My work reflects the landscape and cultural imagery related to my Native American background. I am part Cupeño, Luiseño, and Kumeyaay (three tribes located in San Diego County). Native American stories and songs, especially the Cupeño creation stories and traditional “bird songs,” play an important role in how I see the natural world. These stories and songs, in which plants and animals are the characters, tell about how the world came to be and how the people came to be where they are. The “bird songs” tell about the journey of the people, which is said to parallel the migration of the birds. The songs tell about what the birds/people see on their journey: the mountains, deserts, night sky, and other landmarks. For me, they reflect a dreamlike, evolving world, a world I hope to create in my paintings.
I often incorporate abstract pictograph (Native American rock art) designs found throughout the region: dot patterns, chevrons, diamond patterns, spirals, and helixes. Designs from Southern California Indian basketry and clay vessels used for food and water storage often make their way into my work. Southern California Indians are known for their beautiful, intricately woven baskets, which often use flower, snake, and geometric shapes. My great-grandmother, Salvadora Valenzuela, was a noted basket maker.
I work in oil on wood panel, sometimes incorporating pencil and Prismacolor. I also work with the painterly printmaking process called monotype, as well as the pigmented wax process, encaustic. I usually begin by laying down thin layers of color, and the work evolves from there. Images emerge, some more loosely painted or outlined and some more fully rendered. Landscape, color, light and imagery, abstract designs, stories and songs—all of these elements merge together for me to evoke a sense of journey and place.