Objects to Remember You By: Aaron Salm's Americana at stARTup LA

At stARTup LA 2019, Aaron Salm gave us a taste of nostalgia and Americana in his paintings. Made during an artist residency in Barcelona, the work reflects on the American Dream through allegory and absurdity. “I am interested in how the objects we encounter on a day to day basis shape the lives we lead,” Aaron says. “We have a catalog of experiences with objects stored in our memories.”


After stARTup LA, Aaron is excited to create new work that explores how an object’s “meaning changes as we age and develop new perspectives on life and the world.”

We sat down to discuss his inspirations and practice. Here’s what he had to say with our Content Curator:

Why or when did you decide to make work?

When I was 16 and switching to a new high school, the dean of students told me I would have to take an art class to graduate and I replied that “I want to take classes that aren’t a waste of my time.” I was stubborn and completely focused on playing soccer at the time and didn’t see any value in art making (many student athletes don’t). During my second year in college the coach cut me from the soccer team and I was forced to find another activity that I liked doing in my spare time.

I decided to work in architecture and enrolled myself in art classes since my school did not have an official architecture degree. The next year at school I worked to get myself back on to the soccer team. I had also gotten to the intermediate art classes where I had a good deal of freedom. I started to really enjoy myself and the process of making art. Soccer wasn’t going anywhere for me at this point so I gave up completely on playing competitively to focus on art and architecture. After some experience working as an architect I decided that I preferred the creative freedom that artists enjoy. I guess it happened by process of elimination.

What inspires you currently?

I try to make my pieces personal to my actual experiences but not necessarily about my actual experiences. I want to use my experiences to get at something bigger than myself. I think Kendrick Lamar set a standard for this in his album Good Kid M.A.A.D City. He took experiences that he had, sifted through them, and made something relatable to people all around the world. I think that’s really powerful. I am a young twenty something out of school and trying to figure out my life, so a lot of my work has to do with changes in perception and nostalgia for a simpler time that is long gone. You could call it loss of innocence. It’s interesting because I think these motifs are especially relevant in today’s political climate.

What tool or medium would you be lost without?

Gesso, because it's simpler to make than rabbit skin glue and PETA won’t begrudge you for using it.

Other than your art practice, what other work do you do?

Right now I coach soccer part time and I work for a Jamaican start up.

What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you in your career? 

Using art to meet people from all different kinds of places and backgrounds with completely different ideas and perspectives has really challenged my ideas about the world. I think that’s pretty cool.

If you could be in any museum, what would it be?

Impossible question for me to answer. There’s a lot of the world I haven’t seen yet so I think the coolest outcome would be to have a museum or organization from somewhere I haven’t been before, like Dakar or Riga, say “Hey Aaron, we like your work do you want to partner with us on something?” and then I could go there, see a new place, meet new people, exchange ideas, and help make something cool come to life.

And if you could own any piece of art, what would it be?

Tough choice but I would go with Dust Mites Dancing in the Sunbeams by Vilhelm Hammershøi. I really enjoy how he gets a simple, empty, interior space to convey such a forceful mood. His technique is admirable too, I don’t know if there is anyone better at painting light than Hammershøi.

And finally, what’s your least favorite color?

Yellow, because it’s indecisive. It’s either close to white and nearly invisible or obnoxious and neon. No moderation. I’m not above using it though.


All stARTup artists are vetted by an independent jury for each fair to ensure that art collectors, enthusiasts, and professionals are discovering and purchasing works from today's top independent artists in the market.

Subscribe to our newsletter for Artist Exhibitions, special features, and details about our upcoming fairs - like stARTup SF 2019. Stay tuned for our list of Exhibiting Artists. Advance tickets available in March.

Find Aaron on Instagram: @aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaron

Q&A by Content Curator Mica England