Luis Valderas
I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. I remember watching men land on the moon in 69 and wanting to explore unknown worlds on my own Apollo Mission. Because of a hearing loss that was not discovered until the 6th grade, it was easy for me to retreat into my imagination and draw pictures of rockets, planets and strange animals. Although I never made it into space, my mission on earth has always been to make art.

Born in 1966, I have lived most of my life in McAllen, Texas (en la Frontera del Valle del Rio Grande). But my roots to this region go back to 1914 when my father and his family escaped from one of the many revolutions in Mexico to the U.S. My father experienced the evolution of El Valle from muddy streets with hitching posts to crowded avenues with a shortage of parking spaces and too much concrete. His attitude and experiences, particularly his cuentos, have taught me the value of making the best of things. He taught me to adapt, a necessary trait for bicultural survival. I also remember watching my mother paint figurines for her ceramic/flower shop. Eventually, my brothers and I helped her prepare and paint clay figurines that she sold to local department stores for birthdays and graduations; we also helped her arrange straw and silk-flowered wreaths for Mother?s and Father?s Day and Dia de los Muertos.

From the multi-colored storefronts to the turquoise-colored housing projects, the clash of colorful imagery that is neither Mexico nor the U.S., surrounded and influenced my young eyes, but it was not until I was older that I began to see the juxtaposition of festivity and misery. While crossing the border I recognized the poor and the homeless? women, children and invalids with outstretched hands and styrofoam cups on the sidewalks and the puente in Reynosa. These images cannot, however, be separated from the lively bustle of the mercado, a place of both hope and desperation, a place where colors, smells, and sounds meet in a dance of misery and joy en la frontera. Although my family was better off than those on the bridges, I did grow up in La Paloma, a barrio composed mainly of three-room frame houses and hand-to-mouth subsistence. I was close to, yet very far away from the poverty and suffering that I saw.

The interest in my heritage (from Meso-American relics and masks to my father?s cuentos) has led me to the mythological iconography of other cultures, much like the way man first wondered about the stars. As I explore and link these icons, I try to recreate their essence? to give form to the fears, dreams, and desires that they represent. For example, the imagery of rockets and calaveras is my attempt to reconcile my fears, hopes, and dreams about the future, a future that will be determined by the conscious and unconscious actions of both the past and present. I create to see the world more clearly, to gain insight via hindsight. In short, my work is a celebration of life that also questions and criticizes our universal indifference to the co-existence of so many things?