Victor Salazar: The Artist’s Artist

Victor Salazar. Photo by Jonson Kuhn

Jonson Kuhn | North Forty News

Times are hard, things are weird, and it can be easy to lose hope. That’s why when something positive does come your way, it’s all that much more important to truly celebrate whatever it may be in an effort to spread that positivity and inspire others.  This brings us to the man of the hour: Victor Salazar.  Victor’s a lot of things; he’s a Navy Veteran, both Native American and Native Coloradan, Laporte resident of 50 years, and an all-around helluva guy.  But for the purposes of this article, he’s an artist, a sculptor more specifically.

Victor’s work is currently being shown at the Sanderosa Art Gallery in Laporte as he’ll be featured as their artist of the week starting on November 1, which all leads up to the gallery’s Holiday Open House on Saturday, November 6.  I had the tremendous pleasure of sitting down recently with Victor to discuss his artwork amongst other things.  He works almost exclusively in alabaster stone, carving anything from elaborate roses to lifelike animals or even detailed faces.  One never knows where, when or how inspiration might strike, and such a sentiment is especially apt for Victor as he draws his ideas with ease and somewhat randomness through the vast experiences of his life.

My personal favorite is a piece entitled “Wind Whipped” which is a face of a man, similar to that of Victor’s own, squinting his eyes and struggling to see.  It’s my favorite because the piece itself is, of course, stunning to look at, but for me personally, I think I might have slightly enjoyed more the story that accompanied how the piece came to exist in the first place.  As Victor explains, “I was doing construction at one time when we were raising the dams years ago, and my particular job at that time was to flag the truckers in and they would dump their load of gravel and the wind would be blowing like crazy. I was just trying to keep it all out of my eyes the best I could, and then I thought ‘that might make a good sculpture.’”

“Wind Whipped”

Serving in the Navy in 1963, Victor spent three years of his service in Southeast Asia, and it was during this time that his artistic eye began to develop around the various types of wood and jade carvings he was exposed to throughout Singapore.  Victor himself would initially start working in wood after his stint with the military had been fulfilled; during his time in construction, Victor would bring home 4X4 boards to widdle down into art pieces.  His eventual transition into alabaster stone was, you could say, somewhat as casually random as the very ideas for his work.  He simply saw one day that the soft gypsum rock was being sold from a residence on North College Avenue and the rest is history as they say.

Another personal favorite detail to Victor’s work is his inclusion of the Māori Koru spiral, which is based on the New Zealand native silver fern frond.  The outer circular shape is meant to represent the idea of perpetual movement, yet the inner coil is meant to suggest a return to point of origin.  Furthermore, within Māori art, the spiral symbolizes new life, growth, strength, and peace.  This is, of course, however, all news to Victor, who simply adopted the spiral into his sculptures because it struck him as a fun challenge.  Victor told me, “Years ago, I saw an article in the National Geographic on Jade and it showed a little carving, a Māori carving, and it was a little face and it had this little spiral behind it, so I thought, ‘that’s going to be a challenge to do a spiral.’  So, from that, I’ve done a couple of faces now with the Koru spiral.”

I find it all too fitting and appropriate that Victor would be naturally drawn towards a symbol that he himself, in so many ways, embodies as a person, but all the while being completely unaware of it. It speaks a lot to his overall friendly and peaceful nature; there’s not a pretentious or egotistical bone in this guy’s body.  He’s a real artist’s artist (if you will) because he’s never prioritized the pursuit of profit and he’s never once had to push to sell. Instead, he makes the work naturally as the inspiration finds him and then the people literally find him and ask if he wouldn’t mind selling.  Can’t beat that marketing strategy!

“Freedom of Expression” Photo by Sanerosa Art Gallery.

I’m telling you, my having met Victor Salazar was the refreshing breath of air I personally needed to restore my faith in humanity; much like this thing I wrote that you’re reading right now, he’s a real genuine article, and yes, I intended every bit of that pun.  If you, too, are in desperate need of a refreshing breath of air, I strongly encourage you to attend the Sanderosa Art Gallery’s Open House from 11 am to 5 pm on November 6 and meet my new role model for yourself, I promise you won’t be sorry.  Though, don’t just go in support of this particular local artist, go in support of local art in general and keep this well-deserving gallery afloat in the Laporte community for years to come.  RSVP at [email protected].

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