Artist Chico Salvador Sierra Explores Overlooked Narratives

Friday, February 23, 2024

Multidisciplinary artist Chico Salvador Sierra’s creative output is on display across the Kansas City metro – the art gallery at the Leawood Pioneer Library of the Johnson County Library, the historical mural “Welcome” at Union Station and the group exhibition A Layered Presence/Una presencia estratificada at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Ten of Sierra's new paintings are now on view at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library in Eikonographia Radicale: Reimagining Cultural Icons, through May 11.

A bull standing over a bloody bullfighter
"Mi Corazon the Demigod," 2024, acrylic on canvas.
A guitarist with a tiger in the background; in the foreground, cacti and a machete
"Lord of Good Times and Courage," 2023, acrylic on canvas.

Sierra grew up in El Paso, Texas, and moved to the Kansas City area about 20 years ago.

An artist and musician, he’s primarily self-taught. Sierra's interests range from social sciences to spiritual and religious iconography – and his works are inspired by Indigenous cultures of the Global South that, he says, “have been blurred by colonization and religious erasure.”

“My work is driven by a desire to explore and bring to light narratives inspired by pre-colonial imagery, symbols, and contemporary Chicano aesthetics,” Sierra told the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Sierra's paintings in the Guldner Gallery at the Library are also influenced by Mexican muralism and political posters dating from the early 20th century. With an affinity for “belief systems rooted in a connection to nature,” it’s not uncommon to see natural elements, such as cacti, flowers, and fruits, in his work.

man surrounded by cacti
"Secret God of Hunting and Good Deeds," 2023, acrylic on canvas.
A woman with a halo and wearing traditional dress holds a machete.
"Sunshine and Agriculture," 2023, acrylic on canvas.

Human subjects in the works are ambiguous, as reimagined folk icons or spiritual and political figures.

There are multiple layers of meanings and symbolism, including the repeated use of a machete – something, he says, “that I thought about as like an all-purpose tool but used in different political revolutions in different countries (in Central and South America) in atrocities because it’s readily available. Weapons or farm implements, either agricultural or a means of harm in war.”

Since May 2023, Sierra has served as an artist-in-residence at the InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park. He says it’s been energizing to create around other artists, as well as to have a studio of his own.

“I think it’s affected the quality and the subject matter and the weight I put on my works, like the importance of it, because, you know, I do have the space,” Sierra says. “I feel lucky to have it.”

Eikonographia Radicale: Reimagining Cultural Icons, Feb. 24 - May 11, 2024, Guldner Gallery, Central Library