Local artist gets presidential approval

As Bill Clinton prepares to leave the White House and move into his new home, he’ll be taking a piece of Reno with him.

Local artist Ray Valdez‘s painting, “dah naat’ a’ i'” (a Navajo word meaning flag), was given to the outgoing president by Loretta Avent, a former White House specialist on Indian affairs and a friend of Clinton’s. Avent is a partner in Paragon, a Las Vegas-based management consulting firm.

According to Valdez, Avent wanted a piece of Native American art to give to Clinton, so a call for art was sent out by Paragon last year. Paragon contacted art curator Patty Melton. Melton was familiar with the art of Valdez, a Native American of Aztec heritage, who uses native themes and symbols in his work. Melton asked him if he would like to create a piece, and he accepted.

Valdez said he heard Clinton likes the acrylic on canvas piece and will display it in the living room of his new home. The painting depicts the stripes of the American flag. A hole cut in the middle of the flag focuses on a representation of Valdez’s staff and eagle feathers, which he uses in prayer. The background reveals a scene of California’s Mono Lake, an important place for Mono Lake Paiutes.

“The flag represents the natural beauty and land … our freedom, not political hoopla,” Valdez explained.

Valdez said that he’s honored that Clinton owns his painting. He also has been told the president would like him to frame his biography on the piece.

“I think it’s in the appropriate hands, because other people will see [the painting],” he said. “Clinton has been somewhat supportive of native people.”

Valdez said many local people, from businesspeople to educators, have bought his art. One person, whom Valdez declined to name, bought a painting to give to a friend, comedian Bill Cosby.

“It’s an honor for anyone to own my art, print or original,” he said.

Valdez regularly shows at Gene Speck’s Silver State Gallery, as well as other galleries across the West. He has taught art at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Wittenberg Hall and Natchez Elementary School. He also teaches a class at Sierra Arts and participated in the center’s Youth Artworks program last year, helping at-risk youths paint a mural at the Northeast Community Center on Valley Road and on a water tank on East Seventh Street and North McCarran Boulevard. He shares an artist’s studio with artist David Dory.

To see some of Valdez’s paintings, including “dah naat’ a’ i,” visit www.galleryrow.com and its sister Web site, www.artistrow.com.

Theater group to reschedule show

Black Curtains Theatrical Productions cancelled their Jan. 14 debut show, Stage Fright Left, because of illness and weather, according to artistic director Christopher Chen.

Chen said the play will be rescheduled later this season. He said the next play on the list, Sarasponda, will go on as planned for February. The play will be performed Feb. 16, 18, 24-25 and March 3-4 at the McKinley Arts Center, 925 Riverside Drive.

For tickets and other information, call 827-5234.