By Jose Ivan Cazares
LONG BEACH — Jacqueline Valenzuela’s first work of public art is a vibrant collage of Long Beach iconography and lowrider-inspired art that she painted on a utility box in the city’s Craftsman Village Historic District.
Commissioned by Crown Castle, a communications infrastructure developer, Valenzuela’s contribution is designed to inspire and uplift the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic and is the reason why the artist began creating in the first place.
Valenzuela, the daughter of immigrant parents, grew up in Whittier and graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in fine art. She is one six artists to receive the 2020 Not Real Art Grant, a $12,000 prize awarded to up-and-coming Los Angeles-based contemporary artists.
Her paintings are heavily influenced by Chicano and lowrider culture, blending Los Angeles iconography with portraits that reflect the fashion and culture of Chicanos in vibrant collages made of oil on canvas.
Valenzuela has exhibited her work around L.A., and has an upcoming exhibit at the Flatline Gallery in Long Beach, in collaboration with her boyfriend, Mark Anthonty Hocutt, who paints lowriders for a living.
Valenzuela said she has always been attracted to art and was inspired by her older brother to start drawing. She didn’t become invested in developing technical painting techniques, however, until attending Cal State Long Beach. Instead, she fully immersed herself in the world of the underground punk scene of East L.A., another subculture that heavily influences her work today.
Despite being an admirer of lowriders and inspired by the culture, Valenzuela is critical of the role women have traditionally been depicted playing in the culture. She consciously uses pastel pinks, purples and other colors that are generally considered feminine, depicting Chicana women as the drivers, rather than models and incorporates images of family alongside the iconic sedans.
Valenzuela credits her father for being a positive male role model in her life and encouraging her to pursue her dreams. When she was in high school she was assigned to draw something for her French class. This was the first time she considered becoming an artist, but she wanted to be a tattoo artist, something she said her teacher didn’t like.
Her father however was supportive, which she says encouraged her to keep her mind open to all types of art.
Before COVID-19, Valenzuela had a job working with kids in an after-school program, but was left without a steady income after schools shut down due to the pandemic. She started taking commissions for pet portraits, but she said it quickly started feeling like she had to paint rather than wanting to.
“I was grateful because I needed the money, but it wasn’t until recently that people have started bringing me old family portraits that I’ve felt that I’m painting something that is true to my style again,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela is also using this time for her own foray into the lowrider scene.
“I’ve had feminist ideas for a long time, and I didn’t know how to incorporate them into my art at first. Seeing how much of a guys club the lowrider scene kind of pissed me off so I decided to buy my own lowrider,” Valenzuela said. “My dad makes fun of it, because it’s that awkward ugly phase before it gets a paint job, but I have big plans for it.”
Jose Ivan Cazares is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the East Los Angeles area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.