We had the good fortune of connecting with Jacqueline Valenzuela and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jacqueline, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk has played a major role in my life and career choices. I’m a first-gen Mexican-American. Having parents who are immigrants has always been intimidating. I say this because I know many children of immigrants feel the pressure to succeed in every single aspect of their life. It boils down to, my parents not having many choices during their childhood and young adult life. This in turn meant that they sacrificed a lot and immigrated here in order to live a better life. They were able to provide me and my siblings with endless options and opportunities that they didn’t have the luxury of experiencing. One of these major options was pursing a higher education. Possibly the biggest risk I have taken life and career wise has been pursing art. I saw this as a risk because as said before my parents didn’t have the luxury of taking a huge leap of faith like me. Most immigrant parents imagine their children pursing career’s in the realms of law or medicine. But pursuing art, honestly is not something that is very accepted. Regardless of this I knew that in order to truly take advantage of all these opportunities I’ve been given because of my parents sacrifices I had to risk disappointing them to truly be happy with my career choice. My parents have come around to it. They understand that making art isn’t always something that can bring me a steady income, but they also understand that it is my passion. Thankfully, in the year since I’ve graduated from CSULB with my bachelor’s degree in art I have enjoyed success that came out of that risk taking. Pursing an art degree was daunting, but actually graduating and then having to make something out of that degree has been just as risky. I constantly have to put in endless hours everyday working on personal pieces, painting commission’s for clients, seeking out opportunities to show my art, and creating a large network with other artist. It’s hasn’t been an easy ride, but knowing that I have done so much already in a short amount of time is life changing. I’ve now been able to show in countless galleries and community centers within the L.A. area. I’ve also had the opportunity to have a solo show with a total of 62 paintings. I’ve won a grant that I was terrified to apply to. I’m currently in the process of curating 3 group shows that highlight other Latinx artist. And even now with this pandemic I have been able to keep afloat with countless commissions. I constantly have to take risks in order to have a successful art career and it has paid off thus far.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art practice revolves around women of the lowrider community. I combine portraiture, cityscapes, graffiti, and abstraction to create large, bold, and vibrant compositions that demand the attention of the viewers. This is important to me because the premise of my work is to highlight women who are largely overlooked by mainstream society. Often times when people think of women and lowriders they only think of the highly sexualized models placed alongside cars for photoshoots. Rarely do they know the large role that women lowriders play. They work and cruise their cars just like their male counterparts. I think this is a major aspect that sets my work apart because I am trying to give these women a platform. The main reason that this became the focus of my work is because I myself am a women lowrider owner. And I have faced sexism because no one ever believes that my 1975 Cadillac ElDorado, basically a land boat, is in fact mine. I probably have actually worked more on my car than most male lowrider owners who filter out the work for their lowrider to mechanics, body men, custom painters, and fabricators. To me it is extremely important to give other women like myself a voice and to expose people to the lives of these women. Besides that I think that the essence of my paintings are largely that of urban life and I know as a child of immigrants I never saw art that was representative of the communities I saw growing up. So making work that does depict that is also important to me because I know children within the Latinx community and just BIPOC communities need to see themselves and their realities captured in fine art. I think a next step within my art would be to open the span of the people that I paint. So although this began as a way to highlight women lowrider owners I know there are so many other people within the lowrider community who are also underrepresented. Such as the people who build and paint these cars because they do not get the credit they deserve. There’s also lowrider communities around the world so I think opening up my subject matter to depict these different individuals is key to the next steps for my art. It’s been a long ride, my work has drastically changed in the span of almost two years when I truly began to create my own body of work. Besides the drastic changes in my actual work, I’ve faced countless changes in the ways in which I want my art to be represented in the art world. I think when I first began I had this dream that my art would largely be accepted by the art world. That hasn’t been the case mostly because my art is basically only given a platform when urban artist are being highlighted. I personally think it’s important that urban art isn’t seen as anything less than “fine art”. Again, I would like to reiterate that for me it’s deeply necessary for people within my community to see fine art as accessible. I do that by creating work that has all the elements of fine art but painted through the lens of communities that are misrepresented. I also challenge the underrepresentation by really thinking about the importance of where I show my work. Fame and glory isn’t a priority; so although those huge galleries are nice they aren’t the right place for my art. Showing my art in close proximity to or even within these communities is my priority. Showing them that art that depicts them is created and is accessible is necessary for my art practice.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I’m located in Whittier, Ca so I’m not too far from the epicenter of the lowrider community here in LA. I actually directly off the Whittier Blvd which is an important location for cruising. If I had a friend visiting, assuming they are interested in all the things I am interested in there’s a few places I would for sure take them. I think everyone loves taco trucks. There’s a really good one with to die for salsa’s near by my house. It’s called Los Carnales and it’s always parked off of Whittier Blvd and Broadway. Two taco trucks are always there but you’ll know it’s Los Compadres because they always have a long line. They park in the parking lot of “Quality Car Care”. Then there’s a really cool record store I always go to called Record Jungle it’s off of Whittier Blvd and Garfield. This record store has a huge selection of new and used records. Personally I am a huge fan of oldies, reggae, and rocksteady. So I have spent hours at Record Jungle hunting for records. They also have crazy deals when they have sales so it’s a great local spot to hit up. In general I would just recommend any spot off of Whittier Blvd because you can always find a cool mom and pop shop or local owned restaurant with amazing food. And I typically hang out off of Whittier Blvd. If you want to see a ton of classic cars or lowriders on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon I recommend hanging out off of the blvd. You’ll see an endless amount of cars cruising the blvd.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Besides my parents who have thankfully been supportive in all of this. I also thankfully have an extremely supportive partner named, Mark Hocutt. We have been together for nearly 7 years and in that span of time he has truly uplifted and motivated me to continue to pursue my dreams. He saw me through my time at CSULB. Which was difficult for me personally because the dynamics within the art program weren’t always as understanding or helpful towards my art practice as I wish they had been. So there were many times where I felt I was not doing as well as I could have been. But through it all Mark stood by me and helped me. He was always there to accompany me to art galleries, museums, and shows. If I needed help with installing or deinstalling work in spaces he was there. Constantly transporting art work back and forth. Helping me if I was short on money for art supplies. Telling me he believed in me and knew I could do whatever I wanted to do has been extremely helpful to me. I remember in particular that when I had started going to CSULB I didn’t have money to buy a backpack. The place that Mark had been working at had suffered a fire and so he was out of a job. Despite this Mark spent his last $20 on helping me buy a backpack that I still have. I think just a short story like that can give people insight on the type of support system I have. I’m eternally grateful for all the support I have received from Mark and all the support my family has poured in to my dreams as well.