Studio Visit with Sandra Mack-Valencia

7.25.18; 7:00 PM

By Alexandra Seneca

Fresh off a relaxing residency upstate, artist Sandra Mack-Valencia is back in her Long Island City studio, hard at work. The Colombian native has been living in New York and building her oeuvre for the past eighteen years. Having recently decided to pursue her artwork full time, Sandra is truly living what she described as the best time in her life.

Her work can best be described as magical realism, greatly influenced by the fantastical writings of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez.  Perhaps her painting Insomnia best illustrates that style. The work features an idyllic scene of green, rolling hills covered with little sheep. Upon closer inspection, the viewer realizes that the hills make up the swell of a red-haired woman’s dress. The figure takes “counting sheep” to the next level as she raises a sheep-filled hand to her open mouth while grabbing another fluffy animal off of the meadow with her other hand.  

The artist utilizes a variety of media: paint, ink, stamps, and transfer printing to name a few. While she generally employs a tight brushstroke in much of the work we saw, she juxtaposes this realism and attention to detail with large swathes of loose strokes. The above work, In Between, demonstrates this contrasting style. 

Sandra reflects on her homeland throughout her work. Upon her first visit back to Medellín, she remembers first realizing  the absence of mountains in New York City. In her hometown, she had taken the Andes mountains for granted- they were an aspect of her surroundings that she saw every day. When Sandra returned to the city, she found a greater appreciation for the nature she grew up among and longed for the mountains and open sky. In New York, she told us, you have to look up in order to see the sky while in Medellín, you just look out.  

Thus, she incorporates the majestic mountains of the Andes into her work, combining natural elements with other themes. One such subject matter she frequents is the carnival or fair. When Sandra first came to New York, she was inspired by the magical nature of Coney Island. In Dreamland, for instance, Sandra combines these two fantastic elements: rolling mountains in the upper half of the work and carousel elements in the foreground. She effectively cuts the work in half diagonally by stenciling in a tile pattern that evokes a very Latin American feel- another nod to her roots. The pattern tilts in the opposite direction of the mountain swells, balancing out the top-heavy work. In the lower half of the work, three women ride objects reminiscent of a carousel with the poles disappearing upward into the mountain range.

Sandra’s work transports the viewer into a dreamland, away from our daily stressful lives. She tries to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. While the majority of her works feature these fantasy subjects mentioned above, she has executed several political works throughout her career. Artists have greatly been influenced by current events throughout history, and Sandra is no different. However, her more political works are not overt, rather they contain political undertones.

Sandra has exhibited throughout New York, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, and even abroad in Italy. Currently, she is working on a series for an upcoming exhibition in San Antonio centering around chandeliers. Her depiction of the lighting fixtures vary with some works more abstract than others and some focusing solely on the chandelier while others feature the element incorporated into a scene. We are eagerly awaiting the finished series! You can follow the artist on Instagram at @sandramackval

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