Valdez was born in Los Angeles in 1951, attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, and earned her BFA from the Otis/Parsons School of Art and Design. A participant in the Chicano and Chicana moratorium and other movement actions, Valdez met her collaborators in Asco in the 1970s. Because she was the only woman in Asco, Valdez’s participation was both pivotal and seemingly unrecognized. Asco has been described in myriad writings through the thoughts, photographs, and interviews of its male members, and Valdez has often been left out of that history. Yet Valdez’s voice is pivotal as one gazes at the snapshots, videos, and documents of Asco’s exploits. It is clear that Valdez was not a mere model for the artistic vision of her male partners but a crucial part of Asco’s influential role as an early performance and Chicano and Chicana art group.
Perhaps the most famous Asco performance piece from that period is Instant Mural (1974), which features Valdez taped to a wall in East Los Angeles. In this commentary on the proliferation of murals in that community at the time, Asco sought to question the paradigms of Chicano and Chicana art as it had other social norms through its various projects. By 1975 Asco had stopped functioning as an active group, and its members established separate careers but continued to collaborate occasionally.
Valdez’s work from her days at Asco to her rise as an influential painter was largely confined to photographs, photocollages, serigraphs, costume designs, installations, and performances. Influenced by music, fashion, and the community around her, she concentrated on serigraphs and on photocollage portraits of friends.
Her 1988 series of paintings established Valdez’s singular view of the world. Her bold and strong pallet accentuated the swirling chairs, rugs, forks, and tables that populate many of her canvases. They appear to indicate the constant juggling of one’s life in a complex and topsy-turvy Los Angeles.