Gigi Salij, an artist whose work employs imagery to engage issues of social justice...
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
Gigi Salij is a collage artist, screenprinter, and watercolorist, living and working in Los Angeles and New York. Her work employs pop-culture imagery to engage issues of social justice. She has a BA in political science from Swarthmore College, and an MArch from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She has taught at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.
'Debate Me, You Coward', watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
'We Wait' series:
'Candace and Rachel are Waiting', screenprint, 22, 30 inches.
'Mika is Waiting', screenprint, 22 x 30 inches.
'Courtney is Waiting', screenprint, 22 x 30 inches.
note: from 50-print installation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteeth Amendment, a joint presentation of Indiana Humanities and Harrison Center for the Arts.
'A Brief History of North America' series:
'One', screenprint, 25 x 19 inches
'Two', screenprint, 25 x 19 inches
"I guess I’d describe myself a pop artist, even though I know that doesn’t win me many friends: there’s a lot of random pop art in the world right now, and even I don’t get excited when someone invites me to a show of it.
But pop is what I’ve always liked. As a little kid I was hypnotized by commercial images of any sort—television, obviously, but also magazine ads and comics and cereal boxes and posters and neon and flashcards and menus and baseball cards and anything graphic. A punchy label on a coffee can still gets me revved up.
My influences are the ones you would expect for a pop artist, I think. Sister Corita, first and above all: she’s the reason I learned to screenprint, and I love her use of type and the off-hand way she embedded social messages in her work—that’s goals for me. Richard Prince, for the intelligent way he appropriates images. David Wojnarowicz. Milton Glaser. Andy Warhol, of course. Although I didn’t plan it, I see now that formally my work mimics advertising in a lot of ways: image-forward, lots of white space, symmetry and big geometries. I don’t mind that—I like it if my work signals, “hey, I’m talking to you.”
A lot of my work is political or activist somehow. My main interest is the feminist project, which to my mind was abandoned prematurely, and unaccountably. I’m also preoccupied with America’s obsessive gun culture—a form of mass insanity, I think. When gun violence intertwined with racial justice issues, as they did last summer, I focused on that. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the deficiencies of capitalism, and how it infects human relations—I see that thought creeping into my work lately.
Political art is easier for me, because at least I know what I’m aiming for: to be arresting, to be thought-provoking, or persuasive. You can look at your work and assess whether you’re on the right track. I get bumfuzzled whenever I attempt a piece where formal issues or aesthetics dominate: honestly, I wouldn’t know how to begin to paint a landscape or an abstract or a portrait, even though I love and revere that work from other artists.
At the same time, I don’t have any delusions. You have to be pretty humble about what you can achieve, making political art: no painting ever stopped a bullet or ended a war, or even changed a vote, for all I know. But political art is a small contribution to the whole, and I feel optimistic and encouraged, being part of the community of activist artists."
'American Feast' series: 'Lime Jell-O', screenprint, 19 x 25 inches.
'Hostess Cupcakes', screenprint, 19 x 25 inches.
'Pringles', screenprint, 19 x 25 inches.
'Del Monte Fruit Cocktail', screenprint, 19 x 25 inches.
'Discarded Packages' series:
'Milk Duds', screenprint, 19 x 25 inches.
'Tootsie Pop', screenprint, 16 x 16 inches.
'Lemonheads', screenprint, 20 x 16 inches.
'Sandy Hook' triptych: 'Sandy Hook: Dick, Jane and Sally', collage,
25 x 60 inches
'17 and Unarmed ( Trayvon Martin )', collage, 22 x 14 inches.
'25 and Unarmed ( Ahmaud Arbery )', collage, 22 x 14 inches.
'No Sir', collage, 11 x 17 inches
'Shhhh', collage, 12 x 18 inches
'81 Cents', watercolor with graphite, 30 x 22 inches
Gigi Salij, working in her studio, in Los Angeles, CA.