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John Valadez

American, b. 1951

Beto's Vacation (Water, Land, Fire)

Pastel on paper
78 x 56 in. (198.12 x 142.24 cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

The triptych Beto’s Vacation, by John Valadez, evokes an illusory realm where suspended waves of unconscious silence splash against the desire to submerge all emotions, memories, and awareness. Illumination comes from the recognition that these pastel works on paper convey a narrative of dreams and otherworldliness, while insinuating the stillness that is found even in moments of visceral impression.

The estrangement of self is confronted when a man and woman facelessly face a watery disturbance that contains oceanic energies capable of liquefying personal and collective objectivity. The wetting and erasure of being is a transformative, ahistorical event that places the recollection of rough seas or salty tears at the lower depths of cognition. Nonetheless, there is playfulness in the inherent danger of drowning while reaching out to touch the cold blue sea.

The mirage of land floating above the surface of the uncharted ocean is an unexpected oasis draped across the calm surface. An unmoored boat enters the frame of reference, as the apparition seduces many fish to emerge and y for the briefest encounter with mythical shores. The breathing of air and exposure to direct sunlight is antithetical to the notion of self- sacrifice. Palms bend to the prevailing winds of nothingness and wave goodbye to reality.

The horizon portends the unknown and the unknowable, while black billowing smoke announces the immediacy of destructive fire. The man and woman are denying their existence while at the same time expressing a deep angst that cannot turn the tide of encroaching fate. A young man intrudes on the scene of what might be ritualized double suicide. He could be an unwanted refugee transgressing the perfect harmony, interrupting the meld of elements with waves of eroticism and stoicism.

Harry Gamboa Jr.

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