HEAD TO HEAD: VINCENT VALDEZ AND KEN LITTLE 

 
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Sculptor Ken Little Photo by Mark Greenberg
Sculptor Ken Little's retrospective show "Little Changes" opens at the Southwest School of Art & Craft on July 24. Vincent Valdez' paintings can be viewed by appointment at Blanco Studios.

Vincent Valdez: I've always been interested in asking you what kind of relationship you had with your students.

Ken Little: Well, there's all kind of relationships ... students are kinds of different people, you know. I have students that are more famous than I am, and then I have students that are still around kind of breaking into things, students who are good friends ... I feel lucky that I've known them.

 
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Painter Vincent ValdezPhoto by Mark Greenberg
VV: You got them right at that last last stage, before they're kicked out into the real world. My students are a lot younger, you know, they are 13, 10 years old, to about 16 years old. I sorta feel that my students somehow, in some ways, affect some of my work. Especially because some of my content revolves around the youth, the younger generation.

KL: I think that artists obviously are influenced by their friends and contemporaries, and a lot of my students are my contemporaries. So, yeah, I'm affected by them. Dan `a friend` was asking what I thought the best advice for students were, and I said, "Well, they have to understand that they have to work really hard, for not very much money." So, you've got to love it. And that's got to be the reward. And occasionally you'll have a show and make some money. And that's kinda cake.

VV: I have a real hard time ... I'm finding that what happens is I work really hard on a series of works, and then I burn out.

 
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KL: I think that's sort of the artistic metaphor: sorta like you work real hard to get up to this plateau, and then you plateau out, and kinda lose your energy and interest and momentum, and then you have to work real hard to get up to another plateau, and then you plateau out again. And that really, I think is, sort of key to an artist's survival. How many times they can redo that, how many times they can hit that bottom, or hit that plateau, and try to remake themselves again.

VV: So, what do you do when you're stuck? Sorta stay home and think about it, or do other things?

KL: Well, there's a lot ... you can drink. You can self-medicate, or you can go to movies, or something like that, you can fill up your reserves, but you can also just go in and work, you know, just do what you know how to do, and try to keep an eye open for something to change that.

VV: I think the ideas are always there, whether you want them to be or not, it's just a matter of finding a way to get them out, you know. One of the things I really want to try is three-dimensional stuff. Maybe one of the boxers, making him life-size, standing ... And I've never ever touched anything three-dimensional or attempted - I've been researching bits and pieces here and there ... I feel it coming on ... I feel like the timing is just not there ...

KL: Well, I think you'd be really good at it. It'd be interesting - it'd be great and interesting to see what you'd do with it. It's easier in painting to put somebody in the starlight, and have them be in this atmospheric place. And I think that you do that so well in your paintings that it'd be really interesting to see how you'd come down, because you put these figures in these environment, with the light and the atmosphere, and the whole energy of the place is there. And what would be really hard in sculpture would be to get that kind of stuff in.

 
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VV: I'd be too tempted to sculpt it, and then like drop a canvas and paint a background, you know.

KL: The arts are a unique field in that they run the gamut from crazy, off-the-wall people, to very serious, intense, intelligent people. The art world is big enough for kinda all that stuff to happen.

VV: I think that when you think of, even just the San Antonio community, it serves as this basis, this sort of large scale grid of what an art community is like - in the state, in the country, in the society. Because, like you said, you've got these slots, and certain individuals fill these slots. Of course you always get some of these individuals that try too hard to fit that certain stereotype of being a crazy artist, but for the most part, I think it's necessary to have each different type of artist.

KL: There's not a general understanding, or Texas, in San Antonio, that you can make a living as an artist. Or that that is your life. Like somebody says, "Well, what do you do?" And you say, "Well, I'm an artist," and they say, "Well, what do you do for a living?" "Well, that is what I do for a living." You know, if you're in NY or LA, and someone says, "What do you do," and you say "I'm an artist," they say, "Oh, cool ..." There's not the same reaction. So there really is no general understanding that art is not only a way of life, but a profession too.

VV: I think that, what makes things a little more difficult in this state, is football. You know, all that starts at an early age. I remember middle school, if you weren't into football, which I never was, obviously, you weren't one of the guys, you weren't included, if you weren't in sports. Sports before music, before art, before theater.

KL: I guess I would like to talk about one sort of stereotype. This is a tricky one to talk about, since I love this stuff, but there is a tendency on the part of curators who come to San Antonio, and want to see the work that's influenced by the Day of the Dead. It'd be like saying, "Let's go to LA, and look for all the artists' work about the car culture." Or, "Let's go to NY, and see all the artists who do abstract stuff."

VV: One issue that I see that's sort of very similar to yours is curators coming in, and immediately expecting, "Well, is your work Chicano-based? Because I'm having a Chicano show, I'm having a Mexican-American show, I'm having a Latino show, so I want to include you in that show."

KL: I don't think it's bad to do Chicano shows. But I think ... well, I think that art is a bigger thing than it is, you know, it can be categorized in all kinds of ways, but it's a bigger thing than the mediums, or races, or cultures, really, it sort of spans those things ... So do you feel like it's a disadvantage for you to be a Chicano artist?

VV: No, I don't. But I don't use it as an advantage either. I feel like I'm producing the work as honestly as I can, and I try to keep that in mind, and I just produce it to produce it. I don't try and keep a certain show in mind, or a certain trend in mind. But other people's views, I can't help ...

KL: If `your art` is good enough, it will be here forever. Then you're lucky. But if it's not good enough, it'll just go away. Throw it away, put it to the flea market, leave it in the car and then rent another one.

VV: There's always the River Walk art sale.

KL: Yeah, there's always that. •


More by Laura M. Fries

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