Shalene Valenzuela was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She received a BA in Art Practice at the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA in Ceramics from California College of Arts and Crafts. In 2007, she moved from her longtime home of Oakland, CA to participate in a long-term residency at The Clay Studio of Missoula. She currently maintains a studio in the historic Brunswick Building and serves as the executive director at The Clay Studio of Missoula.
Shalene has participated in short term artist residencies at the Archie Bray Foundation (2006), Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts (2004, 2011), and the LH Project (2016). She has taught a variety of classes at Flathead Valley Community College, University of Montana, Oregon College of Art and Craft, The Clay Studio of Missoula, Missoula Art Museum, Richmond Art Center, ASUC Studios at UC Berkeley, and CCA Extended Education. Shalene has been a guest artist and speaker at a number of art centers, colleges, and universities. Her work has been featured in several group and solo exhibitions nationally and is in a number of private and public collections.
My ceramic sculptures reflect upon a variety of issues with a thoughtful, yet humorous and ironic tone. I reproduce everyday common objects primarily through slipcasting, and illustrate the surfaces with handpainted imagery. The narratives I create reference fairytales, urban mythologies, consumer culture, societal expectations, etiquette, politics, and coming-of-age issues. Stylistically, my imagery is pulled from somewhat dated sources that represent an idealized time in society and advertising. Beneath the shiny veneer of these relics hides a complex and sometimes contradicting truth of what things seem to appear as upon first glance.
My works are essentially a form of trompe l’oeil with a twist. In using clay to reinvent everyday objects, I play with the notion that things are not what they initially seem to be. The object being referenced remains recognizable while the illustrations are imperative in creating the narratives that weave various dialogues and statements within and about the physical object.
Exploring issues focusing on women is important to me for many reasons, most notably in examining my own personal history and how I evolved into who I am today. However, my investigations speak to a greater issue of how women in general perceive themselves and are seen in society, historically and today. My exploration of self perception and expectations address how assumptions of character based on societal biases leads to a precarious and unbalanced state of humankind.