“Salvador Jiménez-Flores – Arte-Sano: Soy libre porque pienso,” Belger Crane Yard Gallery

Sueño con serpientes, con serpientes de trasformación, 12 in x 9 in x 9 in, Brass and clay slip, 2019. (Courtesy of Belger Arts)

The title of Salvador Jiménez-Flores’ solo exhibition “Arte-Sano: Soy libre porque pienso” at Belger Crane Yard Gallery translates to “Craftsman: I am free because I think.” The phrase is a delicious layering of word play. Arte-Sano, while translating as craftsman, in the hyphenated sense becomes “healthy art,” where sano translates as healthy or sane. The second part of the title harkens to Descartes’ principle “I think therefore I am.”  

The title is a response to the conflicting narratives of the immigrant experience. In a conversation following an artist talk, Jiménez-Flores explained, “It occurred to me to break the word up into Arte-Sano and play with the reference to art that makes us healthy mentally and physically . . . I refer to the idea of freedom because I think one creates to realize and express what they see in the world, what one absorbs as citizens.” 

The Fire Next Time, 83 in x 20 in x 20 in, Red and white stoneware, underglazes, glazes, black stain, gold luster, epoxy, wood, 2022. (Courtesy of Belger Arts)

This embrace of freedom from the capitalist notion of commodity-building anchors a significant motivation of his artistic practice. “I want to concentrate on the work, and not necessarily as something to sell. It is also another way of making art that keeps me healthy and well.” 

Jiménez-Flores started as a graphic designer. He is based in Chicago, where he is an assistant professor in ceramics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Another one of the foundational aspects of my practice is drawing,” he said. “It is one of the most direct ways of translating an idea and bringing it to fruition. For me it has been one of the most critical things, whether as the basis for sculpture or other forms of art making. I did it for five years commercially… It gave me great training into the structure of things… and those things are translatable to the way I approach the work I do now.” 

The shift from graphic design happened by chance. “A friend invited me to a fundraiser for an after-school program. Along with other artists, we were to make plates for a pozolada (think chili fundraiser but with pozole, a Mexican stew.) That was my introduction to clay, and I remember after the event contacting the registrar at the school and I quickly changed my elective classes to ceramics.”  

The work in the show is rich in material diversity, comprising palm weavings, glass, and clay structures, poured metal work, prints, photography and drawings. There is a heady vibe to Jiménez-Flores’ ceramic studies of a jaguar, a mystical totem in Mesoamerican culture, but here the jaguar’s head is rendered as a deflated or disfigured drinking vessel capped with a cork stopper.   

Kanje: Hombre Palma Series (installation view), 65 in x 62 in, Performative Woven palm sculptures, 2022. (Courtesy of Belger Arts)

In a haunting set of photographs, “Kajne: Hombre Palma Serie,” Jiménez-Flores’ poses wearing a woven palm mantle, reminiscent of a serape, with a hat or bucket-like full-face covering. The image is surreal when presented by a roadside market, posed on a pedestal, grounded in an open field, or resting on the branches of a tree.  

In one photograph, there is a mischievous wink at the viewer as Jiménez-Flores’ in costume walks past a building with the word ROPA centered like a bullseye on the colors of the Mexican and United States flags. ROPA translates as clothes. A man crosses the street, body forward, head slightly and quizzically turned to the enigmatic figure walking away. Is that ROPA he seems to ask? 

The current exhibit highlights work from various residencies. “I had an opportunity to get a residency at the (John Michael Kohler Art Center), and it was there that I began to explore working with metal. I found the experience I was having working with clay translated well to metal.  

Study of a Jaguar, 6 in x 4 in x 5 in, 6 in x 4 in x 5 in, 2.5 in x 5 in x 5 in, 2.5 in x 5 in x 5 in, Glazed porcelain, 2022. (Courtesy of Belger Arts)

“Clay has been very important for me from the beginning because it was a direct connection to the ancestors.” A series of palm sculptures, developed in a residency in Mexico, provides an opportunity for a sublime honoring of the simple materials of the ancestors. Captured in a series of delicate weavings, photos and performance documentation, the work is a collaboration with the master weavers executing from the drawings he provided and adapting to the needs of the material to make and translate the ideas to the finished work. 

“It was a collaboration with what they were already doing. The work is intricate but to the ones that make them is like second nature, the manifestation of practicing . . .  The great function of doing these residencies is to learn a deeper truth of the legends and myths of the people that inhabit the region.” 

Salvador Jiménez-Flores – Arte-Sano: Soy libre porque pienso” continues at Belger Crane Yard Gallery, 2011 Tracy Ave., through June 8.  Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. First Fridays. For more information, 816.474.7316 or BelgerArts.org. 

José Faus

José Faus (He,Him) is a visual artist, performer, writer, independent teacher/mentor with an interest in the role of artists as creative catalysts for community building. He received degrees from the University of Missouri at Kansas City in painting and creative writing. He is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective.

Leave a Reply