Q & A With Giovanni Valderas

Interview by Sophie Asakura


Currently on display in Art League Houston's Hallway Gallery, Giovanni Valderas' mixed media paintings combine a wide range of mediums and materials to create pieces that challege traditional structures by hanging awkwardly and irregularly on the wall. The exhibit closes June 21, so come by while you still can to check out his amazing work!

Hailing from the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Valderas graduated in 2012 from the College of Visual Arts & Design at the University of North Texas with a Master of Fine Arts in Drawing & Painting. He teaches Beginning and Intermediate Figure Drawing at the University of North Texas as well as Foundation Drawing and Art Appreciation at Mountain View College in Dallas.

He was kind enough to share some of his time with us, answering some questions about his work and artistic process. 

Photo by Timothy Canty

Photo by Timothy Canty

Q. I hear that the figures in your older work are mainly your children. What about the figures in your recent work? Who are they and where do they come from?

A. Indeed, my earlier work explored the tensions, comforts and guilt, that families encounter as they feel the impact of divorce. With the new work I’m seeking to be less anecdotal with my own culture, history, relationships, and origins. Many of the figures in the new work involve characters from the 60’s sitcom Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C, the TV show with which I associated my father with, a relationship that was strained at best. The portraits of these characters carry chiaroscuro visages implying something ominous.

Q. You draw a lot of inspiration from pinatas. When did they become an influence and how? Could you explain what they mean to the message and aesthetics of your work?

A. Toward the end of my time in graduate school, I became interested in the piñata, not only as children’s birthday game, but also with the materials and construction process.  It’s ironic that the festive fringed papier mache that was originally a pagan celebration, was used to represent the struggle between temptation and evil by Spanish missionaries, and is now used to celebrate the birth and life of our children.  Birthday parties are centered on the activity of watching children destroy an object intended to bring joy but ultimately lacks satisfaction.  Only one child gets to take the final blow.  As candy rains down over the victor, children rush in, grabbing all they can, leaving anyone who is too slow empty handed. All that is left are remnants of colorful paper fringe.  Clumped on the ground or perhaps still swinging from the branch of a tree.  Visually, these discarded hollow pieces remind me of fungus that devours as it grows.

Q. Personal life greatly affects your work. How has the personal aspect of your work changed and what has been a consistent theme?

A. Family has always been and continues to be the central theme of my work.  I just try to examine and approach those ideas from different perspectives.

Photo by Timothy Canty

Photo by Timothy Canty

Q. How does the collage aspect of your work contribute to the meaning and experience of your art? You have mentioned the formative importance of quotidian objects. Could you expound on that?

A. The duct taped wooden armatures and color fragments that are incorporated into the work also reference thepiñata. I became attracted to the inner architecture of the piñata and used it to form conceptual parallels between my life and certain objects. The idea of forcing wood to conform and adopt certain shapes intrigues me. I want to take that anatomical aspect of piñatas and amplify it, creating a complex network suggesting the strength and inner complexity of relationships.

Q. Over time your work has moved from more figural to more abstract. How does the abstraction better capture the spirit of your work and was the transition natural? Difficult?

A. Ha, yes. It was definitely a struggle to let the abstraction portion permeate through the figures.

The earlier paintings used expressionist techniques, but in retrospect lacked a visual complexity and a conceptual focus that my newer work would come to reveal. I feel the new work lends itself to more of an investigative freedom allowing the narrative to reveal and conceal itself at the same time.

Q. How is the artistic environment in Houston compared to in Dallas?

A. I have to say, Houston can definitely make an artist feel welcomed. Every time I’ve come down to Houston I’ve met many new artists and it’s really motivating to hear their ideas and what they’re working on. Being from Dallas, I’ve noticed that the art scene is a bit more conservative than Houston… but we’re working on that.

Photo by Timothy Canty

Photo by Timothy Canty

Q. Being a relatively young artist, how has your age impacted the way you approach exhibiting your art and connecting with the greater arts community?

A. Ha, I’m not that young, I just look the part (35). In all seriousness, I do feel young in terms of being fresh out of grad school. As with all artists in their early stages of their career, I’m always thinking about new and exciting ways to reach the community with my work. Either by creating alternative spaces to display the work or showing at exciting venues such as Art league Houston.

Q. What is coming up for you in the future? (either in your career or in your personal artistic development)

A. I’m excited to announce that I was selected to be part of the Texas Biennial along with other great artists in September. I also became a new member of 500X, Texas’ oldest, artist run, cooperative gallery in Dallas. I will begin a new body of work in hopes of traversing new terrain. It will debut November.