In the mysterious outskirts of the blooming Miami Modern District, Cuban-American artist Kiki Valdes allowed admirers to tour his private studio where the very works on display were created. The youthful and gifted artist mingled cheerfully with guests, opening his studio for the sheer pleasure of sharing his craft with those who wished to view it, leaving them inspired.
“Art is influenced by your surroundings, your upbringing, what you don’t approve of, what you do approve of. I don’t like to get too much into politics, but it’s definitely a part of my work,” said Valdes about his source of inspiration. His answers were keen and concise, but not rehearsed, as if every word he chose were a spark of insight.
Much like his conversation, his art is clearly intuitive – a thick impasto here, a smoothly executed collage there. Sewn bits of canvas stripped over the heavy paint are characteristics of his creations. In a corner of the lustrous glass studio, a congenial assemblage commands attention.
“I wasn’t trying. When you’re painting, you know you’re sitting there and trying to create something,” he said. “That was just grabbing stuff I had already used when I was working, like my palette, my boots. I didn’t make it originally for an art piece. It’s more like the remains of the process.”
Perhaps the most thought-provoking piece in the studio, a barren canvas with scribbled names like Picasso, De Kooning, Pollock and Kiki Valdes – named “Personal Notes” – gives us insight into what the artist had in mind.
“I think I’m influenced by a lot of those guys. If I’m thinking of Frank Stella or Hernan Bas, I’ll put it into my work,” he said. “I think my work is kind of blunt, so let me make it more blunt. It’s like brainstorming without any editing.”
In the midst of so much mind-blowing “brainstorming,” Kiki answered a tough question: his favorite piece in the exhibit. He responded with the same eloquence and honesty expected from him, “They’re all kind of like ex-girlfriends.”