I feel like everyone’s awakening journey also comes with the responsibility of communicating that to others and helping more people connect with the same knowledge and information. It is about understanding that there is so much more out there, and once you can experience that, it should lead to the betterment of humankind. The greatest result is for more people to wake up.
– Rodrigo Salcedo
This month´s cover artist is Rodrigo Salcedo Velarca. He is a multidisciplinary artist born in Guadalajara City, México, 1998.
Growing up with an artist mother, he was introduced to the art world at a very young age, allowing him to explore its different realms. Eventually discovering the art of tattooing in 2018, where he found a passionate drive and purpose. He’s known for transcending his work through multiple fields with an interdisciplinary focus on digital art and visual media, illustration, painting, fashion, jewelry design, and plastic arts.
He is the founder of the multimedia creative center ITO LAB, where he currently works and develops his ongoing artistic exploration.
The cover video, Rodrigo made for Funga, is an extension of the narrative of one of his main sculptures – The metaphorical death of the sun (picture below). This piece will be exhibited in his coming art show Kôsmovisiones.
“The video expands further on the concept surrounding this piece which is a tribute to the sun and represents the beginning and end of time. This analogy can be applied to ourselves and symbolize birth, death, spiritual awakening, and ego death. By observing this, people can gain more insight into the hidden messages behind the metaphorical death of the sun.” – Rodrigo Salcedo
After Rodrigo’s portrait, the first five pictures below are a sneak peek of his upcoming solo show Kôsmovisiones.
Can you tell me about your journey as a tattoo artist?
My journey as a tattoo artist began with wanting to pursue an artistic career after being detached from my creative roots.
I started tattooing around four years ago when I returned to Mexico from a year abroad in Sydney. When you get outside the bubble, you connect with different parts you never explored. That was the beginning of my reconnection with art, my emotional side, and my ways of being able to express my feelings.
Then I returned to Guadalajara, where I am from. I had a previous understanding of the basics of drawing, illustrating, and painting, so it was easy and fast for me to get a hold of the techniques necessary to perform a good tattoo. For the first six months, I was tattooing in an old house owned by my mum. It was a sketchy setup but good enough for me to work there. After that, I partnered with another tattoo artist, a very well-renowned one in Guadalajara, and opened my first formal studio. We did that project together for about six months. At that time, I was already coming to Mexico City occasionally, tattooing in different studios as a guest. After meeting and conversing with Alex Gutierrez, what we decided could work resonated with me and what he had in mind also pushed me to move to Mexico City.
Where does the name ITO Estudio come from?
Ito has two meanings. In history, an ito signifies the space between the before and after. It is a moment in time that is marked by a shift of a paradigm or a change of something. The invention of the internet and WWII are examples of an ito. Those were moments and creations that changed the course of history.
In architecture, an ito represents a symbol. The Capuchinas Chapel and Convent, designed by Luis Barragan, is an ito of modern Mexican architecture.
What has been your favourite project so far?
My favorite project has definitely been conceptualizing ITO. Its entire evolution has been the main one of my career. It has been super exciting to watch it morph, evolve, and change into what it is now and understand that it will continue to develop. It has been a journey of a couple of years. It started with the first version of the ITO Studio in Alex´s Hotel Casa Nuevo León.
After my personal and business explorations, I started to get in touch with other art forms separate from tattooing, such as digital art, everything related to NFTs, animation, and art direction for crypto and web3 projects. The last point marked a before and after in ITO because it meant we would start pursuing multi-disciplinary projects instead of just being a tattoo-based project. The goal is to integrate everything into one space, which is what ITO is now physically and conceptually. We intend to incorporate digital art, physical art, tattoos, and all of their branches and links that can be created in between. Everything is a home for my artistic exploration and the artists that work with us.
What is your dream for the future?
More ITO studios can come in handy with the project’s vision. This place is a cultural hot spot, an artistic hub for any artist interested in collaborating with us, considering the context where Mexico City and we are at right now, the trajectory I have had as an artist, and the people that are a part of the project. This will be a vital place that will be a potentializer of art in Mexico and the world. That is the vision.
Can you comment on what you mean by the “context of Mexico City?”
There has been a precedent that Mexico is a very cultural and exciting city with folklore. This is something that has been like that forever. However, the city is now beginning to put itself in the world’s spotlight and is now being taken seriously with all it has to offer, similar to New York or Berlin. Right now, you see so many new artistic proposals, a lot of nightlife, and the culinary scene has exploded. It is an all-around, integral offer that a city can have for the people living there and for foreigners. Everyone is interested in experiencing the scene of an up-and-coming city.
Also, the pandemic definitely led foreigners, particularly people from the United States and Europe, to come to Mexico to try and find relief from the strong quarantines and rules imposed on them. So people were trying to get away from that, and Mexico City became an option because it was still easier to have a normal life. People who came here during that period realized how special Mexico is and its potential.
What is your relationship to psychedelics?
It has been a catalyst for everything I am and explored spiritually, professionally, and personally. I don’t like to put it on a pedestal and say that it has changed my life because I think many things have led to that, and no one thing changes you forever, but it is part of the formula.
Nowadays, I approach them in a more serious, respectful manner to explore the depths of myself and the outside of myself. It is an integral part of my life because it has led me to find my true purpose and voice as an artist.
I do them very sporadically, a macrodose maybe once every six months, and throughout those periods, there might be a couple of times that I will also do microdosing, but it is not very consistent. Mushrooms are my primary plant medicine, and LSD sometimes, and I have done microdosing with both.
To me, microdosing LSD has a little more power; I feel more energetic, and it also helps me focus. Psilocybin brings me a very mellow, smooth, and anxiety-free mood.
How do psychedelics affect your creative work?
It is important to note that at the beginning of my psychedelic exploration, everything was about healing and a journey of self-discovery and introspection. It took me a while to get past that stage. It was spiritual exploration and my first contact with awakening.
Initially, it was about fighting my demons and deconstructing myself and my belief systems. That is a crucial part of what everything has become now because after reaching a point of awareness, the experiences started to evolve and morph into more visual experiences.
Before that, I could not pay attention to the visuals, but after, it allowed me to look toward the other side, observe the rest and navigate the other realms of reality.
That was the point where I first encountered the ´downloads,´ and it was more about me just getting immersed in the visuals of psychedelia and receiving messages. As an artist, I always try to translate and integrate that into this reality. It has been a lot of different types of interactions, such as written text, languages, and symbols. I aim to integrate by meditating and noting as much information as I can, and that is how the downloading process goes about. Visuals come with information, and dissecting what that is is the important part.
My visual language is what I see in my psychedelic journeys and is the result of how this spiritual experience is filtered through me and poured into my artistic exploration.
What is your purpose as an artist?
My purpose continues to evolve, but I do have clear that I don’t see myself as anything other than a passage for this information to come through. I feel like everyone’s awakening journey also comes with the responsibility of communicating that to others and helping more people connect with the same knowledge and information. It is about understanding that there is so much more out there, and once you can experience that, it should lead to the betterment of humankind. The greatest result is for more people to wake up. As an artist, I feel like having contact with these things visually and conceptually and being able to open up to new ideas and understand them from different perspectives is the purpose.
If you could choose to exist as one plant, which one would it be?
I wish I were more aware of the variety of plants that exist to better respond to that, but when you asked, the first thing that popped into my head was a cactus. I don’t know which kind I would choose, but I generally find them aesthetically very beautiful, and it also connects me to my Mexican roots. Lastly, it lives in the desert and doesn’t need much. I love that about them.
Solitude is where I find more ways to connect with myself and, consequently, others. It doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be alone all the time, but it means that in my times being alone, I find ways to go back to the world and connect in a stronger and more meaningful way.