The Electrics are a fusion of my experiences in the golden days of Hippie-Dome and Psychedelia, the magical, hallucinatory quality of indigenous Native American and Mexican ceremonial tradition, and decades spent at the computer manipulating digital imagery. These combined experiences are the basis for my “electrified” paintings and sculptures, where nature and people appear to glow with an almost otherworldly light.
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The Electrics began as “portraits” of the California Canyon and Valley Oak which surround my home in Topanga Canyon. For twelve years prior, I had been painting California landscapes in the tradition of fantastic realism, but as I experimented with the oaks they began “morphing” from realism into abstraction. The transition came about when I tried to capture the glow of an oak bathed in the light of a full moon. The painted field became dissected by multiple organic shapes and marks painted in contrary and contrasting colors. Today, I have completed several electric oaks, landscapes, and portraits inspired by this first effort where color began to move and vibrate across the canvas.
In reading the obituaries recently I have found amazing stories of individuals who have accomplished a great deal and yet are little known. These “unknown heroes” became the basis for a new series entitled Electric Heroes. In asking friends and colleagues for their “list of heroes” I found that many people remembered Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Lama. These renowned figures became the first of my Electric Heroes. My goal now is to complete commissioned head and full body Electric Portraits.
In thinking through the artistic process I believe that The Electrics are influenced by Andy Warhol’s psychedelic pop icon, the splotchy “pixels” of Chuck Close’s portraits, the cosmic 60’s pallet and minimal line of Peter Max, and Klimt’s emphatic patterning, combined with the visual repetition and coloration of Huichol yarn painting and indigenous ceremonial bead work. In revisiting these artists and their work I am reminded of how the artistic mind “gathers” information and experiences, sometimes over a very long period of time, to reaffirm these influences in the creation of new work.
Betty Ann Brown, art historian, critic, and curator
Vallejo’s beloved subjects–people and nature–come together in The Electrics, the recent paintings that are expressively energized by vivid color and vibrating form. In this series, the artist has returned to the cosmic vision search initiated in her ceremonially imbued art from the 1980s. The paintings depict the altered state of the sacred that Vallejo experienced in Native American rituals.
The Electrics are unified by a brilliant, almost psychedelic palette. From lime green to hot pink, the colors Vallejo chooses recall the intensity and artificiality of early aniline dyes. The paintings are also characterized by consistent calligraphic marks. The tight curls, narrow angles, and parallel hatches all derive from one of the artist’s important early experiences.
When Vallejo’s family lived in Spain, they traveled to the Muslim palace in Granada known as the Alhambra. The young artist was so impressed by the Arabic script used as architectural decoration that she copied it into a notebook-and then repeated the forms again and again. The calligraphy emerges in her early etchings from art school, in later drawings, and now in The Electrics.
In the early years of the new millennium, Vallejo began to focus on portraits of single oak trees. I say ‘portraits’ deliberately: these are not generic paintings of plants. Instead they are carefully detailed depictions of individual trees–the wardens and witnesses of Topanga Canyon and other celebrated sites in California, such as Joshua Tree and Boney Ridge. These are fierce and hallucinogenic portrayals of the awesome powers of nature. The growing number of Electric trees and portraits are stunningly beautiful and visionary gifts.