Pushing Boundaries

Celebrated mural painter still calls Sacramento home

By Jessica Laskey
March 2020

When I catch up with artist Bryan Valenzuela on the phone, he asks if it’s OK that he’s talking to me on a headset while he paints. In San Francisco. On the side of a building. Three stories up.

Valenzuela is hard at work on a 48-foot mural in the courtyard of a renovated hotel. What should have taken only a couple of weeks is taking far longer due to unseasonal rains that halt his progress for days at a time. Valenzuela says he doesn’t mind the pauses, but he does worry that he has other projects to attend to and, more importantly, “the faster I get it done, the sooner I can see my dog.”

“After that commission, I was swept out to sea on a current I didn’t expect,” Valenzuela says. “Golden 1 made it so I could be an artist full-time. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to bounce from one project to another, but it’s definitely been a whirlwind.”

Since Golden 1, Valenzuela has completed projects all over California—including “Kumbaya Moment” for Sacramento’s Wide Open Walls mural festival in 2017—as well as in Chicago, New York, New Orleans and Brooklyn. But no matter where he travels, he’s always happy to come home.

“Sacramento has been really good to me,” Valenzuela says. “It’s a good home base. It’s like a small town that’s also a city—a real hidden gem. It has an amazing, supportive, talented art community and a great pace of life. When you go to other cities like New York, you get off the subway and there’s this ‘whoosh’ of activity. I like the burst of energy, but it’s nice to have a break when I come back.”

That break will probably be short-lived if the current demand for his talents is any indication. After completing the mural in San Francisco, Valenzuela is off to Malibu for another project, then back to Sacramento for a commission with the 1810 Gallery, followed by a solo show at Beatnik Studios in April and potentially another mural for Wide Open Walls.

The Orange County native isn’t complaining about the work­—in fact, he’s immensely grateful that he’s gotten to a point in his career where all he does is make art. Although, painting wasn’t his first love—he started as a writer, which isn’t surprising when you consider how much text is featured in his artwork.

Valenzuela has become known for his unique and utterly arresting style that involves, as he puts it, “the atomization of the figure by carving out shape and light with handwritten text. Though virtually unnoticeable from afar, once the viewer steps closer to each work, they are engulfed in a barrage of words intermingled with other mixed media elements, such as needle and thread, acrylic paint and collage.”

After going to high school in the foothills, Valenzuela attended Sacramento State, where he was “lured” into the art department. He graduated in 2003 with his bachelor’s degree in art studio, and has worked and exhibited steadily since then.

But the Boulevard Park resident says the moment his career really took off was when he was commissioned by the city of Sacramento and Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission to create the public art installation “Multitudes Converge” at the newly completed Golden 1 Center in 2016. Valenzuela’s hanging sculpture is made up of approximately 400 blown-glass spheres in shades of blue and turquoise with hints of gold.

When he has time in between, he’s composing, performing, recording and touring with the band Exquisite Corps—music is another one of his creative outlets—or walking his dog to his favorite Midtown haunts. Life is a whirlwind right now to be sure, but Valenzuela wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I keep challenging myself to do more and more ambitious work and keep pushing the boundaries,” Valenzuela says. “I keep challenging myself to do better.”

For more information, visit bryanvalenzuela.com.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.


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