UO Interviews: Lauren Lim + Wendy Valdez

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This week we are getting ready to launch Subject Sensitive Pop-Up - a group art exhibition curated by Lauren Lim celebrating local artists of color featuring: Wendy Valdez, Renee Villasenor and Shirin Towfiq. Here we visited Lauren + Wendy and chatted about the upcoming event. Scroll on to read more!

Check out more details on the Subject Sensitive Pop-Up here!

Hi There, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do! 

L - My name is Lauren and I’m an illustrator and curator based out of Los Angeles. I organize the San Fernando Valley Art Book as a way to do my part in fostering an artistic community and identity for my community. In my projects, I work to provide spaces that prioritize the narratives of women and/or people of color. I also make zines and have been really into printmaking - I’m obsessed with risograph and owning my own machine is a dream I’m working towards manifesting!  
 
I grew up and currently live in The Valley. I moved back roughly a year ago from Berlin, before that I lived in San Francisco and attended UC Berkeley where I earned a B.A. degree in sociology. Each morning, cucumber toast in hand, I browse Craigslist missed connections, the free sections, and available studio space. 
 
W - Hi, My name is Wendy. I am a performance artist and graphic artist. For the past three years I have been working under the moniker 'WSV' producing zines for my art studio--VENUSGURLS. So this publication primarily focuses on topics such as identity, diaspora, ethnological storytelling and documenting the experiences of being a POC living in America. I have had performances / installations in the past such as '21 Days, 2015', 'venUS, 2016' and '12 TRASH BAGS, 2016' which all have a similar interactive approach to my audience, inviting the viewer to communicate with the me, my body--through the art work.  
 
How did you end up working together to co- curate this pop-up? 
 
L - Wendy and I met last year while slinging luxury skin care - we bonded over a shared love for creating art and zines. During a work meeting, Wendy mentioned her doing stick-and-poke tattoos (something that I had been dreaming about getting forever). She showed me her Sailor Moon flash sheet and at that moment I knew that we were going to be friends. I still have yet to get one from her though!  
 
Wendy and I are always involved with each other’s projects. She was in a show I curated last year! It took place after dark, on the roof of the 99c Store in Van Nuys. Titled: Who Are They? The collection explored themes of gender and identity. It felt natural to work together on another project challenging interwoven systems of oppression. 
 
How did Subject Sensitive come to life? 
 
L - Subject Sensitive is a reunion of artists from Who Are They? Wendy, Shirin, and Renee are all close friends I’ve collaborated with in the past. In this show, common thread is continually apparent - their art holds and breathes perspectives and experiences born out of navigating as women or non-gender conforming (respectively) people of color. Given the implications of the current administration, we were stirred into building a platform with which to spark an urgency for social justice and societal change. 
 
Where did you gain your inspiration from for the show? 
 
W- It's complicated. When Mike Brown was murdered, there was this uproar online...every social media platform was showing different videos--so many videos of different black unarmed men being shot or being fatally injured by white police officers. It set something off in my brain, I cried a lot and became very afraid. I was living in a house that most of the people living there were incredibly religious, right wing and could not understand the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag or the sudden concern with black lives. Then so much happened after that and was so continuously recorded--which I am grateful for...if there is one thing the internet age has to offer--it is that. Complete and absolute accountability through monitoring and film. But its not so true, even with film and recordings and histories of violent racism being perpetuated by cops--no one in power wants to do anything about it. The marginalized get condemned and punished yet again for something that the privileged has placed upon them since colonial rule. After hearing so much anguish and heartache from my friends and surprisingly--strangers...it became a recurring topic in my head. With or without social media being an influence. It made me wonder, have we influenced social media to create change or has it influenced us to remove ourselves from the pain and deactivate our own actions in resistance? so yeah. that. 
  
What does it mean to you to be an activist in your community? 
 
W - Hm, that is a good question. I think always provoking curiosity within one's self is important. I think there's certain individuals that have the privilege to protest louder and in a multitude of ways and there are some of us that are risking too much by engaging in that type of activism. I think calling your local city council and persons in governing positions by letting them be aware of your presence, your existence and your point of view is a great way of being safe all the while engaging on a social level. I think going to live protests and taking selfies during these times can be a bit desensitizing. Which kind of gives a gentle nod to my whole point and concept of my show. it's gross sometimes--to be laughing and smiling when people are dying for these rights, these protests. I don't know, that is a strong statement but its genuinely how I feel. I think on a local level and positioning yourself in power rather than being a body in a crowd is more effective because if the people on the other side don't see or hear you, then they don't understand you or why you are doing it. Creating petitions is fun, easy and a great way to find out how many people stand in solidarity but numbers wise--it doesn't really produce results on a city or state level. I think facilitating spaces that garner attention for your community is a solid way to go. 
 
Do you have any suggestions on how to get involved for someone who may not be as aware? 

L - I think the very first step to being an activist and ally is being honest with yourself when assessing what you do not know. The next step is putting in the effort to seek resources to educate yourself with - and not expecting people to act as those resources. Rather than assuming marginalized communities will educate you on their oppression: do your research, there’s a lot of information on Google. Accept that you will never know everything but use that as motivation to continually learn - about the perspectives of those like and unlike you! Acknowledge when you make a mistake, apologize, and commit to do better next time. Identify a realistic way you can contribute to the world then follow through. Resist the temptation to view yourself as a “savior” or “good person” for doing so. Have difficult conversations when they’re needed and hold your community accountable.  
 
What do you hope for people to take away from the discussion panel? 

W - I hope that others will become more analytical of our current political climate. Coming from immigrant parents of color who voted for Trump, rage is an easy & quick way to disengage someone who is ill-informed or desperate or simply lacks compassion from a series of experiences that shape their belief system. I want to change that. I want people to search for ways to start political reform, to think about the future instead of now and in the moment...I want people to start utilizing white spaces--to feel comfortable and safe in these spaces, enough to discuss ways to end state sponsored violence, dismantle I.C.E and on a national level: change the way people think and act. Also I really like protest acts such as throwing bags of sugar on setting concrete...I read that somewhere that it ruins freshly mixed concrete...perfect for someone building a problematic wall, some would say. I guess bottom line, I want people to leave knowing how to resist creatively and consciously.  
 
If there was one piece of advice you can give – what would it be? 

W - Never stop. Period. Believe in yourself, because you are all you have when no one else believes in you. DON'T LISTEN TO ANYBODY THAT TELLS YOU THAT YOU CAN'T DO SOMETHING. 
 
L - Don’t doubt your ability to teach yourself how to do what you want to do - you got this.

Photography by Iris Ray

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