Daniela Holban: Manifesting Futures – The Artistry of Valincy-Jean Patelli

In the bustling heart of Brooklyn, a vibrant force in the art scene emerges in the form of Valincy-Jean Patelli, a self-taught Black Non-binary artist whose multidimensional creations bridge ancestral stories with contemporary cultural narratives. Nestled in the intersectionality of Queer and Black American experiences, Patelli's work challenges and redefines artistic norms through their distinctive mixed-media artworks and sculptures.

Elevating Voices, Shaping Narratives

As a curator, choosing an artist to spotlight is a delicate process, a dance between intuition and artistic resonance. In the case of Valincy-Jean Patelli, the decision was clear—a choice rooted in the profound ability to merge heritage, identity, and creativity into a visually complex and evocative tapestry. I first encountered Valincy-Jean Patelli in 2019 during an Open Studio Weekend, and I have since closely followed their artistic journey. Their adept use of materials, nuanced color palette, and mastery of texture captivated me. Their works, often resembling portals, possess an unparalleled ability to encapsulate and emanate vibrant energy. 

Patelli’s journey as an artist began a decade ago, marked by a deliberate choice to embrace desire and risk. Growing up in a family where creative expression was a love language, Patelli’s artistic roots run deep. The influences of a musician/composer father and exposure to works by renowned Black artists shaped their unique artistic language – one they now refer to as “Artifacts and Heirlooms”.

In an interview with the artist, Patelli recounts their upbringing in the early ’90s NYC, where the streets, especially in the Black and Brown Queer communities, served as an informative canvas for their identity. The blend of familial lessons and experiences from their chosen family laid the foundation for Patelli’s exploration of the intersectional narrative of Queer Blackness.

Their point of departure starts in the realm of non-traditional mediums, echoing influences from artists like Mark Bradford and Phyllida Barlow. Through an exploration of mixed media abstractions and three-dimensional textures, the artworks delve into the historical, theoretical, and cosmological dimensions of Yoruba cultural references from the African diaspora. The artist’s unconventional approach transforms discarded objects into poignant Artifacts and Heirlooms, which in turn becomes a narrative tool to address the marginalization of Queer and Black American culture. Plaster, wood, burlap, pistachio shells, paper punch holes, sand, and gold converge in a diverse range of works, from intimate 3-inch sculptures to expansive 9-foot wall hanging installations. The work is a testament to the artist’s nonlinear process, fostering a profound dialogue between spirituality and queer subculture.

To this day I vividly remember encountering the Egbe Series for the first time, back in 2019. The encounter evoked a profound connection with these totems, their subtle yet compelling power beckoning me into a space in-between. The Egbe is a spiritual companion symbolizing a connection between heaven and earth. Androgynous and versatile, textured by barnacles, it serves as a guide in dreams, meditation, and healing. Crafted from plaster and hole-punched paper, its textured surface resonates with Olókun, the ocean’s owner. 

Valincy-Jean Patelli, Egbeji Ologun, 2021, Goldleaf with Punched Paper & Hydrocal, 3.15 x 1.77 x 0.79 inches. Photo: Frederic Fasano.

Valincy-Jean’s unwavering dedication to their artistry stood evident with their recent temporary move to Phoenix, Arizona. This self-directed residency took place in a mailing and bindery factory, where they sourced punched paper, as part of their preparations for the inaugural solo exhibition, which opened on September 9, 2023. This challenging period became a creative crucible, transforming the factory into a space for the birth of a new body of work. Within this unconventional artistic milieu, Patelli’s creative ethos thrived, showcasing the artist’s adaptability and determination. This setting catalyzed the genesis of expansive spatial works such as “Obatala/Jupiter”, “Olokun/Neptune”, and “I create as I speak (abracadabra I & II)”, marking a transformative juncture in Patelli’s artistic journey.

Valincy-Jean Patelli, Obatala/Jupiter, 2023, Brass bells, thread, plaster, and punched paper on burlap cloth, 45 x 96 inches. Courtesy of UNREPD.

Valincy-Jean Patelli, I create as I speak (abracadabra I & II), 2023, Gold leaf, punched paper on masonite, 36 x 84 inches. Courtesy of UNREPD.

Valincy-Jean Patelli, Olokun/Neptune, 2023, Punched paper, plaster on burlap cloth, 45 x 75 inches. Courtesy of UNREPD. 

I Will Tell You the Future

Central to this spotlight is Patelli’s debut solo show, “I Will Tell You the Future,” hosted by UNREPD in Los Angeles in late 2023. Acting as a visual and sonic portal, the exhibition bridged the celestial and physical realms, inviting viewers to navigate ritual, spirituality, and manifestation through diverse mixed-media works.

Patelli curated and cultivated a sacred space that celebrated desires beyond mere survival, rooted in the nuances of the non-binary. “I Will Tell You the Future” envisioned a community forged as an act of liberation, skillfully inverting the pyramid of priorities to encourage fluidity in all directions. Each sculpture, a vessel of its own language, resonated with heightened energy, storing fragments of memory akin to rhythmic, repetitive prayers.

At the core of the exhibition lay the rich cosmology of the Yoruba people, interpreted and embraced by queer BIPOC individuals throughout the United States and the diaspora. By intertwining spirituality with Orishas, the exhibition provided a profound way for those who have lost traditional communities to discover expansive belief systems inclusive of any identity.

Patelli’s textile sculptures encapsulate the energy of two Orishas :Obatalá/Jupiter, the father of creation, the sky and purity and Olókun/Neptune, ruler of the depths of the ocean. The sculptures symbolize the interconnected nature of Orishas, lacking a fixed front or back to represent their holistic essence. Crafted from reclaimed punched paper, it creates a textured landscape reminiscent of crustaceans, while hydrocal on burlap forms a foundational canvas, embodying the ethos of creating from nothing. Suspended from the ceiling by wooden dowels, positioned just above the floor, the sculpture invited viewers to engage with its ethereal presence. The accompanying sound presentation, resonating through vibration, bridged the corporeal and the spiritual, offering an immersive experience beyond the constraints of the human body or Western religious norms.

“I Will Tell You the Future” presented a journey through the profound and sacred dimensions of spiritual practices that reference Yoruba cosmology and showcased Patelli’s artistic prowess. The exhibition masterfully blurred the lines between the tangible and the transcendent, leaving an indelible mark on those who stepped into its ethereal embrace.

In the artistic odyssey of Valincy-Jean Patelli, I see not just an artist but a storyteller. Their work goes beyond pushing artistic boundaries; it actively contributes to shaping the narratives that will define the landscape of tomorrow.

Exhibition View, “I Will Tell You the Future,” hosted by UNREPD, Los Angeles, September 2023.

Patelli’s debut solo exhibition, I Will Tell You the Future, at The Grand, downtown Los Angeles (2023). They are currently exhibiting works at The Every Woman Biennial in New York City and Los Angeles, CA, with select works on display at Unrepd Gallery. Patelli has participated in several group shows at Collective Centro de Cultural Laura Alvin, “Por um Teto Todo Nosso (For a Roof of Our Own) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, NOoSPHERE Arts’ Repopulations: New Horizons, Brooklyn, NY, The Sheen Center: Little Rock 9: 1957 and a site-specific installation at Kunsthof, Berlin, Germany.

Patelli was a mentor at TAC AIR cycle 14 (2023) in Brooklyn, NY. Residencies include Patio Taller Residency in Puerto Rico (2014), a self-directed residency in Berlin, Germany (2015-2016), and Pheonix, Arizona (2023).

Patelli has been featured in the New York Times. LA Times, Architecture Digest, and Canvas Rebel Magazine.

To know more about Valincy-Jean Patelli please check: https://valincyjeanpatelli.com/ @vjpatelli_studio. To contact the artist: vjpatelli@gmail.com

Valincy-Jean Patelli in their studio. Photo: Samantha Allen.

Daniela Holban is a Romanian curator, cultural strategist, and nonprofit executive, dedicated to public programming, artist development, site-specific art projects, and building action-driven communities. Her curatorial practice explores themes of self-reflection, identity, multipolarity, and sustainability.

Daniela’s exhibition series, REPOPULATIONS (2019 & 2022), received recognition and support through the Brooklyn Arts Council Community Arts Grant. She has been actively involved in organizing and leading the We Are Nature Series, a summer art program at NOoSPHERE Arts that promotes systems thinking and environmental awareness. Additionally, she oversees the Broadway Stages @ Kingsland Wildflowers Residency Award, curating and producing an annual site-specific art installation.

Recognized as one of Brooklyn’s 50 Most Fascinating People of 2023 by Brooklyn Magazine, Daniela currently holds the position of Deputy Director at NOoSPHERE Arts. She has served as a Mentor for NEW INC: an incubator for people working at the intersection of art, design, and technology since September 2022. She has previously worked with institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MANA Contemporary, {CTS} Creative Thriftshop, William Bennet Gallery, The Ear Classical, and The Fashion and Textile Museum in London. Her extensive network includes partnerships with organizations like The High Line, NADA, NARS, Residency Unlimited, CalArts, BRIC, The Brooklyn Rail, ILAP, CreateART, gener8tor Art, Brooklyn Arts Council, Paradice Palase, Broadway Stages, Newtown Creek Alliance, Kingsland Wildflowers, Showfields, and Moleskine.

Daniela was the co-founder of ARTFARE INC. (2019-2023), where she served as Senior Curator. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

To contact Daniela: daniela.holban@gmail.com // https://danielaholban.com/ /@daniela_holban

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