Shizu Saldamando is an extraordinary painter whose detailed portraits convey a distinct narrative.
Her meticulous paintings don’t only showcase her innate talent, but they capture the spirit of a generation whose reinterpretations of outdated fashion and music express a resistance to mainstream marketing and co-opting.
Born to parents of Mexican and Japanese decent, Saldamando’s work embodies components that reflect her bi-racial heritage. Growing up, her childhood home housed many prints by Chicano artists. Her first introduction to art, these generated her interest in Chicano art sensibilities which she developed as a teen by copying “the drawings of Aztec pyramids and warriors and naked girls” that colored the pages of Teen Angels magazines, as offered by Elina Shatkin for the Los Angeles Times.
Saldamando’s work also demonstrates an appreciation for crafting, which she discussed in an interview she gave for Los Angeles I’m Yours. Not only did “craft as an art practice [have] a huge artistic influence” upon Saldamando during her youth, but, as an “activity that [her] Japanese American side of the family participated in during WWII when they were interned in the Japanese American internment camps,” it carries with it a deep respect for the trials her family endured.
Interestingly, although Saldamando’s heritage informs her work, she prefers not to have her work labeled as such. Rather, her intent is to capture what she refers to as the “different subcultures or scenes in which people have created [for themselves, outside] larger alienating constructs [through] their own ingenuity and creativity,” as further noted by Los Angeles I’m Yours.
To achieve this, Saldamando takes hundreds of photographs of her friends at clubs, backyard parties, and concerts. And it is from these that she sources the images which provide the basis for her portraits that so succinctly convey the energy and aura emblematic of her individualistic culture of peers.