Valerie Powell grew up moving from one side of the country to the other, inspired by the idea of adventure, play and discovery. She earned her MFA from Washington State University and a MA and BFA from Stephen F. Austin State University. Valerie currently resides in Huntsville, Texas where she has serious fun teaching, coordinating and developing curriculum in the WASH {Workshop in Art Studio + History} foundations program at Sam Houston State University. Valerie is deeply invested in contemporary scholarship surrounding foundations pedagogy and was recently elected to the national board of FATE [Foundations in Art: Theory and Practice] where she serves as Vice President of Regional Programming.

In the studio, she is most concerned with the intersection between painting and sculpture as well as the magical possibilities of creating art with shrinkable plastic. Her work has been widely exhibited across the US, at venues that include: Blackfish Gallery (Portland, OR); Box13 (Houston, TX); Art 180 (Richmond, VA); Katherine Nash Gallery (Minneapolis, MN); Los Angeles Center for Digital Art (Los Angeles, CA) and The Ogden Museum (New Orleans, LA). Valerie’s work was featured in Studio Visit Magazine, a bi-annual publication devoted to highlighting contemporary artists. She has been invited to attend numerous artist residency programs including Vermont Studio Center (Johnson City, VT); Montana Artists Refuge (Basin, MT); Elsewhere Artist Collaborative (Greensboro, NC); Can Serrat International Art Center (El Bruc, Spain); La Porte Peinte Centre for the Arts (Noyers sur Serine, France) and Sparkbox Studio (Ontario, Canada). More recently, Valerie is continuing to revisit what it means to be truly familiar with something, someone or some place, by creating a new body of work in response to the memory surrounding familiar sites, both real and imagined. Her work can be viewed at 500x Gallery in Dallas & La Porte Peine Centre for the Arts in Noyers sur Serine, France.

The surprise involved in experiencing a pop-up book is one that I find to be a resource and inspiration in my art work. It appears/begins as a flat object that expands the limits of the viewers expectations with each turn of the page; the object actually evolves and grows. The intense level of craftsmanship and thoughtfulness of design is a visual delight for me. David A. Carter’s One Red Dot, invites viewers to play; to find the one red dot on each page. This requires that you to move the book around, turn it upside down, and pull paper flaps in search of this element. It is a visual game that jumps into your personal space in unexpected ways that are both silly and clever.

My art making practice is centered around shrinky-dinks* {a sort of magical shrinkable plastic material} which has the ability to evolve from a thin two dimensional sheet of plastic into a three dimensional object that takes up space once heat is introduced. Like pop-up books, this material allows me to expand the boundaries of expected form and space, while exploring the intersection between painting and sculpture.

The process of making art with this material has heightened my interest in smallness and shrinking; specifically the shrinking and smallness of memory. Lately I have been thinking about what it means to really be familiar with something, someone or some place. I see our memory in a constant state of rebuilding, reassessing, rewinding, reconsidering, rewording, remaking and recovery. I find this reality, both on a macro and micro level, to be fascinating and incredibly relevant to my art making process. This allows my work to investigate conceptual ideas about time and space; specifically, complex issues of recovery and how time tends to heal, transform, and redefine the human spirit. This plastic material is put through intense stress; it contorts, shrinks, melts and folds into itself, only then to rebound and emerge as something new and stronger...I find this to be any exciting metaphor for the human condition.

*Shrinky-dinks are a nifty form of shrinkable plastic, invented by a woman {Betty} in Wisconsin, during the 1960’s. The material can be drawn on, cut, painted & then briefly cooked in the oven or melted by using a heat gun. This will produce a thicker form that is 1/3 it’s original size. Crazy fun. I once took a road trip to Wisconsin to fill my truck with Shrinky-dinks, to meet Betty & to view the Shrinky-dink Museum {which is rather small}.