Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Artist’s portraits of lost loved ones include Santa Fe couple | Local News

Angel Salas creates art to ease the grieving process for families who have lost loved ones, and his current work features a Santa Fe couple.

John Derick Griego, 39, and Bryana Trejo-Griego, 28, were killed in a car accident in early September, the day before their one-year wedding anniversary. Salas’ memorial work depicting her and others is part of his Gone But Not Forgotten project.

“The only purpose [of the project] is just doing my best to give someone a little comfort, ”said the Oklahoma-based artist. “A million portraits could never give anything back to your son, daughter or husband. But if I could just give you a good memory of this person, I feel like I’ve done what I’m trying to do. “

Salas developed the project around 2013 when he noticed numerous posts about grief and tragedy on his Facebook feed. He contacted a woman from Los Angeles who was mourning her son who was killed in gun violence and offered to make a graphite portrait of him.

“I said to her, ‘I’ll send it to you, I’ll take care of the postage and everything else; I’ll send you this and you don’t have to give me a cent, ”he said. “I did that, and from then on it just went off.

“I found out right afterwards [first] Portrait was done that there are a lot of people who get hurt, ”he added. “And they come in all sizes, shapes, religious beliefs, and political backgrounds. I mean whatever, there is pain out there. What I do is take a minute when you look at the vastness of these families all over our country that are hurting. “

Salas is from San Antonio, Texas but has lived most of his life in Tulsa. For the past seven years, he’s spent his time between Oklahoma and Santa Fe, citing the rich artistic community that made him fall in love with the city.

Salas said he has done nearly 30 portraits for families across the country. Six lost relatives were in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas: Selena Valencia, Tony C de Baca, Eric Romero, James Patrick Chavez, Nakotah LaRance, and Fedonta “JB” White.

Tamara Ortiz, White’s aunt, said she met Salas when he was doing the portrait of her nephew. When she saw his work, she was overwhelmed.

“It was just so nice,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “It was so lifelike, like reaching out your hand and touching your face.”

The portrait was delightful to White’s family, she said, and she was incredulous that he had taken the picture for free.

When her family friend lost her daughter and son-in-law – Griego and Trejo-Griego – in an accident, Ortiz contacted Salas.

“I believe in what he does,” she said. “I wanted to give back by connecting other families to Angel so he could bring joy to someone else.”

Ortiz praised Salas’ talent and emphasized his friendliness.

“It is joy to look at, but it brings so much sadness,” she said. “But you can respect and admire the works of art; it is wonderful.”

Usually, in addition to portraits, Salas also works on commissioned work for his project.

“I made another announcement that I was thinking about going maybe six months to another year that I won’t be accepting assignments because there is just so much to do with this project,” he said.

Salas said he puts his “whole being” into the work of art and the costs come out of his own pocket.

“I’m just a simple artist who’s just trying to do what I can for people who are hurt,” Salas said.

Individuals interested in donating to Salas’ project can send funds to his studio at 4907 S. Detroit Ave., Tulsa, OK 74105.

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