Best Painting to Live Music (2007)

Kiki Valdes

Imagine having to perform your job in the middle of a party — music blasting, people talking and dancing, buzzed eyes focused on you. That's exactly what artist Kiki Valdes does — he paints live to music at events, setting his brush strokes to the tempo. "He uses the energy from the event around him and focuses it on the canvas," says Luis André Gazitua, president of Next in Line, a local networking organization for young professionals, at whose events Valdes has appeared. "He's a firecracker; he just goes for it." The young Cuban-American artist has painted at the Biltmore Hotel alongside Latin Grammy-nominated Locos Por Juana, at Princeton University for the Princeton and Harvard Cuba Conference, and at the B.E.D. club/restaurants in Miami and New York. His style taps into Thirties and Forties avant-garde Cuban art. "There's passion in the person and artwork. When he paints, it's like a fire," adds Gazitua, who owns one of Valdes's "Medusa" paintings, along with two others by the artist. Inspiration for the Medusa comes from a girl Valdes knows. "She has a strong stare. You can't look at her too long," the artist says. "She's like Medusa. When you go into the cave, she looks pretty from the distance, but as you get closer, she's deceiving." Valdes, who is actually good friends with his muse, is all about the transformation of images. When he paints live, he starts with one image, which evolves into something else as the music bumps and the evening progresses. Just when you really come to love the image on the canvas, Valdes messes with you, splashing color on it and starting over. The experience is all-consuming for both him and the viewer. "With him," says Gazitua, "it's hard to separate artwork from the person."


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