J. Marie Valdez

sacred spaces

During my traveling experiences abroad, investigations into cultural identity and its connection to geography became of great personal fascination to me.  For example, during a trip to Tuscany, Italy I was deeply moved by the depth of cultural pride and love of community that I witnessed.  Community members expressed a genuine concern for each other and the sacred place they regarded as home.  In 2008, there was a shift in the Houston culture.  The aftermath of hurricane Ike left many without basic resources.  Houstonians pulled together to provide for their fellow man, and picked up the pieces to rebuild the city that they called “home”.  This inspired me to look within and reassess my own appreciation for the Houston community.  In doing so, I discovered my city to be an ideal inspiration for that which has always driven my professional research: the human condition, universal archetypes, and cultural identity.

Consequently, the city of Houston and its infrastructure has come to dominate the imagery within my work.  As a visual artist, I explore the “commonplaces,” which are the everyday surroundings that are passively observed during a person’s day-to-day commute.  Skyscrapers, oil refineries, factories, highways, bustling traffic conditions, and even the weather find full representation within my paintings.  For example, early morning and late evening fog appears to caress the contours of vehicles as they emerge out of nowhere.  The dim-lighting of these vehicles penetrates through the dense moisture, creating an aura of mystery in the everyday.  The transition from dusk to dawn creates sharp contrasts–objects partially obscured by shadows and partially revealed by rays of light.  I find these moments to be magnificent and full of a meaning that is belied by their commonplace occurrence.  These are the type of environmental nuances that set the atmospheric tone within my paintings.

Sacred Spaces brings together two bodies of work (The Commuter Series & The Harvey Series).   For The Harvey Series, I found inspiration from personal photographs, images on social media, and aerial  footage by photographer, Jordan Anderson.  These recourse images, provided a means to reflect on the Houstonian experience during hurricane Harvey.  This series, builds upon the atmospheric tone of The Commuter Series, and reflects on the complex interrelationships between beauty & hope juxtaposed with destruction & desolation.   

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