Laguna Art Museum

Laguna Beach, California



Patssi Valdez: A Precarious Comfort


The first few months of 1999 have brought Patssi Valdez more recognition than many artists receive in a lifetime. In January, Patssi Valdez: A Precarious Comfort opened at The Mexican Museum in San Francisco. In March, Valdez was one of only three Los Angeles artists awarded a $25,000 Durfee Artist Fellowship based on past artistic achievement and future promise. On April 24,1999 her show opened at Laguna Art Museum (LAM). Patssi Valdez: A Precarious Comfort will be on view at LAM through July 11, 1999.

In addition to being the first major museum exhibition of Valdez's art, Patssi Valdez: A Precarious Comfort is also the first retrospective exhibition of the work of a contemporary Chicana artist from Southern California. Organized by the Mexican Museum and curated by Tere Romo, the exhibition features some fifty selections - including paintings, prints, mixed media works on paper and a room-sized installation - spanning Valdez's art production from 1972 through the present. A 120-page, color-illustrated, bilingual (English/Spanish) catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Patssi Valdez: A Precarious Comfort is made possible at LAM by a generous grant from AT&T and by Mary Newman, Carmen and Charlie Miller, and an anonymous donor.

Valdez began her artistic career in the 1970s as a Garfield High School Student in East Los Angeles when she became the only female among the seminal, four-member Chicano art group ASCO ("nausea" in Spanish). Along with Valdez, ASCO's members included the now well known photographer Harry Gamboa and artists Willie Herron and Gronk. ASCO expanded the definition of Chicano art beyond murals and posters by experimenting with a range of art forms, including street performance, photographic montage, pageantry, and conceptual art. The LAM exhibition includes a number of photographs of Valdez and other ASCO members taken during this period.

Metaphors of change and lifelong development mark Valdez's art and themes of self-representation play an important role in her work. Red Roses (1996), for example, shows a table top arranged with a few personally significant possessions: a vase of flowers, a framed picture, gloves, a necklace, a party noisemaker, and a shell. Similarly, the self-portrait Memories of France (1990) tells its story through a dressing table strewn with souvenirs and Valdez's mirrored reflection. In addition to exploring her own personal symbolism, Valdez's work also incorporates more traditional Chicano themes of altars, virgins, queens, and goddesses.

In her struggle to heal from a childhood marked by numerous family problems, Valdez expresses a visual language of self-realization and autonomy through images of domestic space; living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. These rooms are often portrayed at odd angles, with wildly tilted tables, crooked candles, and dancing chairs. In bright, energetic color, these images are inseparably linked to themes of ruin and regeneration.

Patssi Valdez images from top to bottom (click on thumbnail images to enlarge them): Virgen's Room, 1992, acrylic on canvas, 26 x 48 inches; Tulips, 1996, acrylic on canvas, 49 x 30 inches; Noche de la Sandia, 1994, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

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rev. 10/18/10

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