jess saldaña

www.jesssaldana.com
Artist Bio

jess saldaña (b. 1991) is a Chicanx artist, activist and scholar from the Southside of Chicago, currently based in New York City.

Hold On, 2020
Digital Video
2' 24"

A black and white image of a feminine figure reaches towards and away from the camera. The film uses found footage from the Luis Buñuel film, "Los Olvidados (The Forgotten)" and open source images. The scene is framed by a still of water running in a sink. There is a transition to a receded version of the same scene framed by a blurred still from the scene, which cuts to a waterfall moving backwards in slow motion. The audio contains heavy breathing and a reciting of the subtitles. This film was made during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Link to video

Bethesda Diptych, 2019/20
35mm Film Photos

A black and white scene with a crowd encircling Bethesda fountain is rendered from a distance. Paired with a portrait of the angel atop the fountain from a closer view. A landmark in LGBTQ history, the sculpture was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1873, as well as being used as a location in the play "Angels in America." The myth of the angel Bethesda is told that upon touching the earth a healing pool arose at her feet, providing a place for the sick to find refuge.

Sandplay Imprints 1, 2020
35mm Film Photos

A black and white photograph of sandplay imprints left in a therapy sandbox. Sandplay in therapeutic contexts seeks to provide a protected space and the opportunity to communicate non-verbally for those dealing with trauma. This sandbox was hand-built to the dimensions of the 35mm frame, and placed outside my studio (#46) for the month of Feb. 2020. Seeking to document the interaction of touch and play, a note invited people to leave an imprint in the sand. These photographs were taken over the duration of February.

Sandplay Imprints 2, 2020
35mm Film Photos

A black and white photograph of sandplay imprints left in a therapy sandbox. Sandplay in therapeutic contexts seeks to provide a protected space and the opportunity to communicate non-verbally for those dealing with trauma. This sandbox was hand-built to the dimensions of the 35mm frame, and placed outside my studio (#46) for the month of Feb. 2020. Seeking to document the interaction of touch and play, a note invited people to leave an imprint in the sand. These photographs were taken over the duration of February.

Trans Landscape 1, 2019
35mm Film Photos

This black and white film series is interested in blurring the lines between human/nonhuman. The performer (Alex Salerno) and I worked collaboratively with the landscape of sea, sky and sand. The figure becomes akin to the environment, and as their body fluidly shapes to the form of the scene. A figure lays in the sand, facing away from the camera, tangled in a net caught by a fence that reads “clean”.

Trans Landscape 2, 2019
35mm Film Photos

A figure lays facing upwards on steel support bars of a lifeguard stand, foregrounding the layers of the shore.

Valley, 2020
35mm Film Photos

An ongoing collaboration with the shapes found in the body, which bear resemblance to environmental, earthly bodies. Two gray thighs are focused in the frame resembling a hilly valley.

String, 2020
8mm Film With Performance of Live Score

Mirrored in the film medium itself, as it is a string of images, this piece uses string as a stand-in for the measure of communication. The meaning is also inspired by Donald Winnicott’s theories of play and object relations, as he observes children often play with string when they are dealing with loss, or seeking re-connection. The string attaches to a figurative wire sculpture and seeks to link the two kinds of thread. This film is meant to be projected.

String, 2020
8mm Film With Performance of Live Score

Mirrored in the film medium itself, as it is a string of images, this piece uses string as a stand-in for the measure of communication. The meaning is also inspired by Donald Winnicott’s theories of play and object relations, as he observes children often play with string when they are dealing with loss, or seeking re-connection. The string attaches to a figurative wire sculpture and seeks to link the two kinds of threads. This film is meant to be projected.

Link to video

Untitled, after Félix and Christopher, 2020
Digital Broadsheet

This piece is made in dialog with a series of printed takeaways conceptualized by Félix González-Torres in collaboration with Christopher Wool. The visitor can download a full bleed pdf of the image, and print it in their own home if resources allow. Like the original the work is interested in dynamic interaction with the public. The stenciled black and white image reads: THE CRISIS IS OVER THE PEOPLE BEGIN TO LEAVE HOME TIME TO TOUCH AND HUG AND KISS THEY TURN AROUND AND NO MORE FEAR AND NO MORE WORRY

Link to download

Artist Statement

saldaña’s practice seeks to render dynamics of intimacy through a queer/brown/nonbinary lens. The works span themes of care and rest, fantasies of the ecstatic, and coping with loss, as a way to propose institutional critique. Site specificity, current events and myth are important to making, providing context for each; film, photograph, installation, performance, painting and/or poem. The work’s relationship to the imprinting of light upon the analog material calls forth the indexical, regarding presence, absence and disappearance. The gaze of the subject is delicately considered, establishing either close contact or distance with the viewer. The mediums queer time, stepping out of the digitally saturated, contemporary media-scape, into a return to a surrealist approach to black and white film photography. Poetry and music are utilized to collaborate, finding refuge and relief through ASMR techniques, as well as film scoring with live audiences.