This week’s inside look at the On the Nature of Wisconsin exhibition highlights artist Rafael Francisco Salas and the piece he has featured in the show.
Rafael Francisco Salas is a Wisconsin based painter. He combines landscape, the legacy of portraiture, architecture, Byzantine iconography and country music into artwork that evokes a strange, rural poetry. It reflects a personal journey of mixed race identity, conflict, beauty and devotion played out on the vast landscapes of rural Wisconsin.
His work has been exhibited in New York City, San Diego, Boston, as well as many venues in the Midwest including The Neville Public Museum, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, The John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Dean Jensen gallery, Circa Gallery and Frank Juarez Gallery. His work is represented by Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Salas has also worked as a contributing writer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Newcity Art in Chicago and Urban Milwaukee. Salas is a professor of art at Ripon College in Ripon, WI.
Rafael Francisco Salas, "Sheep Behind a Fence" (2018) ink and acrylic on paper
“My artwork reflects on American tradition and identity. It speaks to an indignant desire for a dream continually just beyond reach. It is a strange, rural poetry of aspiration and poignant reality, a striver’s endeavor of high and low culture, situated between the elevated and the abject. When I look over the landscapes of Wisconsin, I see beauty and tragedy in equal measure.
Animals have always been vehicles for expansive metaphor in art. They stand in for the self, for the spirit, and of course for nature writ large. In this case, a sheep represents all of these ideas, perhaps more.
I look to art history as much as to lived experience in my work. Jan Van Eyck, Byzantine iconography, as well as more modern reflections of the land and our place on it, influence the psychology and moods of my artwork. Together, I am creating a new object that combines the past, the present, autobiography and invention into an ever expanding parable.”
-Rafael Francisco Salas
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Closed for Installation: June 13-June 28; September 26-October 11, and December 19-January 4, 2021
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