Ancient Tradition Meets Modern Vision
by Elizabeth Michelman
Nora Valdez’s stone sculpture follows ancient traditions, but the insights found in her surrealistic visions are very much of our time. Born in Argentina, Valdez emigrated in her twenties to learn Italian in her mother’s homeland and then went to Spain on a fellowship to learn carving. After a few years assisting in carving public monuments there, she moved to the United States and settled down to raise a family.
Since then, she has lived abroad for many months at a time in Europe, China and South America, teaching and carving large-scale works. Most summers, she runs stone-carving workshops on the grounds of a marble quarry at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland, Vermont while executing her own forms. With modern power tools and her direct feel for the stone, she can sculpt a 10-foot-tall monolith out of marble, limestone or granite in a matter of weeks.
Her current summer workshops, teaching carving to Vermont high school students and placing their benches in towns throughout the state, grew out of a previous international exchange program in Ayacucho, Peru. Valdez taught stone carving to indigenous students for six successive summers, and in the weeks after her courses she obtained the mayor’s support to work with a few chosen assistants to create three monoliths and 40 benches for the city’s central plaza and boulevard. Valdez continues to travel to Latin America to organize sculpture projects and to exhibit her work.
Her art broods on a life of repeated migrations and nomadism as a permanent condition of the heart. In order to continue in her art, Valdez has frequently needed to shift between temporary living arrangements, often giving up one home or studio before finding another. She dreams and draws from her personal trials of repeatedly transitioning among many cultures.