Rafael Francisco Salas creates new artwork during sabbatical

During the spring and summer of 2020, Professor of Art Rafael Francisco Salas was on sabbatical, researching rural areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota and translating what he viewed into paintings, drawings and assemblages.

“I traveled roads designated as ‘rustic’ by the Department of Motor Vehicles in Wisconsin to compare the seemingly bucolic nature of these landscapes with what I observed in nearby communities,” he says. “My subsequent artwork related to how rural America can express beautiful, poetic imagery, but also describe disenfranchisement, political resentment and polarization.”

Many of the resulting artworks have been exhibited at the Wright Museum of Art at Beloit College, the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend and The Warehouse Gallery and Portrait Society Gallery, both in Milwaukee. Salas also will curate an exhibition at MOWA/DTN gallery in Milwaukee in spring 2021.

During his sabbatical, Salas also visited galleries and museums at length before the pandemic closed most of these venues. He also engaged in a continuing practice of art criticism, writing reviews for Newcity Art in Chicago and Urban Milwaukee, as well as contributing to a forthcoming anthology of Wisconsin writers, Hope is the Thing, edited by B.J. Hollar, about finding ways to sustain hope in the midst of the pandemic.

“The lockdown did curtail my travels quite a bit during this time period, however, I pivoted into more production time in the studio and I feel that this was ultimately very fruitful,” Salas says. “I was able to produce a significant body of artwork.”

Salas also had works installed in the permanent collection galleries of the Museum of Wisconsin Art and the Wright Museum of Art.

The research and discoveries he carried out will be useful in the classroom. “I am planning a new 400-level course that I will teach in the fall semester of 2021 titled ‘The Contemporary Landscape.’ In it, I will discuss the potential for allegory and metaphor that the genre of landscape art has traditionally created, but then augment that information with contemporary reflections on landscape and how art can be a vehicle to reflect these ideas,” he says.

Examples of artwork created during his sabbatical can be viewed on his website.

Related Posts

Jandelyn Plane

Jan Plane keynote speaker at Google conference abut women techmakers

Jan Plane, associate professor of computer science, was the keynote speaker at the workshop “A Deep Dive by EDU Change Makers,” hosted April 27 by […]

Catherwood drawing of oval tablet

Travis Nygard presents paper at conference of Midwest Art History Society, publishes essay in book

Associate Professor of Art History Travis Nygard recently published an essay in a new book and presented a paper. “Interpreting an Ancient Maya Masterpiece, Palenque’s […]

Mica Rivera '21

Mica Rivera ’21 earns prestigious research fellowship from National Science Foundation

Mica Rivera ’21 of River Falls, Wisconsin, has received a prestigious award from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The highly competitive award, […]

Image of artwork 'Prize Cake' (2022), by Rafael Francisco Salas

Review of exhibit featuring work of Rafael Francisco Salas published

A review of Professor of Art Rafael Francisco Salas’ recent exhibit was published May 9 on Shepard Express, a Milwaukee publication. “Cruces|Crossroads” was on view […]


Related Areas of Study