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Known for poetic, electrifying portraits of the people in her life, Shizu Saldamando paints, draws, and increasingly works in video to create luminous images that while often set in abstract backgrounds, contain a proliferation of the whimsical flourishes of individuality that make her community unique. Her focus on the spectrum of identities within “Chicanx and indigenous” cultural bodies is lovingly, frankly expressed in Saldamando’s precise linework, rich palette, and empathetic sense of detail. Her new exhibition opens February 6 at Oxy Arts in Highland Park, where she has been the Wanlass artist in residence.

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?

SHIZU SALDAMANDO: My mom would have to take me to work with her when she didn’t have childcare so I would draw pictures to entertain myself. I drew pictures for her coworkers and it just stuck with me as an activity I always sought out to do.

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

I am mainly a portraitist who explores the genre in video and installation as well as drawing and painting.

When was your first show?

My first real art show was showing a drawing at one of the first Mujeres de Maiz performance/art exhibits at the PRC in Highland Park.

Shizu Saldamando, La Maya, Colored pencil on paper, 30 x 22 inches, 2018 (Courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles | Photo by Michael Underwood)

When is/was your current/most recent/next show?

I have a solo exhibition at Oxy Arts in Highland Park opening the 6th of February.

What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?

One of my dreams is coming true and I’m going to be in a two-person exhibition with Ester Hernandez at the National Mexican Museum in Chicago in October. She’s been a huge influence on my practice since my teens. Also, within my practice I think I purposefully do portraits of my artist friends so I can somehow “show with them.” It would be rad to also be in a show with Barkley Hendricks, Amy Sherald or Kerry James Marshall.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?

I listen to a lot of minimal electronic darkwave, shoegazer sprinkled with some goth rock en español, symphonic black metal, finished off with ’60s recuerdos.

Website and social media handles, please!

Instagram: @shizutattoo

Charlie James Gallery: cjamesgallery.com

Shizu Saldamando, La Ever, Chica Malcriada, Colored pencil, glitter, spray paint on paper, 30 x 22 inches, 2018. (Courtesy of the artist and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles | Photo Michael Underwood)