Jeremy Salazar is a local artist, skateboarder, fashion designer, photographer and filmmaker. His first solo art exhibit, “Love Life,” is showing now through Nov. 18 at Duel Brewery in downtown Albuquerque.
The Daily Lobo sat down with Salazar on the opening night of the exhibit to discuss his unique fusion of street art, skater culture and DIY self expression.
DL: Can you tell us about your brand, Happy Loco?
JS: Happy Loco is my alternative lifestyle brand. It ranges from art, fashion, skateboarding culture to social engagement.
DL: How long have you been doing art?
JS: I’ve been doing art more seriously over the past four years now. I’ve always been playing around with drawing, markers and crayons when I was a little kid. Four years ago I realized that I could actually make art and be an artist.
DL: What made you realize that you could take it to the next level?
JS: I would say it was sharing my work. I used to keep my artwork to myself, I guess I was kind of an in-the-closet painter. But I started sharing photos of my paintings, started sharing more of myself. I got a lot of good feedback, and people really loved it.
DL: You use a lot of Sharpies and paint pens in your work. Why are you drawn to those materials?
JS: I think I’m really attracted to Sharpies, markers and stuff like that because I’m really minimal. I work with whatever is in sight. The door in the front of the show is my first painting. I didn’t realize I was making a painting, I just had a bunch of scrap markers in my room and I just started writing and drawing on my door. I like using simple tools like markers because I don’t need to carry a whole case of paint, I can just have a Sharpie in my pocket. I can travel light, and get them anywhere in the world.
DL: Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to art?
JS: I’d say my friends: Juliana Coles, Natalie Maxwell, Mike Giant, Rita Riggs, there’s so many. I’m drawn to their art because it’s from the heart. It expresses who they are as a human, and shows them in their highest light.
DL: I noticed a few themes in all of your work, like love, happiness and just being yourself. What’s behind that message?
JS: It’s a personal battle. When I first started writing, asking myself what made me happy, I was really searching for that. I wanted to feel better from where I was, and where I’m still at sometimes. Sometimes it helps to write positive things, what I want to manifest in my life and things I want to become.
DL: It says in your artist’s bio that you had some gang involvement in your background. Tell us how you navigated that, and how art has been a force for good in your life.
JS: I come from a family of gang members. It’s something you just grew up in, we were born into it. It was a family thing. So I picked up skateboarding, and it helped me see the world in a different way. It opened up another doorway, and I saw that there was another way of living. Skateboarding is what really brought me into art, it helped keep me focused to do something good for my soul.
DL: A lot of skateboarders get into artistic stuff. What is it about skating that drives so many people into art?
JS: Because skateboarding is art, it’s art in its purest form. You’re out there expressing yourself, moving your body, and you’re really in the moment. It’s like meditation, it’s a dance. You get in tune with your body and you just forget about everything when you’re skating. You express yourself through clothes and the tricks you do, the music you listen to. Skateboarding is the biggest form of art to me.
DL: I noticed a lot of recurring symbols in your work — a lot of eyes, hearts, crosses, a few others. Why are you drawn to those images?
JS: How it began was, I drew these four symbols on a piece of paper. Just doodling, I drew a cross, a heart, a peace sign and a skateboard. I asked myself, “What are those?” and my answer was, those are things that make me happy. I needed a symbol to represent God, love, peace and skateboarding.
Those were the things that were really the base of my life. I turned it into a movement and a lifestyle — the idea of asking people what makes them happy. Everyone has those things, and they can make their own symbols.
DL: When you’re starting a new piece, what is your process like? Do you plan it out or do you just go for it?
JS: I do both. Sometimes I just free flow it, messing around with a piece and eventually it might become something. Lately I’ve been getting a lot more ideas and doing more in-depth thinking, trying to make it really personal. I go back in my life and figure out what I went through, or what’s currently happening in the world. I think about those things and see how I can translate it into a painting.
DL: Where do you hope to take your career in art, what are your ultimate goals?
JS: To keep sharing. Just spreading a good message and showing people it’s about love, you know? I don’t really have long-term goals, I just try to be as present as I can. Whatever I’m doing, in the present moment, I try to do it as best I can.
Find out more about Salazar and his art at Jeremyadventures.com, or on Instagram at “loco_jerms” and “happy.loco”.
Jonathan Baca is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JonGabrielB.