Inside the Studio: Gilbert Salinas
Article by Caroline Haller
Painter Gilbert Salinas is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, but now splits his time with a studio in Orlando, Florida. Salinas graduated with a BA in Fine Arts: Painting from the University of Puerto Rico. Since then, he has pursued an artistic career, exhibiting in museums, galleries and art fairs across Puerto Rico and internationally. Additionally, his artworks make up museums and private collections across the globe.
Salinas’s artwork centers on organic forms of nature and their evolution over time. For his abstracted and earth minded works, Salinas uses organic materials such as palm trees and sand to build up the layers of the canvas. Over a drawn-out process that includes spontaneity as well as days of waiting for layers to dry, Salinas creates his unique artistic language.
Salinas began producing his series “Hominidae” in 2015. Describing the series as one that has “evolved from abstractions,” Salinas includes figurative outlines which hint at the title Hominidae. The origin of the term Hominidae refers to a family of eight great apes or hominids. In his series, Salinas questions how and when the complexities and consciousness of human beings began.
Untitled, 2022 “Hominidae series” Mixed media on canvas - Acrylic, sand, modeling paste, charcoal, organic material from palm trees, sand, varnish, oil stick, 40 × 30 in | 101.6 × 76.2 cm
With such uniquely derived works, I wanted to know about Salinas’s process and how he creates his work! Read on for my interview with him.
When did you know, or how did you know, you wanted to be an artist?
Since an early age, I was always inclined to art by making drawings. In my teenage years I took some art classes and later entered the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, but had some personal setbacks and didn’t finish. I later returned and graduated in 2009. So, since I returned to the University in 2007, I decided I wanted to be a professional artist.
Can you describe your studio or workspace and what a day spent in your studio looks like?
I work mostly in my studio in Orlando, Florida and also from San Juan, Puerto Rico. My workplaces are garages turned into studios. My typical workday is from 11am to 6 or 7pm. I usually work on various pieces each a day. While I apply paint on one canvas and wait for it to dry, I keep working on others in different stages. It’s a very dynamic process.
How do you create your mixed media paintings? How important is texture when realizing your works?
A big part of the process to create my mixed media paintings is experimental. I add layers and layers of acrylic heavy body paints, modeling paste, organic materials from palm trees, and sand, among others. I work, wet on wet, to create certain organic patterns and work, wet on dry, to achieve transparencies and charcoal lines over the paintings. I let them dry for days or weeks and sometimes go over again until I feel fully satisfied with the result.
The texture, for me, is very important because I feel it adds another dimension. I distort the layers and shapes to create dynamic tensions and I feel they are part of my artistic tactile language. It’s another experience when you see them in person because you can appreciate the textures.
Can you discuss the importance of organic forms of nature and the evolution of the planet in your art?
My central theme is mostly based on investigating the variety of ways to address the organic forms of nature and the planet’s evolution. For me the importance is to renew our view of our environment and to the traces left by time on the surface of our planet so we can take better care of it.
Right now, you have works from two “series” Hominidae and Tropical Erosion on your website. Can you describe the inspiration and source for these pieces?
My series from recent years are:
-Tropical Erosion, are abstract works and my inspiration is the process of wear suffered by the soil as a result of geological processes such as water, wind, temperature changes and human intervention.
-Hominidae, is a somewhat biomorphic figurative series in which the subject is the human psyche and the complexities of the human condition. In that matter, our collective identity, turmoil’s, anxieties, constant struggle, unresolved conflicts and how do we move forward as a species.
-Etchings, are mostly directed to Puerto Rico’s social political situation.
Lately, most of the works form my paintings series, won’t have titles because I like to leave things to the imagination.
What is it like seeing your art at international art fairs such as Aqua Art Miami or SCOPE Miami Beach?
Participating with my art at international art fairs is a way to expose my work to many art enthusiasts and collectors. Arts fairs have become a big part of the art world and I enjoy participating in the more curated ones. Plus, I get to admire other artists artworks as well.
What are you working on currently?
I’ve been pretty busy. I just had a solo exhibition of 30 artworks in different sizes at the Albin Polasek Museum in Winter Park, Florida. It opened on August 30th and goes until December 4th, 2022. Recently, I finished 5 artworks for the Context Art Miami 2022. I’ll take some days off, to later begin working on my next solo show, which will continue to be in the biomorphic semi-figurative series.