Traditional Quality

by James Bridges

A very humble voice answered, “I’d like to own my own design shop of some kind.”  I raised my eyebrows on the inside wondering if he had noticed my initial reaction of surprise from the outside, as I looked over a large pyle of wonderful artwork created by none other than Gilberto Salazar.

Gilberto and his native american family made their way to Shawnee, OK from a small village just South of Texas when Gilberto was a very young boy.  There was a bit of a language barrier for the young artist, but he learned to pass the time through creating things using his new found love of drawing.

His family travelled almost constantly.  They were field workers and needed to go where the work took them in order to survive.  They would travel long distances to places like Montana, Washington, Utah, etc..

Gilberto honed his craft throughout the years as he grew up.  While in school he would practice by looking at other things and re-creating them on his own canvas.  

“When I was in high school I had a teacher tell me that real art is whatever you come up with in your own mind.  So, I started doing that instead.”

When Gilberto was little he was told he was very good at drawing things.  Once he drew his younger brother while he was sleeping.  Gilberto was taught a valuable lesson by his father at that time.  In his tradition you do not draw the likeness of any living person.

I was very pleased while having this discussion with Gilberto.  His traditional ways really did show through his near impeccable speech, the decor of his home, and the pleasantness of his overall surroundings.  I was corrected, and gladly so, as I pronounced kickapoo while asking him a question.  He giggled a bit.  He said, “it’s kee-ka-pooah” not “kick-a-poo”.  

This is when I noticed his power of quality over quantity.

“Every year my people, my normal customers, my supporters wait for my designs to come out.  It’s very humbling and I am so thankful for their support.” Gilberto was very sincere.  He concentrates heavily on the message of his work as well as the aesthetics.  I found his work simply amazing.

Most of his shirts and designs can be found belonging to his tribe members.  Some can be found on a few outsiders, including yours truly.  Some of his work has been noticed on location during the Dakota pipeline protests.  He is working with the American Indian Movement, and much more.

The point is….. Gilberto Salazar, with no advertising, store front, gallery, t-shirt shop, or any form of marketing other than word of mouth has his audience waiting in line every year to see what he comes up with next.  That to me is nothing but success.  

I hope that one day you get an opportunity to purchase or trade for one of his wonderful pieces.  


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