My paintings incorporate mixed media elements, such as indigenous fabrics, duct tape, paper, acrylic paint, drawing, and wood. Pulling from my culture, history, and origins, I produce three-dimensional works that address the tattered relationship with my Guatemalan, Mexican, and American ancestry. Elements of the traditional piñata are deconstructed and incorporated into these works in order to transform the piñata’s original identity as one of gratuitous celebration, into one of cultural construct.
My current body of work focuses on engaging the Latinx community with contemporary art through public and guerilla installations. Through the utilization of text and characteristics of the piñata, I am able to comfortably engage underserved audiences and provoke discussion, self-reflection, and an examination into one’s circumstances. Spanglish idioms, which often fail English translation, are incorporated into the work. The subtext lost through translation becomes a larger metaphor for society’s misunderstanding of cultures deemed as foreign. Text is specifically selected in effort to reach an audience not typically served, nor comfortable with art. I consider my artwork a social practice that seeks inclusivity through art placement and language. My practice, while a sentimental offering to our Latinx communities, also challenges dominant power structures through the most frivolous of means: tissue paper.
Recently, I began a new guerilla installation, Casita Triste. Casita Triste draws inspiration from the brightly painted homes found in predominantly Latinx communities, which are quickly disappearing due to displacement and gentrification. This outdoor project highlights the disparity of Latinx communities through the site-specific placement of piñatas in the shape of a sad, little house. Casita Triste blurs the boundaries between craft, art object, advocacy, and sentimental offering. Through the inclusion of anthropomorphic elements, each 20 x 28 x 20 inch piñata house prompts the viewer to empathize with the fragility, history, and experiences of the community. Much like Takashi Murakami’s stylistic use of saccharin cuteness appeals to one’s deepest emotions, Casita Triste hopes to also do the same.
The Mexican writer, philosopher, and politician, Jose Vasconcelos has greatly influenced my practice. After the Mexican Revolution, Vasconcelos became the Rector of the National University and later, Secretary of Education. During his tenure, he commissioned artists to surround themselves with the Mexican people; absorbing their passions and conflicts, allowing artists to discover the true landscape of Mexican life. They were given the walls of public buildings to create murals disseminating their knowledge, giving rise to the cultural rebirth: Mexican muralism. Vasconcelos intentionally used the artistic talent of Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros to educate the masses through a visual vocabulary. By his recognition of the importance of reaching new audiences outside of the contemporary art milieu, I too must be able to communicate visually with my community outside normal aesthetics. In short, if I want my work to resonate within my community, I must come to them; utilizing the visual and cultural vernacular embedded within my site-specific and guerrilla installations, to engage and conceptually challenge my Latinx community.
A native of Dallas, Giovanni Valderas is the Assistant Gallery Director at Kirk Hopper Fine Art. He also served as an appointee by Dallas City Council as Vice Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission. Previously he was the Gallery Director at Mountain View College. Valderas graduated from the College of Visual Arts & Design at the University of North Texas with a Master of Fine Arts in Drawing & Painting. He has taught several painting and drawing courses at the University of North Texas, Richland, and Mountain View College. He is a former member of 500x gallery, one of the oldest co-op galleries in Texas. His work has been featured in the 2013 Texas Biennial, New American Paintings Magazine, issue #108 and #132, Impossible Geometries: Curated works by Lauren Haynes at Field Projects in New York City, and 14x48.org’s temporary billboard public art project. In addition, Valderas recently received the Moss/Chumley Award and a micro-grant from the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas for his guerrilla site-specific project. Most recently, Valderas finished his reappointment to the City of Dallas, Cultural Affairs Commission having served under Councilman Omar Narvaez. Valderas is currently running for Dallas City Council to represent the neighborhood he grew up in.