Mike Salcido is an abstract expressionist artist www.mikesalcido.com who lives in Dallas, Texas.  One day, he sent me an email requesting an interview and what you see below is the result. I had a great time chatting with this eloquent guy whose vision appears to be as clear as the Southwestern landscape.  Read on and see for yourself.

MICHAEL: Hey Mike, your work is very intriguing. First of all, you seem to love working with abstraction and primary colors. Where does this come from?

MIKE: Thanks Michael. That’s a very good question. I'm attracted to primary colors because they are so childlike. When I'm painting, I have fun with it. I literally feel like a child when I'm painting. It's part of the process for me. Using the primary colors takes me back to my childhood, when life was simple and I didn't have any worries. The abstraction is a state of mind for me and it comes natural. When I begin a painting I may have a certain idea that I want to bring to life on canvas.  However, as the paint flows it begins to dictate the form and direction it wants to achieve. At times, it's very frustrating for me since my original idea doesn't come through, but I'm usually 100% pleased with the finished painting. I don't think I would be able to achieve the same type of work using muted colors. Life is already muted, why add to it?

MICHAEL: Very interesting. You do similar works in both painting and photography. Which medium do you find more challenging? I would think that it's harder to achieve desired effects through photography since
technology is involved.

MIKE: Good eye, I wondered if you had noticed. Although you would think photography is the more challenging one, to me it is the painting that I struggle with. I'm a self taught painter and photographer. So it's a learning process for both mediums really. As with painting, I let the camera do its own thing. I don't really get too much on the technical aspect of the procedure. Heck, I just learned last weekend what F stop and aperture are. When I'm working on a painting, I'm constantly worrying about messing up, or does this look right or does that look right. With a photograph, if I don't like what I've captured, then I delete it and re-shoot. That's the beauty of technology.  However, I've said it once and I'll say it again - nothing beats a good paint and brush stroke!

MICHAEL: Many great artists use photography to great effect and I love photography. However, given technology, how much true 'artistry' do you think exists in photography?

MIKE: I feel there is quite a bit of true "artistry" in photography. With the technology given, photographers have to push themselves even more to be on the cutting edge of the photography world. Take David LaChapelle for instance, his work is amazing, but he pushes the envelope and uses technology to his advantage to make art. Anyone can pick up a camera and take a photo, however it takes a true visionary to capture a certain feeling in a photograph and make the viewer see something than just what is in the picture.

MICHAEL: Sure. I believe you grew up in New Mexico and now live in Dallas. The Southwest really has a strong artistic tradition. What is it about that part of the country? Also, your work isn't stereotypically Southwestern.

MIKE: That is correct. Born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico - alien nation - lol. I've been in Dallas since 1991 and it's my home. I think the reason the Southwest has a true artistic tradition is because it's a place of exceptional clarity. The mountains, the clouds, the fresh air call to artists. My work isn't stereotypical of the Southwest. You don't see much abstract art of the Southwest, most are landscapes, which although I find intriguing, I find incredibly boring … although you can see Georgia O'Keefe's influence in some of my botanical photos.

MICHAEL: Is exceptional clarity always a crucial element of creativity? Most artists don't live in the Southwest.

MIKE: It's not a crucial element of creativity.  However I do feel clarity is an important role of the creative process. If I'm working on a certain painting and I don't have a clear vision of the colors, techniques and texture I want to use, then it doesn't work.

MICHAEL: Dallas strikes me as a serious art city. What's the art scene like there? Is it local or international minded?

MIKE: Dallas has a phenomenal and vibrant art scene which caters to local, national and international artists. There is so much going on in the Dallas art world. Yearly, we have the Dallas Art Fair, which hosts over 70 art dealers and galleries which exhibit paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints and photographs by modern and contemporary artists. We have the Goss Michael Foundation, which is owned by George Michael and his partner Kenny Goss. This is a great space and the art is from their own personal collection. There is an area in downtown Dallas called the Dallas Arts District. It's a great place to go to get a healthy dose of artistic creativity. You can find everything from the Dallas Museum of Art, The Nasher Sculpture Gardens to the Winspear Opera House. Then, if you travel about 30 miles west of Dallas, you have the incredible Ft. Worth Modern Art Museum which is worth the trip and the price of gas! In addition, Dallas has great pool of local artists who are burning up the art scene. Some of the art I have in my collection is from local Dallas artists.

MICHAEL: Despite all of the great venues for art all over the world, the art community is very small. Why do you think this is ... and what do you think it'll take to get more people turned on to art?

MIKE: I feel lack of education, funding and exposure are the main reasons for the art community being small. The most common responses I receive when I tell someone I'm an artist is "I don't understand art", "I just don't get it" or "I can't afford it.” I don't think most people know the importance of art. I feel it is a matter of educating the masses. Art is born out of necessity in a world of chaos. Each person lives in their own world. We each live within ourselves, within our own consciousness and perceptions. Through art we are able to mold our perceptions and the perceptions of others. Art is needed in life just as much as breathing air is.

MICHAEL: I’m sensing that Southwestern clarity in you.

MIKE: I feel most people appreciate art more than we know.  However, the actual cost of most art or even the perceived costs, limit the average person from being able to afford it or at least think they can afford it. Art is everywhere in the media, yet we mostly hear about how much art sells for at auction. With that kind of news on the forefront of the art world, the average person is already shut out of thinking they can be part of the “community.”  I feel they are fearful to walk into a gallery because they feel they are going to be paying through the nose for an original piece of art. Also, geographic location plays a very big part of it. The venues you mention tend to be in very upscale, trendy areas, mostly in larger urban cities, thus limiting the viewing audience. What do I think it’ll take to get more people turned onto art? I think it’s a two-way street. People have to actively seek out art. They have to have a thirst for it. I know so many people who couldn’t care less about it. They just don't feel it is a necessary part of their life. However if a person who is unfamiliar in the realm of art would actively seek it out, their life would be better for it. In return, art has to be accessible to the general public, instead of just a select group of people – “art snobs.”  Art should be in more public places like airports, lounges or any place that wouldn’t intimidate the everyday Joe. A real good friend of mine told me once that he hates the monotony of airports. This got me thinking. Imagine the thousands of people who pass through an airport on a daily basis – what if airports had art galleries. Galleries that would not only showcase local artists from that city, but national and international artists as well; this would bring art to the masses. Art also has to be more affordable. Although, I know most collectors like the fact they can purchase a highly priced original, the blue collar worker of America should also be able to afford the same luxury and enjoy the same pleasures of owning art!

MICHAEL: Absolutely. Finally Mike, What are your hopes for your future as an artist? Would you like to be rich and famous?

MIKE: My future as an artist is to continue to evolve, continue to provoke thoughts, whether positive or negative (hopefully more positive, however I know my work isn't for everyone) and continue to inspire. I don't want to create works that are "pretty.” I want them to be thought provoking, conversation pieces. I want the viewer to see my creations and feel a new sensation. If I can change the thought process of one person, make them re-think their views about art or make them feel something they otherwise wouldn't, then I'm successful. Ah, the great fame and fortune question....Do I want to be rich and famous? Fuck yeah...who doesn't right? Seriously, fame is not something I seek, however I would love to be able to devote all of my focus on my art without worrying about money. I think we as a human race are always reaching for something bigger and better. Society dictates what we think we should be like and I try to not get caught up in the whole fame thing. We each have our own destiny and my goal is to be the best person I can be and follow my light.

MICHAEL: Fantastic sentiments Mike.  Thanks for chatting.

MIKE: My pleasure! Thanks for the opportunity. On a side note, tonight I was having dinner with a friend of mine who is from Europe (about to move to Dallas) and I mentioned the interview. The first thing out of his mouth was, "I'm not comfortable talking about art.” What? So you know I had to push further.  He said exactly what I told you.  He feels uneducated when speaking about it, he doesn't like being in groups that start analyzing the works and doesn't really know what to look for. I told him it's all subjective and he has to find the art he likes. We talked about galleries and how they intimidate him and how he doesn't like visiting them.  It was a great conversation. I hope I have inspired him to seek out more art. Maybe we will have a convert soon!  Again thanks for the interview opportunity. It was a pleasure chatting with you!

For more about Mike Salcido and his art, visit his website at www.mikesalcido.com