Rafael Francisco Salas exhibit to open Sept. 6 in Kenosha gallery

Professor of Art Rafael Francisco Salas will have one of two solo exhibitions Sept. 6 through Nov. 17 in the Emile H. Mathis Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, in Kenosha. A reception for the exhibits will be held from 4-6 p.m. Oct 18. Salas will give an artist’s talk at 4 p.m. Oct. 11, and Milwaukee artist Lois Bielefeld will give an artist’s talk at 2:20 p.m. Oct. 18.

Salas’ exhibit, “I am here, and you are where you are,” will be on the lower level of the gallery; and “New Domesticity,” by Bielefeld, will be on the upper level. Both exhibitions overlap with a theatrical production of “The Laramie Project,” a play by Moisés Kaufman.

The artworks engage with themes that equally animate “The Laramie Project.” Sexual identity, questions of belonging and place, and depictions of rural America all are haunted by the possibility or reality of violence. “Lois Bielefield and I both create alternative representations of rural identities,” Salas says. “As such, our work fulfills an artistic ancillary to the narrative of the play.”

“I am here, and you are where you are” is a series of oil paintings that reflect on American tradition and rural identity. Lonely scenes of fields, fireworks, and lattice fences are familiar while strange, speaking to a dream just beyond reach.

Salas borrows his exhibition title from a lyric in the Nick Cave song Fireflies. The title speaks to both place and the longing for place that both artists share in their work. Salas and Cave produce poetry of aspiration combined with a somber beauty that touches both the elevated and the abject. Salas’s work emerges from a more rural identity than Cave, making country music the appropriate soundtrack.

Salas also is an arts writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Newcity Art Chicago, The Isthmus Magazine and Urban Milwaukee. In 2022, Gov. Tony Evers appointed Salas to the Wisconsin Arts Board, the state agency responsible for the support and development of the arts throughout Wisconsin. Salas also serves on the executive board of the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Bielefeld is a queer series-based artist working in photography, audio, video and performance, digging into how home and our roles within them are culturally constructed. Mainstream advertising, television, and movies contribute to the creation of heteronormative ideas about home that Bielefeld actively seeks to disrupt.

Both artists are represented by Portrait Society Gallery.

(Photo: Rafael Francisco Salas with his artwork “County Fair #3 (Calf)”)

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