The Must Read Interview with Souther Salazar

Hi Souther, could you tell us a bit about yourself?  Where you're from and where you are now?

I was born in Hayward, California and lived in the Bay Area, Central Valley, and the LA area.  Since 2012, I've been living in Portland, Oregon with my partner Monica and our two cats Zorro and Linus.  We met up here.

How did you get into art at a young age?

My parents were always creative folks and filled my childhood with art and music.  There were good books in the house, and I would take them down from the shelf and stare at the art and fall in.  Like lots of people I started drawing as a kid and kept going.  In kindergarten, my teacher entered a drawing I did of a pirate into a contest and I got to be in my first group show.

How has your work evolved over the years?  You started with comics?

I lived in a rural place as a teenager, very isolated. Around that time, I also discovered zines and minicomics. That inspired me to start xeroxing my own comics. I would send them to pen pals and distribute them in local shops in the nearby towns, skate shops, tattoo shops...listings in Fact Sheet Five and my favorite zine catalog-- Spit and a 1/2. I would also paint and make found material sculptures. I learned to direct my creative tendencies more cohesively when I attended Art Center in Pasadena. I had my first solo art show while finishing my final term there. Moving into the gallery environment, I found the way I could best handle the transition was to imagine my sketchbooks exploding and accidentally filling the walls. I try to keep a lot of the same intuitive and intimate feeling of zines in the pieces through collages and hiding lots of little overlapping stories in the paintings and drawings.

Could you tell us a bit about your print release with us Thursday?

The title of the piece is “Earlybirds.” I wanted to share it as a print because it feels like a piece about community and that's something I'm trying to find and help develop right now. We are connected in so many unseen ways to our environment and each other and every living thing around us. Diversity is the nature of the universe but it's human nature to focus rigidly on divisions rather than relaxing our sense of self and appreciating our connections across those divisions. When I was in kindergarten we were divided into two classes, early birds and late birds, depending on what time of morning you could arrive. I was a late bird, but I wondered what it was like for the first shift. So this is my late bird song for the early birds. It's a place where the shifts overlap, where the memories of the dreams of the night before are still fresh and ready to be carried forward into the dawn by those who first awaken.

Your work is full of narratives but I'm curious if each take place in the same universe or are each their own little worlds?

They are in the same universe. The universe grows on its own but when I see neighborhoods that belong near each other I make a note of it. Others I allow to be separated by stretches of dunes, galaxies, or portals. I'm loosely mapping a reflection of the subconscious as it arises by intuitively playing and's my own mythology practice I need to do to stay healthy. Sort of an antidote to the experience of living in a society with inverted values.

What's a normal day in the studio like for you?

Coffee, checking in with Monica about what projects we have, clearing my desk and work surfaces, getting to work, taking breaks to work on sculptures or to grow freeform drawings and paintings I have around the studio, late lunch with second coffee, watering my plants, refocusing on the most time-sensitive projects and working until Monica tells me it's time to go home.

Is there any special inspiration behind your use of color?  It seems incredibly unique and fresh.

This question always surprises me... I guess when I look back at older paintings early in my career I can see that I did seem to have a specific palette I liked. Earth tones and kind of muted like the 70s books I grew up looking at. The work now compared to that is much brighter and includes a wider range of colors. I don't really make an effort to control it, or attach specific meanings to specific colors... I just grab for what speaks to me in the moment and what I have access to. In that way it is intuitive and somewhat emotional.

What's the most difficult part of creating?

Focusing when I have a deadline. The "work" part of having a creative career. I start new ideas, drawings, and sculptures every day so they all compete for my attention, especially when I have something due. When that happens, I have to hide away a lot of the unfinished things and just keep one thing in front of me.

What's the best part?

When I put headphones on and I'm making things and all the stress and anxiety of the world falls away and I can be in my own little world I'm making in front of me. I water these little seeds and watch them grow into things that surprise me. Being open and organic and always approaching things like a beginner, enjoying experiments with new materials and techniques and listening to what they say and how they feel. It keeps me present in a surprising way, so that when I move about in the world I can see things in ways I wouldn't if I didn't practice this deeper connection to drawing and playing.

What's coming up next for you?

I'm working on a surprise.

"Earlybirds" will be available at 1PM PST Thursday, July 20th in our shop.