Ivan Salcido: For Eva & 3V4

In anticipation of his opening this Friday, we sat down with Ivan Salcido to talk about For Eva & 3V4.

Join us July 12 from 7-10 pm for his opening reception, featuring a live DJ set by Kyle Miller (@VCR_TV).

Ivan: My grandmother played professional basketball in Mexico, in the late 1940’s / early 1950’s, and her basketball team was a national champion in 1952. Growing up, my brother and I played sports. My grandmother was someone who would show up to our games and yell “Rebound!” or whatever. At the time, maybe we’d heard that she had played, but we couldn’t really picture it. Over the years I got a better understanding. She’s not someone who really talks about herself, so a lot of it was in gathering information over time. Some of her photos and memorabilia, because it’s so old, got lost. I was struck by the fact that these really great accomplishments have been reduced down to a few photographs, and so I thought I could do a project. I’ve wanted to do a project with regard to that for a long time. 

What I came up with was to turn one of my grandma’s photographs into an oversized basketball card: a collectible, in a plastic sleeve. It’s modeled after early basketball cards, but those didn’t come around til the 70’s, so there wasn’t really a card design to model it off of... let alone from Mexican women’s teams. My card has all the same attributes as a regular basketball card. It’ll be signed, in a way. It’s printed front and back. It’s got a lot of the same stuff you would find in a regular card, but it’s based off her numbers. So I’m essentially creating my own memorabilia, and trying to honor her in a way that is traditional honor for athletes. 

The project required me to design the card from the photograph and get it enlarged. I asked my grandma for a signature I could use and also took some from old cards she’d sent me. I had my friend Perry at Tiny Spoon Neon do a neon sign with the signature, so that is mounted to the oversized card. I was granted the money for the project by RACC, and am finally getting to display it for the first time. I’m really stoked.

J: Amazing! How do you see your project in relation to current events?

I: In the current political climate there’s a negative stereotype, or some people questioning the value of immigrants- their contribution and whatnot. I hope this portrait of my grandmother serves as a reminder that many immigrants in the U.S. have great accomplishments, and they have a lot to contribute. They’re not all criminals. They don’t all fit whatever negative connotation people associate with them.. 

The imagery on the back of the card, instead of showing a traditional American basketball court, shows a Meso-American ball court. I do that to connect the fact that many great things which blossomed in our culture have roots in other things, and it isn’t bad. 200 years ago on a Meso American ball court, there were two teams (as we have now). Maybe the hoop is now horizontal, whereas then it was vertical. But it’s a rubber ball and there were stakes, and there were probably people rooting for one side or the other. I feel like something that has withstood time can be relatable.

I’m just trying to nudge people into making connections. If they’re abstract, it doesn’t matter as much to me as the fact that they’re there. 

J: In addition to the basketball card, you’re incorporating some installation elements into this show. Care to share?

I: So there’s two backboard pieces, traditional backboards. I’m turning the rims on their sides to reference the Meso American basketball game. Some of the symbols on the backboard are somewhat overlaid with Meso American diagrams of their ball court. I’m also adding some neon to the backboards to reference a story that comes from Mayan culture. So I’m jumping around with Olmec ideas and then to Mayan, and then sort of contemporary Mexico, but it’s all tied into this history. That’s the essence of the show. I’m also hoping to get some vinyl that has some of the imagery on the ground. I’m interested to see how people will navigate the space once you have something on the floor.

Jess: Will your grandma be able to come see the show?

I: No, I think she’s a little too old to travel this far. She knows of the work and I’ve talked to her, she’s pretty tickled by the idea, but I don’t think she can really picture it.

J: I hope she gets to see pictures of it!

I: I have some pictures if you’d like to check them out! She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Juarez, they don’t have a very good online presence so it’s been difficult to get info. 

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I: She was on the basketball team for years. They played and won the national championship, then  toured and played exhibition games all over Mexico. My understanding is they opened as an exhibition for the Harlem GlobeTrotters at some point. She always talks about how that was so amazing. She was also a singer, and she participated in a show in Mexico that was kind of like American Idol: you perform, people call in and vote... and she would win! She would sing on the radio for a time; so I grew up with a lot of old Los Panchos and Bolero music and stuff playing in the background, and her just singing. 

Her name is Eva, they called her Evita at the time, so I’m titling the show “For Eva” as in, for one, I’m trying to preserve her history, forever, and also it’s for her. When making work I think about my nieces and my nephews and how I can make something that will speak to them at some point, so legacy is a theme that has been running through my mind. Especially because this is a portrait of her, but it’s also a portrait of me-- she’s on of the four parts that I came from. That idea of legacy and what we leave behind is something I keep in mind when creating. You want to be remembered, or whatever.

J: Someone needs to preserve the legacy.

I: I start to look around at my family members to see where the stories are, who’s asking questions and who cares, and I’m not... I’m not so sure that we are preserving those stories. As far as what we consume in products, or in consumer culture... We just toss everything. A lot of the knowledge and experience of the people who got us where we are, I wonder how much of that is being preserved. I don’t know that I can capture my grandma’s whole history, but to some extent I’m preserving this for my family. At least I’m holding the marker for as long as I’m around, or as long as this work is around, acting as a piece of research so someone can say “maybe I don’t know his grandmother, but it reminds me of my grandmother” to hold a place for questions over time.

J: Are there specific lessons or values from your grandmother or her generation that you hope will be preserved for future generations? Lessons about life?

I: She’s a hard worker. She raised my aunts and uncles who have all been successful in their professional lives... Aside from that, she’s endured so many tragedies in her life; yet I’ve never known her to be cynical or mean. Some lessons come from observing the way she carries herself. Often we feel wisdom needs to be given to us, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. You have to seek it out and be able to learn from the experience of other people or put yourself in other people’s shoes. It’s not right to talk poorly about someone, or a group of people, or assume things about them without putting yourself in their shoes. 

J: How do you see your art evolving over time?

I: Early on, I felt pressure to be a certain type of artist because of Hispanic or Mexican heritage, and something about it just wasn’t appealing. It didn’t feel authentic to myself so I kind of pulled away and started focusing more on technique and the process, doing experiments, and building up my own visual language. Because things have changed so dramatically, I don’t feel pressure to be any kind of artist now. I’m more interested in going back to representational work that has a more narrative quality because I do think it’s important to communicate ideas through visual media. I see my work changing now. Also reflecting on myself and my future, my family members, and in doing that, I’m having to dig back into my own history and the history of my family. When I see something cool, I’m wanting to tell that story. 

The story is also very relevant now. It’s heartbreaking to hear stories that are coming out of the camps at the border. It feels like I’m powerless. We’re all powerless to some extent... but we’re not! We can vote and make our voices heard. If I can steer the artwork so it somehow refers more to what’s important, I’m all for it. 


Interview by Jess Mcfadden