By ML Ball
Photos: Courtesy of The Art Effect
Every once in a while, a young artist comes along whose talent and unique point of view seem way beyond her years. Wislianie Valdez is such an artist.
Currently a senior at Marlboro High School, Wislianie admits that when she was younger, she often got in trouble at school because all she ever did was draw. At home, it was the same story. “My mom always got angry at me because I wasn’t doing homework, I was drawing,” she said recently. “I would hide under the table and draw.”
Yet after all those hours spent drawing, guess who’s having the last laugh. Having sold two paintings recently (for tidy sums), Wislianie will attend the State University of New York at Fredonia in the fall and hopefully art school after that, all with the goal of becoming a professional artist.
With a style that is both thoroughly original and instantly recognizable, Wislianie’s paintings are more like short novels than works on canvas. Placing herself into each narrative, she stands apart from the action, alternately depicting a young woman horrified by germs, damaged by her parents’ fighting, isolated in a doorway or surrounded by revelers thoughtlessly tossing money into a fountain. Each painting tells a powerful story, creating highly original, even jarring, scenes that haunt the viewer.
So how did this emerging artist go from doodling in school to painting wacky characters like a spider lady, a cyclops and a pig?
Without hesitation, Wislianie credits The Art Effect and Director Todd Poteet for giving her a path and a purpose. “The Art Effect and Todd have given me the confidence to believe I can really be a professional artist one day,” she says. “Todd looked at my art style and embraced it. During the Senior Project last fall, he critiqued my paintings and made me make changes, which was hard to hear, but he always made them better. He is so supportive, he really cares, and he makes the students feel special.”
Without The Art Effect, Wislianie says, she would still be drawing bad cartoon stick figures.
Not only that, but the trip caused Wislianie to think deeply about her life, her goals and her passion for storytelling. “I just want to be able to tell stories for the world to see,” she says, “either making a series of animations or paintings, or a movie or comic book or novel or picture book. I want to be able to say at the end of the day that I didn’t just sit around and look at my phone all day.”
As her paintings boldly prove, there’s no chance of that.
For more information about The Art Effect, visit FeelTheArtEffect.org. █