Expressionist painter Kiki Valdes' new solo exhibit, "The Valdeziacs," is putting a somewhat sinister spin on your favorite cartoons. In the show opening this Saturday, April 27 inside the Design District’s 101 Exhibit, Valdes’ works portray “recognizable characters” in an abstract, sometimes cubist fashion. “Cartoons have us brainwashed from childhood,” says Valdes, adding that “deconstructing them” felt natural to him. We caught up with the Miami artist (who’s now based in New York) to learn more about his artistic process and his Miami roots.
When did you first start using cartoons in your work?
KIKI VALDES: I think my first year in New York had something to do with it. Everything changed for me. During the move, I noticed all my doodles were cartoon-based, but somehow they did not transfer over to my paintings. It was like I was denying a part of myself. I started to become attracted to cartoon images in contemporary art and it started to slip into my work.
Take us through the mental and physical process of creating one of these works.
KV: It's a layering process. If it isn't heavy, it does not feel right. I am creating a soul on canvas. That may seem a bit romantic, but it is what I like to do. I tend to edit a lot; I like the viewer to know I went on that journey. I also like to remind myself that I went down that road, too. A lot of coffee is involved. I will paint for two days straight and take three days off to analyze. I still consider it painting when I am not physically in the act. I don't leave the studio. I also take photos of my work, upload it to the computer, and figure out what I want to edit. It's like my third eye.
What first compelled you to create art?
KV: I remember in kindergarten the girl next to me would always draw depictions of Jesus. I remember wanting to paint God better than she could. I think that was more my first memory of feeling competitive.
You’ve said before that after a piece is finished you want nothing to do with it. Is it really that easy to let these works go, or do you form attachments?
KV: Yeah, I don't get attached to my work. I always thought all artists were this way. It's also kind of depressing to always look at the same thing you made every day. I really feel [my work] is for someone else. I like to think my paintings are for everyone.
What impact does being Cuban and from Miami have on your work?
KV: Miami has a bright side and a dark side. I think anyone from Miami would agree. I'm sure those elements seep into my work. Growing up, I remember my father's enemies trying to put Santeria spells on the house I grew up in. This had a profound effect on me.
How does it feel to be back in your hometown?
KV: It feels great. I have a great support system in Miami. In a lot of ways, I haven't really left. I divide my time between the snow and sunshine. I'm just glad I get to share my work with the 305.
"The Valdeziacs" opens Saturday, April 27 (7-10 p.m.) at 101 Exhibit. 101 N.E. 40th St., Miami