A huge chunk of art history is composed of creators sharing their sexual fantasies in marble, charcoal, and paint. But in the case of Andrew Salgado, his images of the male body are not just about creating a sexual charge. The victim of a violent gay bashing in 2008 that cost him most of his teeth, the London-based painter creates the work he does first and foremost as an expression of politics.
“After that happened, I began using my art as a means to make bold statements,” the Regina expat says. “My work definitely carries a no holds barred vision and I don’t shy from themes that are important to me. As a gay man and victim of a hate-crime, I have a vehement political stance in the sense I have something to say.”
Though not all of Salgado’s images carry the erotic charge of his contribution to La Petite Mort’s upcoming exhibition Post Mortem, he always works with images of the male body. He’s often appropriated image from magazines, websites, and found photographs, but recently he’s focused on working with models. Shying from professionals, he finds his subjects through Facebook, email blasts, even handing cards to strangers on the street.
The process begins with a photo session in his studio. As with the means of selecting models, he likes to keep the process open to possibility. “I like uncertainty and elements left to chance,” he says. “If the subject is a dancer and wants drop his clothes and do ballet, that’s the best. One of my favourites was a guy who came in and we drank Peroni. He opened up like a geyser, telling me all of these inner thoughts and fears and insecurities he’s never told anyone. It was a profound moment.”
Though his work deals broadly with the destruction and reconstruction of identity, when it comes to his public personae he’s incredibly cautious.
“I’m quite protective over how I portray myself through online media,” he says. “Of course I have a professional page for my art, but I also have a personal page which is just for my friends. There’s this expectation that Andrew Salgado the artist and Andrew Salgado the person are one and the same, but we’re not. As an artist, I’m a consummate professional and I might not want my professional followers to know where I’m partying and who I’m intimate with. There’s a sexiness in ambiguity, isn’t there?”