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Meet Esteban del Valle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Esteban del Valle.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Growing up in Chicago as a young kid, I was in love with going to The Art Institute of Chicago to study the painting collection, while also experiencing that same level of affection for the murals and graffiti art in my community. These two separate worlds merged in my life and took the form of an intense exploration of the formal skills involved in graffiti and muralism, as well as the cultural and visual legacy of Hip Hop. I was obsessed with graffiti as an art form and I spent a lot of energy trying to get better at it within a legal space. I was terrible at the vandalism part for many reasons, mainly my very guilty conscience and an impressive lack of climbing ability. But ever since that time in Chicago, my interest in art history and alternative art movements has played a major role in my development.

After I completed my formal art education and received my MFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, I spent years pursuing artist residencies and grants to support my studio work which includes politically oriented drawing, video, and animation, while also maintaining an active mural practice which includes community-based mural projects and participating in New York’s Street Art scene. These two worlds inform each other; between what aesthetics and visual histories I choose to explore plus the politics behind those choices and how they end up meeting with the public in various venues of display, such as public spaces and/or social media.

Please tell us about your art.
I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist and my work often includes drawing, murals, video, performance, and animation. At the moment, my current interest has been primarily in the space of drawing. I have been interested in pushing the tools I grew up using in black books when I was first learning to wild style piece. So, this means I have been pursuing ambitious compositions with basic drawing tools like markers, color pencils, and ink pens, in an attempt to create a visual vocabulary to speak about my experience with the crossover between political and personal. Revisiting political cartoons and caricature as a failed genre in terms of its effectiveness in the contemporary world, I am trying to explore my everyday life and inject satirical images with a sense of vulnerability. The goal is to create a new “political cartoon”, one that reflects the complicated nature of our involvement in the social and economic power dynamics at play in America. For example, I find subject matter in something like finding an apartment in New York and how that becomes a conversation about my role in gentrification as a member of the creative class, and all of this acts as a platform for a formal drawing experiment.

I also aim to push these ideas by sharing my process and work in both a physical and digital public space to promote accessibility. This practice is a direct response to my experience having one foot in the fine art world and another in various nontraditional creative movements. I don’t have one direct message but rather an overall project that explores my thoughts about class and privilege and the role it plays in cultivating taste, as well as the visual legacies that surround things like political leadership and activism. I aim to continue to fine tune my project but its core function is a space of reflection with the goal of creating a record of the world immediately around me.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
I think the role of the artist is to be true to whatever role art plays in your specific life. For me personally, it is about growing as an individual but also about promoting the power of creativity as a tool for social change. I believe our entire constructed reality is a byproduct of creative thought and therefore it can be adjusted, deconstructed, and rearranged based on what we choose to think and make. Part of what I aim to do is to promote creativity as a way of life, an active practice built on a foundation of critical reflection and action. I hope to share my experience with creative empowerment to inspire others to engage with and transform their everyday, not only to address our problems but also to celebrate our joy.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I keep an active social media presence as well as update my website. People can follow my Instagram @estebandelvalle112 and check out http://www.estebandelvalle.com for new work, upcoming exhibitions, various events which include lectures, live painting performances, mural locations, etc. I also use these platforms to post work for sale and anyone can message me directly to purchase work, this is mostly for my print editions and live paintings. Lastly, I recently partnered up with my first commercial gallery who will be representing my studio-based work.

The gallery is called Albert Merola and is located in Provincetown, MA where I will be a part of a group show July 6th and I have a solo pop up show August 10th. In general, I think it is great to buy art work as a way of supporting artists but there are also other important ways to help that don’t involve money. If you like the work, please spread the word to your community, share your favorite piece with a friend, show up to an exhibition and ask questions, or drop by one of my murals in person.

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Image Credit:
Esteban del Valle

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