Interview with artist, Rafael Francisco Salas

This month we had art professor and artist, Rafael Francisco Salas visit North High to share his art, influences, and process with our students. 

Rafael Francisco Salas, Untitled Portrait (Houses), oil on canvas, 22 x 42 inches, 2010

Rafael Francisco Salas, Untitled Portrait (Houses), oil on canvas, 22 x 42 inches, 2010

North High Art Department: What/who is your biggest inspiration?

Rafael Francisco Salas: I mentioned a few influential artists – Isa Genzken, Cy Twombly,  and Byzantine artwork

In addition, old country music as it relates the landscape, and then of course the landscape of rural Wisconsin itself.

NHAD: What is your favorite medium to work with?

RFS: Oil paint and charcoal

NHAD: When did you start painting?

RFS: I always was interested in making art, but didn’t begin oil painting until I was about 23 years old.

NHAD: At what age did you start being an artist?

RFS: Pretty much my whole life.

NHAD: Why did you choose to do abstract painting?

RFS: Great question. Abstract art (to me) is able to communicate beyond language. If a painting has a human figure, a viewer responds with the knowledge that the painting has a person in it. But abstraction requires a different reading, that is more personal and emotional. It comes from the gut.

NHAD: How long does it take to finish a painting?

RFS: Sometimes they move along quite quickly, like two or three weeks. Other times a couple of months.

NHAD: Do you enjoy changing your media & materials?

RFS: It’s exciting and very challenging to work with new materials. Sometimes it’s a disaster!

NHAD: Is all of your work based on your experiences?

RFS: Yes, most of it is pretty autobiographical. It’s what I know.

NHAD: What made you want to go into art/study art?

RFS: I always enjoyed it and was inspired to make art. Plus I was never good at anything else!

Artist Statement: 

My current artistic project begins by describing the landscape and its moods that I have observed in Wisconsin.  They include natural occurrences as well as man-made events and architecture which complement and conflict. Our creations and habits rub up against what is native or wild. Those interactions describe our new selves.

The use of non-representational and still life elements in my artwork creates a dichotomy between figure and ground, between the perceived and the felt. Like the nature of the landscapes I observe, the artwork aspires toward a certain nobility, but often illuminates a poignant contrast to that aspiration.

Country music is the appropriate soundtrack.

About The Artist Lecture Series

The Artist Lecture Series is an in-school program at Sheboygan North High School that invites local and regional visual artists to share their journey as artists with the beginning, intermediate, and advanced art classes. Visiting artists present and expose art students to such as but not limited to: a digital portfolio, actual artworks, talk about about careers, and the opportunity to interact with the artists. This program is organized by the Sheboygan North High Art Department. 

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