What Klimt, the Tate Modern, and Desert Landcapes mean to Paula Valenzuela

Chilean artist and psychologist Paula Valenzuela is interested in exploring the unconscious and human process of creativity. She describes her painting practice as “…a way for me to be open to the moment, to be fully present in my body and mind… until I get to a place with each piece that reflects a moment in time - the unexpected.”

Paula’s abstract works, available on Artfinder, are inspired by the memories, colors, and textures of the desert landscapes of her home country. Nostalgia and nature intertwine connecting Paula to her origins and her subconscious.

The resulting recurring patterns resemble microscopic and even aerial scenes.

Our interview with Paul unfolded some unexpected passions and the museum where she envisions her art.

Why or when did you decide to make work?

I have made art ever since I can remember. When I was little I used to spend hours drawing, doing mandalas and trying new combinations of colors. Growing up I had classes with very good Chilean artists, but always kept my art making as a private passion that I shared with a small community. I decided to pursue a professional career in Clinical Psychology and integrate my interests in art and mental health. During those years, I studied new techniques, tried different mediums and had an intermittent art practice.

It was after moving from Chile to Oakland in 2013, when I realized that I wanted to become a professional artist, take my art making to another level and started sharing it with a larger audience. It was something that happened naturally, that I wanted to do in this phase of my life, with less distraction. I make art because I feel the need to visually express my feelings and thoughts in order to understand them and make sense of the world around me.

What inspires you currently?

I am inspired by the colors of the desert, the textures found in nature, minerals and organic shapes. I have always been very interested in archetypal symbols and primitive marks, the relation between art and spirituality and as a healing tool. Lately I have been exploring the concept of impermanence, the relation of birth and death, in ourselves and in everything around us.

What tool or medium would you be lost without?

I like to add layers of acrylics and then remove it, leaving unexpected marks and a history of the process. My favorite tools are a trowel,  a paint trim guide, a blue paper towel and all sort of sandpapers and fine steel wool. And to add special marks and details, I use clay tools, paint scrapers and anything fun that I may find at a hardware store.

Other than your art practice, what other work do you do?

I am a Chilean clinical psychologist and public health practitioner, interested in using art as a tool for mindfulness and healing. I am currently working at an organization to help families that have premature babies, and illustrating a children’s book about attachment. I have three children that also keep me very busy.

What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you in your career? 

I did an art program last year called The Creative Visionary Path, by Nicholas Wilton, a Marin-based artist. It changed completely my approach to art making and how it is related to my life as well. Now that I’m part of a larger artist community, I learn from all the other artists, so it doesn't feel like a lonely activity anymore. This has been essential to my development as an artist as well. 

If you could be in any museum, what would it be?

The Tate Modern in London is one of my favorites. Also the Guggenheim is just amazing. I was just there for the exhibition of Hilma fa Klint and I was blown away.

Next, if you could own any piece of art, what would it be?

One of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. I have always admired his sensitivity, mastery and integration of the human experience into his art. I studied his work for many years and every time I see one if his paintings is like admiring it for the first time.

And what’s your least favorite color?

I have never liked violet.


Finally, do you have any upcoming events?

Annual National Exhibition: Black Out

October 27 through November 17

at Ashton Gallery/Art on 30th

4434 30th St. San Diego, CA 92116


All stARTup artists are vetted by an independent jury for each fair to ensure that art collectors, enthusiasts, and professionals are discovering and purchasing works from today's top independent artists in the market.

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Find Paula on Instagram: @house_inthehill

Q&A by Content Curator Mica England