The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design are currently exhibiting a large solo show entitled “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by Los Angeles-based artist Shizu Saldamando in the Goldie Paley Gallery. This artist’s style is heavy in portraiture but fueled by a number of underlying concepts including her source photos, pop culture and ethnic identity.
Saldamando was born to parents of Japanese and Mexican descent and her depiction of others has a tendency to emphasize the gray areas of the subjects’ racial backgrounds. Having grown up between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it is surely very common to have friends of all manner of mixed ethnicities, and she tends to focus on the fluid and ambiguous nature of these identities rather than the hard-line boundaries that are often perceived or proliferated.
For a starting point, Saldamando often begins with snapshots, which she takes at all manner of social gatherings: barbeques, parties or concerts, to name a few. These slices of everyday life do well to not only reflect the dynamic backgrounds of those around her, but also the complex workings of contemporary culture. From fashion and trends to bottles of beer and music, Saldamando nets a wide variety of social life in the 21st century. In “Waiting for the Band In Between Sets,” three young girls sit on the sidewalk clad in black, skinny jeans and the recognizable shirts of The Ramones and The Misfits, their banter forever captured in the artist’s lens, and finally her colored pencil strokes.
Elsewhere, mustachioed men sprawl on a bed in front of a glimmering gold wall full of triangular patterns, and two women chat over what could easily be any local coffee shop’s table, a Moleskine journal plopped conveniently nearby. Some of the pieces wander from the typical white paper to find their home in the wavy grains of wood panels, their backgrounds reduced to tan wood instead of bed sheets and benches.
One of the most interesting areas of the show is Saldamando’s “Embrace Series,” three actual bed sheets dangling from a clothesline in the gallery. The soft surface the artist chooses for these ballpoint pen drawings is very well-matched for the content which illustrates scenes of love and affection – embracing lovers or kissing couples reside among the folds of the hanging cloth. The sheets’ patterns of lines or flowers interact with the images of the lovers, reminding us all of the giddy feeling we get holding hands with someone dear to us.
Overall, Shizu Saldamando’s portraits are far more than just a study in life-drawing. They are, in fact, scenes directly from life and imitate reality in a way that everyone can recognize. They are well-rendered and realistic, but also provide a view into pop culture that will certainly preserve our contemporary lifestyles as history for the future. “All Tomorrow’s Parties” will be at Moore through December 8.
Moore College of Art & Design is located at 20th Street & The Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.moore.edu.