Something to talk about
This story was featured in the March 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
For many portrait painters, silence is the golden rule. But for Bradford J. Salamon, conversation with his subjects while he sketches or paints them is the key to authenticity—the spark that ignites his creativity. “I don’t want to paint someone who is bored and asleep,”
Salamon says. “I want to keep them alive and excited so that gets into the portrait.”
The Southern California artist portrays friends, family members, and sometimes even mere acquaintances, whom he eventually gets to know as he paints them. The loquacious Salamon is perhaps best known for his evocative paintings of artists, writers, and musicians, which showcase his signature texture, boldness, and economy of brush strokes. “I feel a need to document relationships and the way I see people to create a journal of my life in painting,” Salamon says.
His works have been on display in a number of California museums recently, including the Laguna Art Museum and the Bakersfield Museum of Art. Currently his portrait depicting Mark and Jan Hilbert, founders of the Hilbert Museum of California Art, is featured in a group show that celebrates the opening of the new museum. Salamon is the only 21st-century artist in the show, which focuses on the California Scene painters of the mid-20th century.
Like Edouard Manet, an artist who has influenced him, Salamon says his works are all about the oil paint itself. He has made a conscious decision to celebrate paint quality. In addition to portraits, the self-described contemporary realist also trains his eye on utilitarian and often vintage objects, in a sense creating a dialogue of sorts once again. In his still lifes he asks viewers to take a second look at the items he portrays, such as aspirin bottles, typewriters, and stereo turntables. In his words, he would rather paint a light switch than a bowl of fruit. For him every object he paints has a story. “Who used it? What was written on the typewriter? A love letter or a suicide note?” Salamon wonders. “I often like to remind people of a simpler time when things were slower.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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