Work of generous artist presented by Dallas College


JORDAN LACKEY, Opinion Editor

Dallas College is presenting a collection of works from artist Paul Valadez at the Eastfield and Mountain View campuses from Aug. 16 through Nov. 5. It is the first time the campus galleries have been open since COVID-19.


The collection includes a curated selection of collages and drawings titled “The Great Mexican-American Songbook” and “American Raspa.”


Valadez, born in San Francisco and raised in the Central Valley of California, is a Texas-based artist operating predominately from The Rio Grande Valley where he is a full-time lecturer at The University of Texas Rio Grande. 


His art is heavily influenced by what he calls his “hyphenated upbringing.” 


“I grew up in a bicultural family,” he said. “My father’s family is from Mexico and my mother’s family from is from Appalachia.”


The selections from “The Great Mexican-American Songbook” feature a collection of collages including photographs and text from English and Spanish sources displayed on sheet music. The title of the collection references what Valadez said are the most important American songs of the 20th century. He said it reflects his personal bicultural experience and the representation of Hispanics in American history.


The selections from “American Raspa” include sketch style paintings on paper featuring a variety of prominent and iconic idols from film and Catholicism. Some images display figures with open mouths, implying either singing, screaming or both while the use of Spanish slang terms help encourage the viewer to interpret the meaning of the work for themselves in a casual and playful manner.


Valadez donated 120 works to the Dallas College Permanent Art Collection in 2017 and has donated hundreds more to museums, colleges, universities, and private collectors all over the United States and Mexico.


“I’m in a state of grace where I am lucky enough to not have to sell,” he said. “If I was interested in making money I would have gone into business. Instead, I went into education.”


Valadez said he embraces the Native American philosophy of “potlatch,” which is a gift-giving feast or ceremony that involves giving away or destroying valuables as a demonstration of wealth and power. These ceremonies also focused on reaffirmation of family and human connection through shared kindness and generosity that would benefit everyone.


“[I donate] as much as I can.” Valadez said. “There’s no strings [attached], no scam. I just have found a different way. I call it my potlatch project.”


Valadez said he normally doesn’t ask for payment for his work. All he asks is that the viewer explains what the work means to them. After that, he said he’s more than happy to let them have it.


That’s what happened in 2017 when Alison Starr, the gallery manager for the Mountain View campus, met Valadez for the first time at an exhibition in Austin, Texas.


“He realized in our conversation that it’s possible we had a lot of Latinx students here at the Mountain View campus and in Dallas College,” Starr said. “He basically said, ‘if you’re interested, I have some work that I would love for your students to have.’”


During the shutdown due to COVID-19, Starr decided to collaborate with Iris Bechtol, the gallery manager for Eastfield, and Fabiola Valenzuela, the Gliff Gallery assistant, to bring Valadez’s work to both campuses.


“I don’t want to say that there’s anything good about a pandemic,” Bechtol said. “But there have been some [good] things that have come out of it. … Alison and I have really developed, not only a working relationship, as colleagues, but also a friendship.”


The Mountain View gallery will be open Aug. 16 to Nov. 5 and the Eastfield gallery is currently by appointment only with fall hours to be determined. All students are encouraged to attend and view the work on display at both campuses.