Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Cecilia Salama

I've never seen Michelangelo's David in person, but I can only hope it looks as cool as it does on Cecilia Salamas hot pink socks when she shows up for basketball practice on Canal Street. Cecilia has been playing with Downtown Girls Basketball, a women’s only pickup team made of primarily artists, writers, and photographers, for several years. She is herself a multimedia artist whose work has been featured in Purple, i-D (in an article by yours truly, which is how we met), Hyperallergic, The New York Observer, and more. She also works full time as a Production Artist for a luxury jewelry brand.

The team is running drills when Cecilia arrives. Sunlight begins to fade slowly on the nearby Hudson River as the pickup games start, five on five, girls speeding up and down the pavement while Beyoncé and Cardi B play on someone’s speakers. They clap for each basket (Cecilia gets a couple of them for her team). Cars stream past on 6th Avenue. Soon it’s dark and players spill off into the night, lit by bright orange bulbs from a factory nearby.

We head to her studio in Queens. She has a new show called Displaced Desire” opening at LVL3 Gallery in Chicago with another artist later this month. Cecilia’s work for this show comments on long distance relationships, unfulfilled wants, impermanence, and more. While some of her work is multimedia sculpture with unusual materials like latex and plastic sheeting, she doesn’t like to limit herself to one medium and also brings video, painting, and installation into her projects.

The floor of Cecilia’s studio is dotted with splashes of paint and resin, boxes of tools and fabric and rope. Suspended from the walls with orange bungee cord is a swath of fluffy pink fabric. Plastic sheets are nailed to the walls as well, drawn on with crayon, painted on with metallic pastel paint, tied up with rhinestone collars or belts. Hearts made of digital images collaged together have the words “I Want” written on them. Shallow, square plastic trays are filled with paint waiting to dry around Ziploc bags of animal figurines. Cecilia changes clothes and begins painting then repainting different sheets, clawing at the metallic pastel pink with both her hands and a paintbrush. “No,” she says to herself, then takes the nail out of the sheet and replaces it on the wall. This time the placement works and she begins hammering the sheet again, the “I Want” collage in a different location than before. “Okay,” she says. “That’s good.”

She grabs another piece, a sheet hardened into sculpture and painted with a pale pearlized pink, and heads for the elevator. This one won’t go to Chicago. She is nervous about transporting some of her pieces—How do you protect plastic sheeting from being ruined in a suitcase? What if the colored paints peel off or the homemade airplane stickers get torn in transit?—but she seems calm and laughs quietly through a smile: “I’ll just…figure it out.”

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