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Meet Julio Salgado

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julio Salgado.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Julio. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born in Ensenada, Mexico and migrated to the U.S. when I was 11 years old. I grew up most of my life in North Long Beach where I went to community college and university. It was during this time that I really honed my political art, focusing specifically on my immigrant and queer identities.

I lived in the Bay area for five years where I met so many amazing artists like Favianna Rodriguez and Emory Douglas. These folks really pushed me to call myself an artist and continue to grow. I moved back to SoCal last summer and relocated to Boyle Heights.

Living in Boyle Heights and having conversations with folks who are fighting against gentrification really made me question my responsibility as an artist. There are many artists that are moving to this area and pushing residents out of their neighborhoods or not engaging the community in these galleries that a lot of the time doesn’t really work with communities of color.

I navigate the art world as a queer and immigrant person of color, and there are many barriers set against me. But I also don’t want to replicate the things that I stand against in my art by not engaging my community in the art that I create.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I think one of the biggest challenges as a brown artist is not really seeing myself in a lot of the art history you study. I was an art major in college for like the first two semesters, and all I was learning was about white, male, straight artists.

While that might have been a barrier or something that might have pushed me away from wanting to be an artist, it was also a challenge to create what I didn’t see.

Many times as artists of color, we are seen as just a niche and not “real art.” So my challenge has also been that while the identities that I carry with me inform my art, that is not all that I am. I am an artist first and foremost.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’ve been drawing all of my life, but it was around 2010 when I started getting a lot of attention outside of California and from other folks around the country. My focus was to create images that changed the narratives of immigrants in the U.S. For many years, immigrants have been the scapegoats of this country. We are either seen as people who steal jobs or as criminals.

My goal was to change that narrative and give us three-dimensional stories through my illustrations. It was also around that time that Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and later Instagram that started to gain popularity and really helped me put my art out there without needing a gallery. I try to be as real as I can in my art.

For example, I am not afraid to create images that make me a human being. I don’t just want to show how much of a “perfect immigrant” I am. But rather, I want to show that I am a person with various layers. I am a queer man who dates and has desires. I also use a lot of color in my work, which is a direct impact of cartoons I used to watch as a teenager like “Daria” or “The Simpsons.”

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I think success is when I get messages from young queer artists who say that my work has inspired them to create. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. If you have managed to touch one person’s soul with your art, then your work as an artist speaks for itself.

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Image Credit:
Sonia Guiñansaca, Julio Salgado

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