What Do Rapper Vanilla Ice and a Shoe-Obsessed Drag Queen Have in Common? A Love for the Artwork of Amanda Valdes
BY ELLEN THISTLE | June 29, 2012
The queen of hearts looks like she just returned from a ten-day bender. The sharp tiny bones of her shoulders jut out over a black and red-striped bustier with a conical bra. Her hair is messy and piled high. Inky black rivers pour out of her eyes and down her face. She is hunched forward with a jagged spine. Her lips are pouty and petulant. She is in desperate need of some sun and an all-you-can-eat buffet.
This image of the queen stretches across an 18” x 24” canvas. It is painted with acrylic paint. And it came from the mind of 24 year-old artist Amanda Valdes of Palm Beach Gardens.
Her recipe is simple. She paints whatever inspires her at the time. That can be anything: a book, a movie, even a color she saw somewhere, or a flyer she noticed. And once inspired, Amanda has been known to go on a painting binge, holing herself up at home and painting for days at a time.
The result is part punk rock, part cartoon— paintings of surreal women that capture a mood on a visceral level. She incorporates peroxide, pieces of a broken mirror, gorilla glue. And her heroines are always arresting.
Take, for example, her painting of Marie Antoinette. Marie is back from last night’s masquerade. Her eyes are puffy, pink, and drooping. Her crimson lips are swollen and off- center. She looks put-out and annoyed in that way that is reserved for teenagers. The blood pouring from her elongated neck is actually one of the last things you notice.
Amanda’s paintings feature almost exclusively women. “I feel like I identify with the characters that much more,” she explains. “Each one is, give or take, a variation of me or somebody I know. I can connect to what I’m doing that much more. And the female body, for me—the lines, the shape—I think it’s so beautiful.”
The women in her paintings aren’t exactly classic beauties. Their proportions are just a little bit off. Their bodies are slightly stretched out, “like a Gumby doll that you can just pull and stretch in any direction,” Valdes admits. “I love being able to play with the body type. You can convey so many emotions and ideas through the body position alone.”
This fact is evident in the characters who populate her paintings. The blasé women who fill her works of art look like they fell out of an Alexander McQueen ad. They are gawky, heroin-chic. Their hair color ranges from turquoise and bubble-gum pink to slick, oily black. They look like they were released from the psych ward hours ago.
Amanda’s crowning achievement is 30’x60’ mural she painted on the wall of the popular nightclub Respectables on Clematis street in West Palm Beach. She has another mural on the outside of Howley’s restaurant, also in West Palm Beach.
The mural at Respectables was the first mural she’d ever done, but she loved the experience. “Mural allows something to really come to life. You have such a huge, raw area that you’re working with…the possibilities are pretty endless. The size makes you think in a completely different way.”
The reactions to her work have been overwhelmingly positive, particularly from younger generations. “Young people dig it,” she says, “Older people don’t really get it. They’re thrown off by the whole ‘disjointed-female-waif’ thing.”
Her art is popular enough that she is able to support herself as a full-time artist. She sells most of her art through her website www. amandavaldes.com. Each of her paintings is one of a kind. When someone sees a painting they like, they contact Amanda and she works with them to make it their own—perhaps changing the subject’s hair color or adding something personal to the background.
All sorts of people commission her pieces. A few years ago, Vanilla Ice, the early 1990’s one-hit-wonder (but oh, what a hit!), bought two of her paintings. She’s still working on one commissioned by a drag queen who is obsessed with extreme shoes.
The price of Amanda’s pieces depends upon size. She is willing to work within the price range of her clients (because she knows what it’s like to want art you can’t afford). The average price for one of her pieces $700-$1,000.
You can check out her artwork here in Delray Beach on the walls of the restaurant and lounge DaDa. Also, she will be featured in Delray’s upcoming “open air gallery” art show on Atlantic Avenue and AIA during Delray’s annual 4th of July Extravaganza by the Beach.
Fresh art like the work of Amanda Valdes surfaces once in rare while, but when it does, you never forget it.