cover painting “Room On The Verge” by Patissi Valdez
As an artist growing up in East Los Angeles, Valdez was the only Chicana in the conceptual performance group Asco (Spanish for nausea). Valdez is a multitalented artist in several media, including performance and conceptual art, installations, murals, fashion design, collage, photography, easel painting, and set design. Her painted domestic interiors often function as self-portraits—intimate glimpses into internal thoughts and feelings.
Vibrant, saturated colors electrify this topsy-turvy, magical room, where heavy theatrical curtains frame a wild and energetic scene [The Magic Room, SAAM, 1997.70]. Nothing is stable: carpet patterns swirl like whirlpools, wine glasses topple, chairs tip, rock, and float. Gymnastic rings swing freely side-to-side, as four balls on their own bounce merrily through the room. The green chair on the left climbs the thick curtain while a blue chair dances sensuously with the table—forks hanging on for dear life. Overall, the effect is dizzying, yet, despite the uneasy perspective, a balance exists between fantasy and reality. As Patssi Valdez has remarked, “My goal is to keep the paintings alive, to give them a sense of movement. I want to evoke a feeling that people just left the room.”
Valdez was born in 1951 and grew up in East Los Angeles. Valdez recalls that during the time she was growing up in Los Angeles, racism, police brutality and poor schools were a big problem. Valdez attended Garfield High School and graduated in 1970. She received a BFA from Otis Art Institute in 1985.
Valdez was a founding member of the Asco artist collective. Valdez started working with Asco right out of high school. She was very involved with street performance art and “cinematic Goth film stills” during the 1970s and 1980s. Valdez relates that during her time in Asco, she had “grand ideas about being a great painter,” but she felt lacked the skills she needed to be a successful painter. Instead of painting, she focused on performance art, installations and photography. During her time with Asco, she collaborated and created work that reflected shared “political and social concerns.” Many of her performances with Asco took place in areas where there had recently been gang conflict or fatal shootings of individuals by the police. She and the other founders of Asco had seen that a disproportionate number of Mexican-Americans were singled out for the Vietnam draft: this and “the sight of their friends returning in body bags and the elite political class’s apathy to their plight scarred all the members.” Asco commented on Mexican-Americanidentity and rampant stereotyping of Mexican-Americans by the media. Valdez relates how she was “always angry” as a young person watching movies “because she never saw the beautiful Mexicans she knew on screen.”
Valdez’ installations are considered feminist works that defy cultural expectations of a woman’s role in society. The temporary nature of her installations also tap into the “Mexican cultural practice of the impermanent.”
Since the 1980s Valdez has focused on her painting. She honed her skills and invited honest critique of her first works which helped boost her confidence in her painting.Valdez’s painting are bright, colorful and “seem just a little enchanted.” “I’ve been trying to get away from the brighter palette for years,” she says, “but the more I try, it just comes out.” Her “vibrant” work is very emotive and has a sense of magical realism. Valdez’s subject matter is often focused on the female figure or domestic scenes and settings.Her work draws on her “private experiences, the nature of which [are] distinctly painful and feminist.”
Valdez is the recipient of J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and the Brody Arts Fellowship in Visual Arts. She won a 2001 Durfee Artist Fellowship.