Jacqueline Valenzuela (Mexican-American, She/Her)
La Nube. 54" x 58" Acrylic, Oil, & Oil Pastel on canvas. 2019.

1. Tell us about your background. Do you feel your culture or upbringing has had an effect on your work?
I’m a first-gen Mexican-American. Growing up as a child of immigrants has definitely had an effect on my work. Since I grew up experiencing both American and Mexican culture; both sides have found their ways into my paintings. My family and I used to live in South Central LA. We eventually moved to Whittier right off of Whittier Blvd. This boulevard is an important location for lowriders and classic cars during cruises. Being exposed to a subculture that was largely influenced by the “assimilation” of Mexican-American’s has been a driving force within my work. By creating paintings that highlight Mexican-American women lowriders I am attempting to highlight their lives, experiences, and the imagery that is common within the communities that women like me grow up in. Within my paintings you will see a lot of my upbringing come through. I say this because although the imagery is based on every individual woman’s experiences and lives I still have a huge connection with the imagery. Whether it’s the graffiti, the cityscape architecture, or the objects commonly seen while driving around. All of these images put together in to these compositions create an everyday look that all lower-income community residents are familiar with.

2. How would you describe your art? Style? Preferred medium?
I would describe my art as a hybrid. Basically, it is a combination of both abstract art and more representational art. The figures, cars, architecture, street signage and so on are all representational. But the ways in which the compositions are created is very abstract. I have a lot of overlapping, imagery peaking through, imagery being erased or hidden, line work, lettering and shapes that move in and out of the picture plane. There’s a ton of pushing and pulling within the paintings. To me they vibrate. A fellow artist told me that my paintings make him think of the blurriness you might experience while driving down a street. Basically, you are bombarded by an endless amount of imagery and colors. I strive to demand the viewers to have no choice but to stare at the paintings, that way they can acknowledge the women I paint. As far as style, I feel I have created my own style that is constantly changing and evolving. Most people would see it and think it’s simply influenced by street art, but I actually am working beyond that. All though the paintings are very urban there are various approaches such as composition, color theory, and even roots in art history that are coming through or important in the creation of my paintings. I mainly work with oil paint, although I am trying to figure out how I can bring my work into drawing and collage work on paper. I mostly paint with oil because there’s just something about the thickness of the paint that draws me in. I usually work large-scale and I enjoy oil paint so much that I rather use smaller brushes to slow down my time and lay down my brush strokes in a particular way. Building up that texture is my favorite part about oils. With drawing and collage work I feel I have more to explore. It intrigues me because I think I can approach it similarly to painting with various layers and built up textures but instead created by various materials.

3. What motivated you to become an artist? What inspires your work?
I actually did not want to be an artist. I didn’t even want to pursue a degree, but my English high school teacher scolded me for not considering applying to college. I decided to just apply last minute, took my SAT and filled out college applications. When the application asked me what degree I wanted to pursue I just picked art. Art had always interested me, but when I made that choice I did not really have anything in mind as far as what type of career I could make out of art. As a child I enjoyed art. During my teenage years I would draw or paint every so often, but I wouldn’t say it was a full blown passion. It was more of a hobby. Regardless, I’m happy I made that choice because pursuing a higher education and choosing an art degree is probably the only reason I’m a painter today. I don’t think I would have pursued anything in art otherwise. If I am being honest I had zero knowledge that a career as an artist was something that I could pursue.

My art is inspired by my own experience as a woman lowrider. As soon as I became a lowrider owner I became aware of how rampant sexism is within the community. Men never really took me seriously when I said my 1975 Cadillac El Dorado was in fact mine. And the more I spoke to women within the community I learned that this was very much a regular issue that other women were experiencing as well. Because of this I decided to begin to interview women lowriders and use that information to create paintings that focused on and highlighted these women. I paint extremely bold paintings that urge the viewer to acknowledge these strong female figures.

4. Have you ever integrated topics of identity/race/social justice in your art? If so, how?
The basis of my work is to highlight identity and social justice in particular: identity, under representation for lower-income communities, challenging the idea of what femininity is and disrupting machismo. Mostly all of my paintings revolve around identity and what it means to be overlooked. I try to comment on issues of under representation, specifically for the locations that many of these women subjects inhabit. These locations are overlooked by people that hold a higher social or financial status. Also, they're typically overlooked by the fine art world. By painting these areas and giving them a platform, I am hoping to show the viewer that those areas matter and are beautiful. My paintings challenge machismo within the Latinx community and question the ideas of femininity. Since most of my subjects are women my goal is to show that these women play as much of an important role as men lowriders do. For example, these women are working on their cars, cruising these cars, completely involved in these communities. Yet, many are still not taken seriously; some car clubs still uphold a no woman club members rule. I question ideas of femininity by showing that these women are strong, and bold. They don’t all fit into these boxes upheld in a machista’s view of what a woman “should” be interested in. Overall, I just want my paintings to show the lowrider community and outsiders that these women and their stories are important.

5. In what way(s) do you feel art has the power to create change?
Art truly has the ability to create change. It can change someone's world view, give someone a voice, or make someone feel as if their experiences are validated. I think this is especially important when it comes to the way that art can positively impact lower-income communities. Particularly the children in these communities. I mentioned before that I did not even know that being an artist was a career I could pursue. Artist that come out of these communities have the ability to influence the children within these communities. All those children need is to see that art is accessible to them.

6. Tell us about your experiences as a student in K-12 art education. Did your k-12 experience have a direct influence on your decision to continue as an artist?
During my time in K-12 schooling I only ever had 3 art classes. Once in middle school and twice during my time in high school. Besides this I did not have much access or knowledge about art. The first time I even went to an art museum was with my senior class art teacher. Even then we went to the Norton Simon Museum which is heavily only representative of European or Western art. I don’t feel that my K-12 art experience directly influenced my decision to pursue art. I think if I had not had a minimal interest in art as a child I would not have even chosen it while applying to college. Art really does need more funding within K-12 because there’s so many children that lose interest in art just because it’s inaccessible to them.

7. What was your favorite art lesson as a K-12 student?
My favorite art lesson as a K-12 student was when my high school art teacher, Mrs.Torbet, had our class make various types of stamps. I remember it was a really cool project because she let us make stamps of whatever we wanted. We also got to try different types of approaches to making stamps starting with erasers to actually carving our own stamp with various carving tools. I liked this lesson so much that I ended up asking if I could make more than one larger stamp. Of course, my art teacher let me.

8. What is one message you want to give to art educators?
Art Educators play a huge role in the development of children. Although, my own art teacher only took me to the Norton Simon Museum, which had tons of art I could not actually connect with, she tried really hard to make all the students involved in art making. And I know she tried her best to make art materials accessible to us. So, I would say that all art educators I know, both teacher’s I had and friends I have who are art teacher’s currently, are amazing educators. I know many current art teachers are trying their hardest not only to make art accessible to children but also trying to show these children that artist like them exist. Thank you so much. I know just from speaking with other artist about these issues constantly we want K-12 and even college courses to really highlight BIPOC, LBGTQ+, and diverse artist to students. It makes a difference and I’m grateful that art educators are putting in the work.

9. What is one message you want to give to art students?
You need to know that art is accessible to you, artist like you exist. And we want you to make art and become artist too.

Jealousy. 54.5" x 58.5" Oil and Pastel on canvas. 2019.
Baby Lincoln. "49" x 62.5" Acrylic, Oil, & Pastel on canvas. 2019.
Date of Interview: 08/15/2020 Interviewed by: Paula Liz