Arizona Arts

Jun 22, 2024 – Sep 28, 2024 • In Hanson Gallery

Paul Valadez: Selections from the Great Mexican-American Songbook


Paul Valadez, Cernura de corazon [detail], 2016, Mixed Media, Gift of the artist


In his collage series The Great Mexican-American Songbook, artist Paul Valadez plays with language and images in ways that reflect memories and multiply meanings.

When a stack of vintage sheet music led him to wonder who or what could define an “American Songbook,” he was inspired to cut and paste to create something different. Adding, subtracting, and mixing Spanish and English text with found images, he created works that surprise, confound, and reflect a more complex cultural canon.

“Yes, I wanted to include the presence of Latinos, Mexicans in American history,” says Valadez. “...I grew up in a bicultural family, Anglo/white on my mother’s side and Mexican on my father’s side and I felt that I never fit in…Language to me is the fact that Spanish [was] the language of secrets; Spanish was spoken in front of me to keep me from knowing something.”

The Songbook collages also recall the parallel worlds of English and Spanish magazines that fascinated him as a child when visiting the homes of family members. The 40 collages on view were a gift of the artist to UAMA in 2016 and are just a portion of the larger series, which Valadez distributed to multiple museums around the country.

Paul Valadez grew up in Stockton, California and moved to San Francisco to pursue an art career. He earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary art from the San Francisco Art Institute and his master’s in studio art from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he was awarded a Weiss Fellowship for Urban Livability. Valadez is a professor in the Art department at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, located in Edinburg, Texas on the U.S./Mexico border.