Return to Articles


PATSSI VALDEZ

by Elenore Welles


(Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica) Although Los Angeles is the quintessential city of fused cultures, religions and identities, Hispanic artists have long struggled with a dual sense of participation and separation. The expressions of collective identity vs. a consciousness of self often come into conflict. For some, the stimulus for art has been social and political. Women artists, such as Patssi Valdez, tend to be fueled more by interior rumblings.

Valdez’s artistic life was launched by her participation in the Chicano/Chicana political art movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Activism became a path to social empowerment and brought the artists to the attention of the larger community. The multi-talented Valdez participated in performance art, installations, photography, and the graphic arts, as well as costume, theater and stage design; experiences that account for her agility in organizing space. Ultimately, it was painting that allowed her to express her most compelling self-realizations.

She continued to be imbued with a sense of civic responsibility, but a consciousness of self became central to her visions. Although ethnic symbols and myths remained integral to her being, her paintings derived more from private experiences, the nature of which was distinctively painful and feminist.

Imbued with an emotive spirit reminiscent of the magic-realists, her edgy interiors were metaphorical visions of the home as a dangerous, anxiety ridden place. Floors crack and swirl and spike-legged chairs fly through the air, as if the rooms are inhabited by demonic poltergeists. The animated objects are further intensified by the vibrancy of bright primary colors and dizzying perspectives.

In her recent paintings, the unsettling dynamism has been toned down. Although still eschewing an economy of means in regard to patterns and colors, interiors convey a more serene, self-reflective state of mind. Gone are agitated, Van Gogh-like intensities. Vivid reds have been replaced with calming peach tones and deep hunter greens. The more subdued palette reflects a transitional self-realized state of calm. Considering the vibrancy of her past paintings, however, subdued becomes a relative term. Her concentration of hues still maintain an immediacy that communicates emotion.


“Contemplation”, a/c, 66 x 52”, 2000.








“The Dream,” a/c, 72 x 96”, 2000.








"Autumn," a/c, 66"x 53", 2000.

The transitional force of nature is a recurring metaphor for Valdez’s evolving emotional states. Surrounded by ocean vistas while at a vacation house in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, the environment was integral to fresh perspectives. Eventually, it become the catalyst for internal shifts.

Ocean and sky stretched endlessly. Waves crashed and dolphins pranced playfully within her view. Doors and windows are thrown open, recalling the indoor-outdoor spaces of Matisse. Leaves waft in, the turbulence of the outer world continuing to encroach upon the inner world. The thresholds between the two remain fragile.

That nature has regenerative, healing powers is expressed in The Dream. Here she evokes the serene state she achieved during her stay at Playas. It depicts a dream she had of floating on the ocean in a four poster bed. Red bedclothes set off deep ocean blues. A bright full moon illuminates a glittering sea as she blissfully drifts into a private cosmic journey.

A series of paintings depicting birthday parties relate to the pathos of never being given one because her birthday falls on New Years Eve. The setting is the Playas house, where she has created a calm atmosphere for guests. Tables are set with colorful red cloths and bright blue dishes. Glasses are filled and birthday cakes have lit candles in anticipation of arrivals. Floors are steady and chairs are not flying. The baroque, tilted perspectives invite viewers directly into the paintings. It’s safe to come to the party. But in spite of the celebratory glow, chairs remain empty.

Previously Valdez found the pain evinced in much Catholic art resonant of her own torments. The mystical aura evinced in Contemplation bears a closer connection to her current spiritual timbre. An altar table is laden with mystical globes, a picture of a Buddha, a metal hand, and an Art Nouveau lamp. Perhaps iconic objects represent healing qualities, a conscious effort to keep lingering anxieties at bay.