Sunday, September 4, 2011

Daniel Raven Valdes, 1945-2011

Portrait of Daniel Raven Valdes, Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 2005
Copyright © 2005, Lori V. M. Montoya

Bad news travels fast, but the saddest news takes its time.  I learned last night that the acclaimed American Indian artist Daniel Raven Valdes, died of a brain aneurysm. He was 65.

I first met Daniel in 2005 when fellow photographer Lori Montoya interviewed and photographed him for an article I was writing on how the American Indian and native Spanish populations were being systematically pushed out of Santa Fe's old city through gentrification.

What most struck me about Daniel was that he exuded an inner confidence and graciousness one seldom encounters amongst artists--particularly Santa Fe artists.  But Daniel was a real Santa Fe artist, not just a transplant who moved into the local art scene and pushed out the local artists.  Father Sun-Mother Earth, his gallery, planted its roots way back in 1976, and for over thirty years, Daniel was adamant about remaining the "last man standing."  He wasn't a bitter individual, just someone who knew his worth.  He was a fixture of the downtown scene for friends of his, like Lori, and another fellow artist, Cruz Eagleheart, and with his characteristic modesty, likened his gallery to the Woolworth's lunch counter, always making his art accessible to anyone who admired it, whether well-heeled, or on a student budget.

Daniel's work was gorgeous, but his best work--painstakingly done on scratchboard--had to be experienced in person, to appreciate its intricacy and texture.  He possessed an eye for color that was in keeping with the tradition of so many great New Mexican painters, not of the Georgia O'Keefe school, but in comradeship with the airbrush wielding artisans, waxing poetic over lowriding '63 Impalas in Española body shops.

Mother Wolf, Copyright © 1990 by Daniel Raven Valdes

In honor of Daniel's memory, there will be a gathering at Embudo Station at 1 p.m.,  Sunday, September 18th, in Santa Fe.

Daniel Raven Valdes at his gallery at 124 Galisteo
Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 2005
Photograph by Robert Jones