The final Feature on the 2020-2021 NXTHVN cohort follows artist Vincent Valdez as he discusses the creation of his monumental painting Just A Dream (In America), 2021. This grisaille painting, nearly eight feet tall, depicts an exhausted Chicano boxer sitting in the corner of a ring flanked by a coach and sponsor, both just out of view—a metaphor exposing the hierarchies of American society. Immaculately painted with flurries of active brushstrokes full of dimension—details of a pinky ring catching the light, a lit cigarette’s smoke dissipating into the air, a fading scar denting the left shin bone—Valdez creates a character who sits between various cruxes of identity: American and Mexican; the poor challenger and the wealthy elite.
The work is named after a 1958 song by Jimmy Clanton. The lyrics, “I know that we could never last / We just can't seem to in the past / Just a dream I dream in vain / With you I'd only live in pain,” lament a lost lover, but Valdez reinterprets the song as an ode to America.