Meet moises salazar
Moises salazar’s art is an exploration of glamour, identity and safe spaces.
What is your series Brillo Putx all about? Brillo Putx is a body of work that manifested when I came out as non-binary about two years ago. It took me a long time to let go of ‘maleness’ because it was something I held on to for the sake of being seen as desirable. I was so scared to be feminine, but I desired it so much. When I realised I was non-binary, I wanted to celebrate my queer body, and challenge my own ideas of what makes a body inherently male or female. So Brillo Putx was born.
Tell us about your experiences as a queer, first generation Mexican American. I have definitely felt alienated, because I didn’t see my identity represented in gay media. I also didn’t have access to safe queer spaces, so I had to resort to apps like Grindr to find community. Looking back, I found myself in a lot of problematic situations. I was very young and having relations with older men. I enjoyed the attention, but that became the foundation of my queer journey: I found myself always wanting love and relationships from folks who weren’t interested in that, and that made me feel like I would never find it. It was also disheartening to see so many folks have “only whites” or “no fem” on their profiles. Very quickly, I began to suppress parts of my identity for the sake of being more desirable.
How are those experiences represented in these images? The images I make are of figures in soft and safe spaces, because I never felt safe growing up. I was always scared of being discriminated against for being queer or because folks in my family are undocumented. I want to present an idea of glamour and care in my paintings; to begin normalising queer love and identities. I often paint many figures around each other, creating a sisterhood protected in their safe, abstract environments.
Why do the figures remain faceless? I want folks to identify with my paintings. My practice isn’t autobiographical, but is definitely influenced by my experiences. I think it’s important for folks to look at my paintings and just see a glamorous figure and identify with it.
Tell us about the warm and cosy colours and textures. I personally find them comfortable. After many years of not having agency in my life, I focus so much of my energy into making sure I feel comfortable and at ease. As a child, I was always taught not to stand out or bring attention to myself, and now I do the opposite. I often end up wearing the colours and textures in my paintings because I love them.
More specifically, what made you choose materials like glitter and crochet? The glitter was sort of an accident. I painted in oil for many years, but I became disconnected from it. I began experimenting with glitter nail polish and loved how saturated the glitter looked. I added glitter to oil paint and finally just covered my pieces with glitter. The crochet started off as a joke. I’ve always been influenced by classical art and Catholic painting, and I wanted to frame my paintings to elevate the work. I knew how to crochet and decided to make a frame. I loved how it looked and haven’t stopped doing it since.
Is there a piece from this series that you have a particularly strong connection with? “San Nopal” is a very special painting for me, because it perfectly synthesised the two worlds I was living in. When I was younger, I separated the queer community I was part of from the Mexican community I was raised in. I did it for the sake of self-preservation, but at some points it felt like I was living a double life, and that was exhausting. This painting – featuring a figure with lots of cacti – became the first bridge into representing both aspects of my identity.
What would you like people to take away from your work? I want folks to realise they have to be kind to themselves and the folks around them. It’s OK to be loud, its OK to wear what you want, and it’s OK to demand how you want to be loved and treated.
How has your artistic exploration of race, gender and queerness changed your personal relationship with those things? I think making work about the different aspects of my identity has allowed me to evolve and transform. I celebrate all the communities I’m part of and allow myself to challenge them. I’ve accepted that I will always keep transforming and that’s exciting to me. I can see my personal growth by looking at my paintings. They develop alongside me.
Are there other Mexican-american artists you’re inspired by? Just to name a few, Elvia Carreon, Yvette Mayorga, Jose Villalobos and Luis Sahagun. I look up to them all. Please look them up and follow them. You won’t regret it!
What else should we know about you? I’m getting really good at doing my make-up! And other people’s, too. For some folks make-up can be a tool of radical transformation, and I love that. It’s a great way to bond with friends and family and partners.
Where can we check out more of your work? Online at moisessalazar.com or on Instagram at @moises.salazar.tlatenchi.