October 2016 Featured Artist
Talented in both the visual and performing arts, Bryan Valenzuela is an unassuming tour-de-force. His mellow, laidback attitude is refreshing, especially for someone who’s garnered the amount of attention he’s earned lately.
Best-known for his detailed word-based drawings and as the lead vocalist for the psych-art rock band, Exquisite Corps, the thirty-something Midtown-based creative applied for the Golden 1 Center Art Program, devising a grand public art piece paying homage to Sacramento’s waterways through glass, a material he’s never worked with before. By surprise, his “Multitudes Converge” got the greenlight from The City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. Throwing caution to the wind allowed him to take on the largest and most challenging work of his career…and share space with the international pop artist, Jeff Koons.
Fresh off a magazine shoot, Sacramento365 met up with the Golden 1 Center artist over a plate of Hock Farm Craft & Provisions fries and mac and cheese to reflect on his acclaimed, “Multitudes Converge”, and how the Sacramento region is supporting his creative journey.
Always the Creative Type
Born and raised in Orange County, Bryan Valenzuela’s family moved to the Sierra foothills during his high school years. From a young age, he knew he wanted to do something creative when he grew up: “I wrote a lot of bad poetry when I was 12 and 13. Luckily, my prose got better and helped build the foundation for my songwriting and love for music.”
His college years at Sacramento State were the testing grounds for determining what his “something creative” would be. Originally pursuing a degree in Music, Valenzuela found himself slowly gravitating to the Art department: “Classical music is a passion of mine, but it can be rigid at times; I needed creative freedom to match my free spirit.” He’s been a visual artist in the Sacramento area ever since.
Infatuated by the power and necessity of language, Valenzuela has been toying around with letters and words using a unique drawing technique for over a decade. Unnoticeable from a distance, upon close inspection, observers can discern a barrage of handwritten text intermingled with mixed media elements – thread or paint. “I use letters on a macro and microscopic level, filling in space…this dynamism makes a piece look different in different lights and angles.”
Taking on the Golden 1 Center
For the last year, his attention has been on “Multitudes Converge”, his ambitious glass work suspended above the Golden 1 Center’s southwest escalator. Made possible by a $1 million donation from Mort and Marcy Friedman, Valenzuela was chosen from a pool of 136 applicants as one of the regional artists to create public artwork for the new arena.
Finished the Friday before the arena’s grand opening, the public art piece was his first foray into glass and sculpture work. The resulting work is a stunning and herculean feat of translucent glass. 400 blue blown-glass orbs, manufactured in Germany and the Czech Republic, “float” above in a Y shape, paying homage to the convergence of the Sacramento and American rivers. “I wanted to make something that flows in arena space I was given and also counters the local art controversy around the Koons sculpture. The gold flecks in the piece hint at our Gold Rush history, the subject is our rivers…it’s an aesthetic that is very Sacramento.”
What does it feel like to be a part of the largest public art investment in the City of Sacramento? “I still haven’t processed it. I’m still trying to catch up on sleep! I did feel like a Sacramento ambassador during my time abroad. The artisans and craftspeople I worked with were curious about Sacramento, so I helped bring some awareness to our City.”
What he does know is that he is glad to be a part of a public conversation on art. “Public art can change someone’s day, get people thinking, and gets artists to climb out of their creative bubble and think about how their work gets consumed by others.” (His opinion of “Coloring Book #4?” “The controversy surrounding it only makes it better!”)
Of all the lessons learned throughout the project, the most important one is fundamental to artists and non-artists alike — relationship building. “For months I engaged with people from different walks of life that I wouldn’t encounter in my day-to-day. Interacting with people in government especially lifted cynicism within me. They are real people and are genuinely supportive of my work. I overcame fear and wasn’t afraid to ask questions or reach out for help.”
His time at the arena also earned admiration from an unusual source: construction workers. “Many of the people I worked alongside with at the arena rarely go out to art galleries or try to find ways to experience the arts. ‘It’s not their thing.’ But by seeing me put in the long hours to finish ‘Multitudes Converge’, they understood that making art is hard work.”
What’s On the Horizon
Even after working a series of 16 hour days for weeks to complete “Multitude Converge”, Valenzuela isn’t showing any signs of slowing down creatively. “Completing the largest public art project in my career has given me the confidence to go out and apply for larger art projects.”
But before taking on new works, it’s important for Valenzuela to first thank those that helped make his Golden 1 Center piece possible.
Using photographs taken throughout the “Multitudes Converge” project, Valenzuela aims to draw the 40-50 workers behind the public art piece: “Only my name is on the piece, but I couldn’t have accomplished any of what’s been done alone. [This portrait series] ‘It Takes a Village’, is a way for me to show my gratitude for their hard work in a tangible way.”
Where Else Can You See Bryan Valenzuela?
- On Thursday, October 6 Valenzuela joins fellow Golden 1 Center artist Gale Hart in conversation at the final (and sold-out) Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission Remarkable Artist Series lecture.
- Starting Friday, October 7, you can see Valenzuela’s collage work, along with pieces by local artists Brian Shea and Rora Blue at Beatnik Studios’s Form Lore exhibit.
- This November, Valenzuela will debut a time-lapse video of and speak more on “Multitudes Converge” at special Kingsley Art Club Lecture at the Crocker Art Museum.
- While his band Exquisite Corps is on a hiatus, Valenzuela hopes band members will reunite to record their unfinished album and tour in 2017.
Off the Cutting Room Floor
We just had to share these fun facts and notable quotables about Bryan Valenzuela with our readers:
- Valenzuela was awarded Best in Show at the 2015 California State Fair Fine Arts Competition.
- How can the public support our local artists and arts scene? “Show up to events, even if you can’t afford to buy a piece. Your presence itself is rewarding and motivates [us] artists to keep creating.”
- Why does Valenzuela continue to live and work in the River City? “Sacramento is like the ‘Goldilocks’ of cities, especially Midtown. It’s walkable, bikeable, close to everything, affordable, has a lot to offer, and we have seasons! I don’t get it when people say there’s nothing to do here.”
- Some of Valenzuela’s favorite Sactown eateries and bars include Tako Korean BBQ, The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar, The Shady Lady Saloon, Orphan Breakfast House, and the newly opened Takumi Izakaya. “The quality of food offered around town keeps improving; restaurants are constantly trying to one-up each other.”
- While his time with Jeff Koons was brief, Valenzuela did learn one sobering fact: “No matter what level of success have as an artist, there are still challenges. Money doesn’t make it go away.”
- Valenzuela’s not “so guilty” guilty pleasures:
-HBO’s Game of Thrones
-Beer (“I’m a big fan of local breweries Ruhstaller, Track 7 Brewing Co., and Berryessa Brewing Company.”)
–The Grateful Dead
Keep Up with Bryan Valenzuela
Watch a video of the artist as he visits the internationally renowned glass studio, Franz Mayer of Munich.