Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Studio Visit with Sandra Mack-Valencia by Carrie Rubinstein

“I’m very obsessive. I like detail, I find joy in obsessive work…I mean I pay someone to clean my house because if I do it, I’ll be there all day on the tiniest square of the kitchen.” When Sandra Mack-Valencia said this to me two weeks ago in her spacious studio in Long Island City, something clicked for me about her work. I am a huge fan of her work and have been since we met in a 2005 Hunter College graduate drawing seminar. Her paintings on board are ornamental, narrative, decorative, and powerful. She uses a standard photocopy transfer method as a point of departure and definitely takes it to another level.
Sandra’s most recent work focuses on the little known but terribly interesting story of King Edward VIII who chose to abdicate the English throne in 1936 in order to marry the wealthy American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. Britain’s governors and its Dominions gave Edward an ultimatum, which led him to choose abdication. Mack-Valencia is fascinated with this love story and created one of her most beautiful pieces which features the couple at the top of the picture, bands of delicate detail work on the sides and a magnificent crown with the word “Abdication” written across it. The center of the work remains empty. Sandra wants this space to be something to ponder, explore and discover in relation to the narrative she has assembled on the perimeter.
Another striking piece in progress relates to this theme of bizarre love stories with the subjects placed more in the present. In 2007, the female astronaut Lisa Nowak made headlines when she apparently wore adult diapers as she drove 900 miles across five states in an attempt to attack her former lover’s new mate. Sandra was drawn to this absurdity and created a piece which begins with the face of Lisa Nowak in photocopy transfer and then expands to use two animals to represent the lovers in the triangle. Sandra is a dedicated animal lover and the sheep and tiger that adorn Sandra’s interpretation of Nowak come across as tender as well as eccentric. The sides of the picture include a wonderful blend of acrylic wash over transfers of rockets that I am so drawn to in Sandra’s work. 
I loved when Sandra got down to the brass tacks of her subject matter and her process. One of early her inspirations came from a mistake back in her time living in her native Colombia while employed at a chemical company. One day she was caught in a rainstorm and a notebook she had became soaked with all the pages blurring together when opened. She was fascinated by this and asked her work colleagues about methods she could learn to reproduce this in her artwork. Thus, she found her way to the transfer process.
Sandra told me of a sweet belief she had as a six year-old girl. She believed that all the animals up in heaven could speak to each other. They have a world all of their own. We talked about this kind of utopia and from that developed the idea of an idea for a future piece in the vein of a challenge: making a piece that only had animals as the subject. I admire how she takes narrative and translates it into something in comical and sympathetic. And I look forward to seeing this animal piece and any others with her specific brand of obsessive tendencies; it produces such rich work.