Dixie Salazar: Artist Statement

I have considered myself an artist since I was about three years old. Through many years of struggle as a working mother, tied to a mind-numbing job, I always made artwork. It was my refuge and the silent mate who always got me and will eventually be the repository of the difficulties that shaped me.

My work explores female identity as well as mixed heritage (Anglo and Latina). Underlying dialogues mix with elements of religion, at times iconoclastic, at times questioning. Utilizing everyday objects and popular culture icons, affect images and archetypal symbols creates a self-made mythos that relates to my personal life but also resonates with universal concerns. I like juxtaposing mysterious elements like the red chair, the luchador and the window which pays homage to Pierre Bonnard. Other works play with reality versus illusion, central to figurative, if not all painting, also part of a series, with postmodernist tendencies delving into the artist’s role in society and relationship to the world, the ups and downs of creation, and the many ways the artist discovers new worlds within themselves. Artists, by the act of creation attempt to defy death and reorder their own sense of reality. The Red Line Series explores the fine and at times fragile line between life and death.

In a large body of work exhibited at Artes Americas in 2011, I studied Mesoamerican cultures and became fascinated with the Mayan and Aztec and their connection to nature. I became aware of a sense of diaspora within myself related to what I perceived as a crisis of contemporary life, all of us caught together in a world of plastic and decaying commodities, far from our indigenous homelands. These so-called primitive works stirred something in the recesses of my soul, reconnecting me to the stars and the jaguar and the sea. Concern for the environment and for the quality of life in contemporary times blended with a distinctly Mayan influence in the show titled “Interconnections”.

I also attempt to access the subconscious and hidden interior worlds of the psyche. I’m interested in the leaps of perception that occur when disparate images are juxtaposed, releasing a synergy of metaphor and meaning far beyond the images by themselves. My work as an art therapist has given me ample opportunities to explore Jungian ideas and embrace the shadow side within the human psyche and also to value the process as much as the product. I try to incorporate humor as a most useful tool to defuse the terror and chaos within these discoveries.

Found images continue to play an important role in my work. In a large body of work titled “Imagining Water”, an American Red Cross water safety manual inspired fifteen large 42” X 60” paintings of the figure submerged. The figures, free of the influence of gravity appear in half ballet/ half struggle positions and work as a metaphor for the human condition, with associations of birth, baptism, death, drowning, survival and spirituality floating below the surface.

I began as a watercolorist and learned about mixing and layering color, about utilizing negative space and spontaneity and learned to recognize the beauty of accidents as part of the process and to incorporate them into the final product.

My newest work falls into two bodies: oil pastel/mixed media (small drawings that attempt to navigate between painting and drawing). Also, I continue my exploration of what I call the painted collage, starting with a chaotic layer of collage and using oils, pastels and even watercolors to bring order to a disconnected world.

Charlie Parker said, “If it’s not in your life, it won’t come out your horn.” I look forward to continuing my work with the homeless and in social justice areas, confident that these and other passions will flow from my paint brush.