Wilfredo Valladares Lara was born in Trujillo Colon, Honduras, Central America, it was here in the 90s when he began his career as an artist and educator. Shortly thereafter he migrated to the United States seeking political asylum. He went on to attend Montgomery Community College and Maryland Institute College of Art where he obtained his B.F.A. Valladares earned his M.F.A. at the University of Maryland, where he also did an internship at the David C. Driskell Center. I was working at my former studio on the Artswalk and on a typical Saturday the artists are all there working, while simultaneously the Saturday famer’s market was in full force. I went over to the American Poetry Museum; whose studio was also there; and there was Wilfredo making a mold for a face masks using a model. Little did I know what a treat I was in store for me as I got to know him, visit his studio, and eventually collaborate with him on some of my work. Professor Valladares is currently the Visual Arts Academic Chair and Coordinator of Sculpture at Anne Arundel Community College.
In 1997 he had his first international sculpture show in Milan, Italy, where he had the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse community of artists and curators. Wilfredo’s most notable installations “Ofrenda al Dios del Maiz” explored Mayan mythology. One of his most notable public art installations is entitled, “Journey Anacostia”, located in the historic neighborhood in Washington, D. C. “Journey Anacostia’ speaks to the inter relatedness of culture.
Valladares inspiration came directly from his mother. He talked about growing up in Honduras; where he studied pedagogy and became a teacher. In Honduras people made things that they did not have. This is how he became adapted to the process of making, which later converted into the beautiful sculptures and installations that he now creates.
Noguchi has been a constant influence and inspiration for Wilfredo’s work. Isamu Noguchi was an American artist and landscape architect whose known for his sculpture and public artworks, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces, some of which are still manufactured and sold. Wilfredo not only identified with Noguchi’s work; but also, equally identifies with his struggle being an artist of color in the United States. Wilfredo and Noguchi story resonates with many artists of color in the United States.
Our conversation returned to an old subject we have discussed over the past few years. It is the issue of psychologically wearing a mask. What we are addressing is the reality that black and brown people wear a mask to survive in this society. It is the ability of folks of color to do these invisible masks to survive. Many times, it has an indelible effect on one’s identity. Valladares addresses this issue in his unmasked series. In this body of work, he creates facial masks of real people with real narratives. In this work he sculps the facial resemblance of the model with representational likeness; however, within the cavity of the sculpture he documents their life journey via mapping with marks and symbols that describe their journey.
Valladares’ work is brutally honest. It is the bearing of truth of one’s soul. Upon viewing it one is immediately swept within the energy of his message and his song. If you do not know him as an artist and his work, you need to. His total nuclear family are artists, his wife Venus is from Chicago and is making her mark in D.C. in the arts in the corporate world; while his only daughter Zoe is making her own moves. Zoe has exhibited at the Hirshon Museum before she even graduated from high school. I am honored to know each and every one of them, both collectively as a family and individually.
For more information on Wilfredo’s work, visit his website at: https://wilfredovalladares.com/