Friends & Muses: Artist Shizu Saldamando takes her work personally

Shizu Salamando (right) and one of her friends and muses/Jesse Saucedo

By Nathan Solis

Moments of utter bliss or candid joy are captured in Shizu Saldamando’s portrait paintings. Instances of everyday goings ons with friends in social settings stand out in an art world filled with posed models or disconnected subjects. Saldamando’s characters are friends, and this is how she honors them, a truly remarkable feat in this day and age when so many interactions are fractured or online.

Saldamando’s art is currently on display at the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in a show titled “When You Sleep: A Survey of Shizu Saldamando.

With her work there is a certain elation captured, an intimacy that not every artist is privy to with their subjects.

“I think most everyone enjoys people watching,” says  Saldamando, who received her BFA at UCLA and MFA at Cal Arts. “It is more about the familiarity with the subject and the relationship I have with a person that makes me want to draw them.”

Salamando (center) with more muses and friends./Jesse Saucedo

Backyard parties in Downey, friends caught mid sentence in L.A. clubs and other private moments fill Saldamando’s work, a steady lens on a predominantly Latino community. There exists in her work a guarded sense of tradition. A boy’s pompadour, a girl’s eyeliner, the leer of a mustached friend, all of it captured with a vibrant vividness in a multitude of layers.

Someone lifted a portrait of a friend from one of Saldamando’s paintings and used it on a flyer. Saldamando was upset and told to her friend what had happened.

“‘Hey Martha, I’m sorry but some asshole stole your image to promote their lame band with out my or your permission,'” Salamando explained to her friend. “People don’t take into account that these are portraits of real people that exist and are alive.”

Now Saldamando is trying tattoo art and is two years into an apprenticeship at Old No. 13 tattoo shop in East Los Angeles. As with most of her previous art, she was motivated by someone close to her. “My friend was looking for some one to do a tattoo portrait of her mom who had passed away suddenly and I really wished I could do it,” she said.

Recently she’s added tattoos to her portfolio.

When You Sleep: A Survey of Shizu Saldamando runs until December 7, 2013

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.

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