The artists Salazar is shown in his studio in Biddeford. COURTESY PHOTO

BIDDEFORD — In an old brick mill building on the Saco River a distinguished Maine artist lives and paints.

Roland Salazar Rose was born in the Bronx in the Great Depression. As an adult, though, he has lived mostly in Maine. He’s lived in Biddeford since 2012. Previously he lived in Kennebunk and Portland.

Salazar, as the artist is known, began his artistic career in New York. As a young man, he traveled to Europe. In France, he attended the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He then made is way to Spain to study the work of its great masters. In Spain he met and married a Swedish woman. Soon their first child of four was born.

Salazar and his wife returned penniless to the New York by ship. A shipping agent sold Salazar’s paintings done in Europe to cover the baggage expenses. Once in New York, Salazar attended classes at the famous Arts Students League in New York and the National Academy of Design.

Salazar moved his family to Maine in the 1950s. He loves Maine, its people and landscape. It became home, and he stayed. (His children and their families still live in Maine.) The artist Salazar supported his family and his art through a few enterprising business activities.

Solar Flare #8 From the series of 11 paintings by Roland Salazar Rose in 2011. COURTESY PHOTO

One of his most interesting ventures was establishing the area’s first coffee house in Kennebunk. The Boar’s Head was located on Route 1 in Arundel. It was an exciting music venue, part of a circuit of clubs including the Village Gate in New York City.

“The Board’s Head opened in 1963 in a barn of an 18th century farmstead. The coffee house gained a reputation throughout the northeast. I booked legendary performers including Odetta, Bernice Reagan, Taj Mahal and many others,” Salazar recalls. “Taj Mahal was taken with Maine and returned to spend the next summer in the Kennebunks.”

Salazar remarried to a Kennebunk woman. Together in the 1980s, they owned and managed H&R Block offices in Kennebunk and North Berwick. By then, painting compelled more of his time. His influence grew. He soon became a force in Portland’s art scene.

He and his wife Helen opened the non-profit Danforth Gallery in the Old Port section. Portland artists worked and showed in the gallery located in an old brick warehouse on lower Danforth Street.

“It was well-known and respected for the serious shows it held there for more than ten years, shows that drew artist from outside the state,” added Salazar.

Salazar’s artistic presence in Portland was significant. In the 1990s, he invited sculptors across North America to make sculptures at Portland’s “The Forest City Annual.” The celebration marked Portland’s nickname “Forest City,” dating from the 1850s.

“We had a few known North American artists come to Portland. Of course artists living in the city and other parts of New England also participated,” Salazar told me one afternoon in his Biddeford artist studio/apartment. “The whole of Congress Street from Longfellow Square to Monument Square was dotted with sculptors making art. There were others in Deering Oaks.”

Salazar has found inspiration in two worlds, Maine and Mexico. He has painted beautiful Maine seascapes and landscapes. Mexican sunlight attracted him too. He painted its dry landscape, its towns and villages, and he became fascinated with indigenous history and mythology. “It seemed so fitting since my father had given me the middle name Salazar after his Mexican friend,” Salazar said.

The Biddeford artist lived and painted in San Miguel de Allende, an American artist enclave and community in the dry lands and rolling mountains about 100 miles north of Mexico City.

In Mexico he found new color tones and absorbed the regional landscape. He painted the town’s people and colonial buildings and homes of the townspeople and poor rural farmers. At one point he began painting abstract and expressionist images related to Aztec mythology.

“At that time I came up with a new paint material in Mexico and used it in large paintings on Stonehenge paper. I called them “Aztec Gods,” Salazar explained one afternoon. Salazar later exhibited that series and other paintings in several Mexican cities. He came across a natural tar that he used to achieve strong black lines and earth tones in his Mexico works. “Mexicans called it chapapote and used it to seal floors of unglazed tiles. I was curious. I got some and experimented,” he explained. “I was able to develop a formula as a medium in oil painting.”

Those paintings along with others he painted in Mexico were shown in several Mexican cities. In 2016 Salazar exhibited them for the first time outside Mexico at the UMVA (Union of Maine Visual Artists) Gallery in Portland’s Congress Street arts district. Many artists and other visitors packed opening night.

In Mexico, his paintings were widely praised. Guillermo Gutierrez, the renowned owner of Mexico City’s Aura Galerias,” said Salazar’s “landscapes transmit the geographical beauty of this area [San Miguel de Allende], utilizing a masterful combination of mixed media…that reflect the singular talent…of this fine artist.” The “Aztec Gods” are presently exhibited at the Aura Galerias in Mexico City.

Artist Salazar paints everyday. He reads voraciously. And he remains enterprising and accomplished as an artist. A few years ago he started using insect sawdust and waste for texture in his paintings. On Friday his “Solar Series and Salazar: An Art/Science Collaborative” was projected on the dome of the Emera Astronomy Center in Orono.

You can find more online information about the Emera planetarium show at

And you can review his Maine Series and other work online at

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