studio and stop painting in the garage, travel more and keep creating.
Join Salvador at Efebos Cafe Wednesday, Nov 5th for the closing night of “El Nopal En La Frente”
See more of Salvador’s work at jimenezdesignart.com