The fourth installment of the Main Street Marquee welcomes the work of M. Giovanni Valderas, a Dallas native who graduated from the College of Visual Arts & Design at the University of North Texas with a Master of Fine Arts in Drawing & Painting.
The mural, titled “Saludos,” takes a colloquial salutation and layers meaning, both fun and serious, that nod to his Guatemalan, Mexican and American ancestry.
Q: In looking at your work, there are two prevalent elements: There’s the text and there’s the texture. What's the significance?
Giovanni Valderas: “Ay te miro” is slang for “see you later.” It's a salutation that I used growing up, so it feels very genuine, congenial and from the heart. What I love about it is: it's not goodbye, reinforcing that we'll meet each other again. In a climate that seems hostile to the Latino culture, “Ay te miro” has a ring of hope and perseverance. That Latino culture is always progressing and moving forward.
Q: The phrase implies a cycle, does it not?
Giovanni Valderas: Yes, because “see you later” it never ends. The Latino community's relationship with the United States is never-ending. And it's not going away any time soon. Also, for public art placed in a heavily transited area of Downtown Houston, the idea of “see you later” seems fitting and also whimsically fun.
Downtown Houston changes by the second. It never stays the same.
Q: What about the texture. It's so prevalent and rich in your work that we want to touch it.
Giovanni Valderas: The fringe texture is very common in piñatas — tissue paper that's cut up and glued on. It encourages anyone to touch it. It's very enticing for me, particularly because it's a welcoming symbol. Most people are familiar with it. And I love the idea of it being really ephemeral. You spend all this time making one and then it’s literally torn apart. A piñata doesn't last too long.
Q: What kind of transformation would you like to see because of your art?
Giovanni Valderas: Like advertising, my thought is that art should be everywhere. Art can change moods. You could be having a horrible day, and when you walk across an inspiring piece of art, your outlook can turn around.
Main Street Square welcomes such an eclectic mix of people from different cultures. When you are passing by or waiting for the METRO, I hope my art gives people something to think about and distract them from the stresses of the day.
Q: Why do you think your message works in Main Street Square?
Giovanni Valderas: When I was designing the work, my goal was to capture the attention of all kinds of people — business people, commuters, construction personnel and others. I wanted to make people smile. I wanted to make people think about the diversity of the city and the pride we all take in our backgrounds.
If more people start saying the phrase — I wouldn't object to that. But I would really like it to incite conversation. Like all good art should.