© 2012 victoriadelgadillo

On Hero Worship

Self Portrait of John Valadez

Last night was artist Raul Baltazar’s 40th birthday house party. His circle of friends range from 20 to 60, each in the various stages of eastside art celebrity. Painters, musicians, collectors, curators, performance artists, filmmakers and strays straggled in throughout the night.

Weird that our paths should not have crossed until last night, but sitting on the porch in the dark, surrounded by eager younger artists, sat artist John Valadez. Only knowing him by his artwork and in some instances being tortured by close male friends with it, because they know I would not approve of his studies on scantily/scandalously dressed girls next to hulk-like Cholos–I now have a face to match the work. It took 2 of my 40 questions to him to ascertain who he was. He did not say his name in a condescending “don’t you know who I am?” manner, as lesser artists have snapped at me before. He was “John” in one sentence and because I walked into a chat on murals, my second question was “Are you a muralist?” he said  “Yes, Valadez”.

I have become jaded and sarcastic by life, when I have seen young people hero-worshipping artists, I have advised, “The artwork is different than the artist. Sometimes, its best to stay in love with the art and not get to know the artist too much. They are just people.” Having seen many artists in various states of being annoyingly human, I have lost the ability to place someone in the clouds above the rest. It is a self-preservation mechanism, for sure, I do not want to get let-down yet again.

I see now that I should heed my advice, that the artist is not always like the work, because it is definitely the case with John Valadez. He is an interesting conversationalist–has an amazing history and knowledge of LA, music and art, but not like some of those crusty artists you meet who are stuck “back in the days”—ho-hum so boring to me. Valadez is genuine and current, charming and understated. He knows what is going on with the younger artists, is involved with their projects, and most important he listens and really participates in a sharing dialogue. He even asks questions, because he wants to know about you. He is generous with his advise and gives compliments to other artists. Do I sound like I’m crushing? John Valadez is so unique in the art world of hundreds of self-important blow-hards, I have to pause and make a notation of it here.

I was in an artist-in-residency program under Judy Chicago in 2004. I was anxious to have her look at my work, because she was someone I admired and felt only she was qualified to critique me. She was actually very nice to me and gave me very high praise, which I will always cherish—but her treatment of others made me recoil.

It is a magnanimous soul and non-artificial human who can be considered a true mentor. This is John Valadez. I always think if you live long enough, you will lose faith and be restored over an over–this is growth.


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