Los Angles, California: 1951Present
Patssi Valdez’s artistic career has been a long and inspiring journey driven by anger, passion, and introspection. Born in East Los Angeles in 1951, Valdez grew up in a turbulent world. Her traditional feelings of domestic comfort and safety were compromised by an abusive father. Later, she was active in the Chicano Rights Movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
From a young age Patssi knew she wanted to be an artist. She recognized art as a tool by which she could express her feelings of isolation and anger, and also escape her environment of poverty and hostility. She said, “I realized that my art could get me out of the neighborhood. I used to say, ‘I’m going to paint my way out of this place.’”
Patssi became a creative force on the West Coast in the 1970s as a female member of the Chicano artist’s collective Asco (Spanish for nausea), along with Willie Herron, Harry Gamboa, and Gronk. The name referred to the disgust that she and her fellow artists felt over the stereotypical representation of Latinos in the American media. On the forefront of the avant-garde Chicano art scene, Asco staged performances throughout Los Angeles, created living murals with their own bodies, and exhibited photography and conceptual installations to challenge the traditional Latino image and call attention to the unfair treatment of Latinos in American culture.
In 1988 her work dramatically changed both in technique and approach. She went from creating installations, collages, performance art, and photography, to painting. No longer motivated by anger at Chicano oppression, she became inspired by her own personal experiences and feelings. She explained that “suddenly I wanted to show more of myself, to offer insight into my culture. I began looking inside for inspiration.”
With this spirit she began depicting domestic interiors in her compositions. The Magic Room is filled with bold colors, swirling action, and a unique aerial perspective. The viewer looks down into a curtain-framed room filled with mysterious moving objects. The chairs, balls, gymnastic rings, and carpet seem to stir on their own. Each dizzying object has its own life and power. A blood-red river flows through the carpet, and wine spills onto a blue table filled with living red forks. The bizarre combination of objects combines with the bright red, yellows, and blues to create an eerie, somewhat dangerous space.
Patssi sees domestic interiors as metaphors for the soul. Expressions of one’s character, domestic objects become animated with the spirit of the person who lives with them. These objects are witnesses to all the family secrets.
As an adventurous Chicano artist, Patssi has never been afraid to evolve artistically and try new approaches in her work. Her distinctive spirit of determination, resilience, and passion has defined her work for more than thirty years.
1 Munoz, Larenaz, “A Painter’s Great Escape,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1999.
2 Ohland, Gloria, “Escalate,” LA Weekly, May 5-11, 1989.