Artist Profile – Barbara Valles

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I met Barbara Valles at a dinner party – not totally unexpected to meet an artist in this county of exceptional talent.  But meeting Barbara with her husband and young daughter at the home of a friend did not prepare me for the intensity and depth of the art I was soon to experience.  Let me introduce you to Barbara as I met her.  Barbara’s parents were visiting from Spain to be near when their grandchild came into the world.  The parents rented the home where the dinner party was held and fast became friends with the homeowners.  Through that connection, my friends became friends with Barbara.   Barbara and her family are the epitome of wine country living.  The attractive wife of a successful winemaker and the mother of a delightful child, Barbara’s faint accent hints that she has a story to tell. Yes, she is an artist. Yes, she is an immigrant.  Yes, there is so much more to know about her and her art.

Barbara was born and raised in the outskirts of Madrid, Spain.  With an artist for a mother, Barbara knew early in her life that she was destined to be an artist.  Her older brother came to the United States as an exchange student and she followed in his footsteps at the age of sixteen.  She returned to Madrid but soon decided to spend her last year and a half of high school at St Joseph High School in Utah.  After graduation she embraced Europe and studied art in Italy and London for two years before enrolling at the Arizona State University, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.  With art degree in hand, she relocated to the East Bay and went into the workforce as a non-artist, video game producer. She met Greg, her husband, and they together moved to Sonoma County in February of 2010.

The art Barbara produces is big and bold from materials that are considered industrial.  While she has earlier works that are seemingly 2 dimensional, the substrate and texture are fluid in the breeze and layered in construction.  What appears to be a heavy paint or possibly cut paper attached is glue peeled from another surface and fashioned to provide movement to an otherwise stationary canvas – using techniques that she developed as a child while playing in her mother’s studio.  As an adult, she has progressed to inventing new methods that utilize the same childhood props.  Drop clothes – water resilient on the front and absorbent on the back – are saturated with glue and dried in provocative shapes, painted with pastels or shimmering gray.  She has named these Botanicals but they are like no plants I have every witnessed.  Another favorite material is Tarleton cloth, a stiff cheese cloth like fabric that is normally used to wipe etching plates of excess ink.  There is a series of hangings with “dabs” of paint that evoke leaves in the air.  Well, that is what it evokes for me.  The great thing about this art is that every observer will see what touches them personally with few preconceived ideas.  Recently she has painted bubble wrap as is shown in the picture here.  These common objects are transformed into delicate delights for the eyes.   She is experimenting with installation pieces that make the ordinary extraordinary.

It is not surprising that Barbara is influenced by the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp who challenged the thinking of art forms in the early 20th century.   Gabriel Orozco, a contemporary Mexican artist, is one of her favorites with his stark but elegant installations of abstraction.  Barbara is currently looking for a space to share her work to its best advantage.  In the meantime, you can go to her website and glimpse the beauty of her creativity.  She has shown her work at A Street Gallery in Santa Rosa.  She is looking to exhibiting at Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in Novato and other Marin venues.  Her stated goal is to make something exquisite from mundane objects.  I think she has achieved this wonderfully.

You can see Barbara’s work at www.BarbaraValles.com or email her at balles.hayes@gmail.com.

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