Valley Girl Redefined
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
January 26 - March 22, 2019
Curated in partnership with 11:11 A Creative Collective
The “valley girl,” like the Valley itself, cannot be contained in a stereotype. However, it can be argued that any Valley Girl’s sense of self has been informed by the cinematic ideal imposed on them. In fact, with little effort one can see that the “valley girl” has left an indelible mark on the global identity of womanhood while only representing a small minority. This exhibition endeavors to look past the myopic lens of popular culture that created the “valley girl” and delve into the true identities and diversity of Women in the Valley through the contemporary artwork they produce.
Valley Girl Redefined Newsstand and Public Art Installation
Valley Girl Redefined included a Pop Up ZINE Newsstand curated by San Fernando Valley Zine Fest featuring over 30 zines with Valley-centric, female-centric and intersectional content and an ongoing, growing art installation encouraging public participation featuring the images and narratives of Valley Girls.
Erin Stone (artist and curator)
My dad tells me stories of what it was like growing up in Pacoima. He talks about being 4 or 5 years old and his grandfather handing him a nickel to run across to the market and grab a paper. Back then, the San Fernando Valley was wide open spaces, orange groves, and brand new neighborhoods without personalities.
As the decades went on, The Valley’s identity was just as hazy as LA’s skyline in the 90s. Was it only middle class white people of privilege? Was it less sophisticated than its over the hill counter-parts? A stigma had fallen upon the 818 and by the 1980s, that stigma was sprinkled with pop culture and the runoff of Hollywood. The Zappafied “ditz with a credit card” became part of our identity whether we welcomed it or not and this stereotype made a mark on the global identity of womanhood. The Valley was represented on the monopoly board by a pink plastic mall and “like, for sure” became our cliche. Although pieces of that stereotype were true for some, more Valley women did not identify with that narrative. The question this exhibition asks is, “What about everyone else?”
… What kind of Valley Girl was I to become? A nice Jewish girl from a good family with a bright future? A mall-rat who cared about popularity, the brands I wore and car I drove? I rebelled against these formulas of what was expected of me and was placed into another stereotype: the defiant trouble maker who was going nowhere fast. In my essence, I was none of these things. Just like the San Fernando Valley, it wasn’t until I grew a bit older that I shook the expectations or prescriptions placed upon me and was able to be exactly who I am.
The artwork featured in Valley Girl Redefined is a representation of the identity of 23 Valley Women. Whether those women were born or raised in the SFV or made this their home and subject later in life, the women and artwork in this exhibit illuminates a narrative that fits outside of the mold. This exhibit creates a composite of a true Valley Girl, strengthening the connection between the geography that nurtures us and the women that we are. This exhibit is an extension of a women’s movement that proudly reestablishes our collective identity in our own words, in our own way. Our stories won' t be told through a song or a blip in time, but through our own voices and creativity. The Valley has been misunderstood. And in the same way that I grew out of my awkward search for identity and into myself, the Valley
has too. In all our eccentricities, diversity, beauty and grit, we, like the valley, are so much more than our stereotypes. This is not an exhibit that is curated based on historical accuracy, but as a love letter to ourselves and this place that we've called home.
Much of my work deals with gender, trauma, and reclaiming agency over a fraught childhood. To me, the valley is personal. It is where all of the major moments (for better or for worse) of my youth took place. The valley is where my narrative is located, and ultimately
therefore the underlying central focus of my practice. There is a specific language to the iconography of growing up in the SFV. On any given weekend, children’s birthday parties- complete with charmingly tacky bouncy castles- litter the parks and yards of the valley. It is an image that I have become obsessed with. To articulate a youth hindered by trauma, the collapsing bouncy castle becomes the anti-celebration of a collapsed childhood. I will always feel profoundly connected to and represented by the diverse, bizarre landscape unique to the 818.
These portraits of me were taken by filmmaker Donna Deitch (Desert Hearts, 1985) for the creation of a work that was made for an exhibition at the Woman’s Building in 1975 entitled Las Venas de la Mujer which include five Chicana artists: Josephina Queszada, Judithe Hernandez, Isabel Castro, and Olga Muñoz. Each artist took a different character of a Chicana’s life. My image was created as an installation in a mirror on a vanity table. In the mirror, I was transformed into la Pachuca.
The Pachuca was a character I feared and respected from my childhood in Pacoima. Walking with their arms linked in full makeup, “ratted hair” and “raccoon eyes”, the girls commanded the streets and the school yard of Pacoima Junior High School where I went to school. People stepped aside wherever they strode, and they presented an image of powerful and dangerous women, which I aspired to be. My mother was far too strict and religious to let that happen. This image was finalized in the Tryptch: Las Tres Marias which is part of the Smithsonian Latino Treasures Collection, which has been traveling with the Radical Women show sponsored by the Getty for Pacific Standard Time LA. LA. The “Pachuca” is a woman of color from Pacoima, who is a counter narrative to the “Valley Girl”.
I grew up in Studio City, on a dead-end street in the hills overlooking Coldwater Canyon. There were no children to play with when we moved in (homes were still being built), so I spent a rather solitary childhood exploring the hills that lay beyond the end of our street, bushwacking through the brush, collecting animal bones and avoiding the occasional snake. Some of my earliest memories on Galewood Street are being awakened by a rooster’s call, seeing riders on horseback and deer on our hillside. My current series, Predators, is a record of the wildlife that lives alongside us, not only in the San Fernando Valley and the wilds of the Santa Monica mountains, but in the heart of urban Los Angeles.
In the late 1980's I was living the suburban Valley Girl dream, a house with an art studio in Woodland Hills, two young sons and a dream job drawing skateboard comics for Thrasher Magazine. Thrasher Comics was the brainchild of a Valley artist (Robert Williams) and a Long Beach surfer (Greg Escalante). I was a co-owner and the only female artist on the staff. While the male contributors were preaching "Skate and Destroy!" by drawing skateboarding bad boys with bloodshot eyeballs and gory skulls, I was depicting the softer side of skating, the one I experienced as a 1960's teenager growing up in the San Fernando Valley.
By the 1980's the Valley was suffering growing pains that threatened it's very existence and the suburban dream such as lack of affordable housing and the need to conserve and recycle resources. Alleygator Builds His Dream House and Alleygator Goes Green were designed to make young people aware of their environment and the importance of protecting it and being involved in shaping it's future. The strips are written from Alleygator's point of view, a young teen juggling his interest in skateboarding, his relationship with his parents and the preservation of his Valley neighborhood.
Gioj De Marco
I first saw Wonder Woman on TV, sometime in the late 70’s. At the tender age of 4, it was the Lasso of Truth that grabbed my attention. I had to get one at all costs. The idea of truth being something tangible that could be extracted at will translated into hours of play while I wrangled cousins and neighbors. Wonder Woman has stood as a symbol for many things, including American patriotism. In this photographic series, the pilot’s sweat has condensed against the scratched up surface of her invisible plane. The star-spangled panties have recently shifted, leaving a stitch mark on the right buttock. The plane has solidified against her. This resulting coming to life of the hero is a denouncement of patriotic rhetoric: we are looking up the Nation’s skirt. The invisible plane is conveniently burlesque, transparent, but is it truth revealing?
The series “Wonder Woman: Dog Fighting Mode” is paramount in understanding my practice since I moved to the San Fernando Valley. I have spent the better part of the last nine years reproducing cinema props – from mundane objects such as logs, radiators and lamps, to defining objects that are intrinsic to a hero’s identity, like “All The Cigars Smoked By Clint Eastwood In Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns”. The point of contact between an object and an actor is where the complex layering of both our virtual and physical realities co-exist.
Valley Girl Assemblage #2 highlights favorite spots in the Valley that I frequented in the ‘60s. Since I went to Taft High, and later taught there, Winnetka and Ventura Blvd serves as the backdrop for my coming of age story. San Fernando Valley State College, the Valley Music Theatre where I worked for free so I could pick up and save Johnny Mathis’ cigarette butts, International House of pancakes where we philosophized all night over a short stack, and other landmarks are depicted.
Valley Girl Assemblage #3 gives a tour of some of the best natural spots in the Valley. My favorite, Reseda Lake, attracts hundreds of birds, each with their own quirks and habits. San Fernando Mission and Leonis Adobe provide historic examples of how the Valley began; I taught classes in the History of the S.F. Valley for a decade. Then there’s Chatsworth Park, where we hid in the train tunnel and dared ourselves to stay inside as the trains buzzed past us. We experienced wide open freeways and plenty of dirt lots, memories now darkened by the shadow of Westfield malls and overdevelopment.
My work offers colorful narratives about urban life, much of it specific to Los Angeles. The End of Suburbia investigates the changing profile of housing in our city as we see single family dwellings being replaced by multi-use developments. This new housing model extends corporate power, reduces privacy, overtakes nature, and creates high rises in earthquake country. As a guerrilla sociologist, I object to anything that erodes the sweaty, vulnerable, fumbling, stuttering, impulsive aspects of humanity in the face of corporate globalization and its resultant dehumanizing effects.
I moved from Chicago to Valley Glen in 2002. During the following 8 years I remodeled my 1952 house that hadn’t been touched since the 70’s and turned it into a home. I lived by my “Home Depot Bible.” It, along with painstaking trial and error, taught me about construction, design, and the art of "space." Inevitably, my massive remodeling project led to ruminations on the complexities of the creation and meaning of home. This became a major influence in the work I began while in grad school at Cal State Northridge, and have continued to this day.
My daily commutes to CSUN, along with the community of local artists I became a part of, continued to influence my work, and sense of home. “Home Is,” is assemblage of architectural elements. Like a tornado swept through the Valley irrationally reconstituting parts of buildings. It references color pallets from apartment buildings, businesses, and single-family homes. It is a collage of the Valley’s construction, cultures, opportunities, time, space, and memory; all built upon a foundation. Though I’ve moved from Valley Glen, home is still the valley, just 5 miles from Cal State Northridge in Porter Ranch where I live with my husband and two children.
I grew up in a row house in Philadelphia, 2700 miles from the San Fernando Valley and its pleasures. The first time I visited my husband’s grandfather’s house in Encino, I felt like I was stepping onto a set. “This is what California looks like in the movies,” I thought. If the American dream is embodied by the detached single-family home, this house is the fantasy of the truly ambitious. Outside, palm and orange trees dot a rolling property with a tennis court and a swimming pool. Inside is a time capsule, filled with ornate furniture selected decades ago by my husband’s late grandmother, now seldom used but still faithfully dusted.
When I moved to LA in 2011, I began making portraits of myself at the house. I wanted to immerse myself in both California life and my husband’s family. In these portraits, I am performing as the woman of the house, though I am very different from my husband’s grandmother and her 4 daughters, the proto-Valley Girls who lived there once upon a time. I sought to bring life back to the house’s quietest places, telling its story in my own voice.
My earliest memories are in Van Nuys where we lived in a little blue house that had an AstroTurf yard in the back and a turquoise pool. For me, swimming pool turquoise and bright fresh-cut lawn green are the colors of the valley. Then when I was about 7 or 8 we moved to Woodland Hills to a house with a magical backyard with lots of green and turquoise too. We were so high up on hill I didn’t learn to ride a bike until high school when we moved to the South Bay so my dad could be closer to his job at Mattel making Barbie commercials. I vividly remember the twinkling lights of the Valley at night which I imagined as a black velvet bowl of colorful shimmering stars when we lived in Woodland Hills. When I was in college my entire family moved back to the Valley to Canoga Park all within about 15 minutes of each other. When I came home from college I moved back in with my parents to get back on my feet which lasted about three years. After attending school out of state in the forests of Washington, I came back to the place I had grown up with a new understanding of how people see the Valley and Los Angeles, possibly the most filmed and photographed city in the world, a city that feels like the physical manifestation of a collective dream built on fame
and infinite cultural production. Influenced by the colors, neon lights, and strip malls of the valley and armed with this shift in perspective of the place that made me I started my Instagram @uncannysfvalley.
The work in this exhibit reflects my own experience of growing up as a Valley Girl, being raised by a Valley Girl, and then shifts in perspectives about my own representation gained with age and distance. The subjects of my physical drawing practice, and my digital collage practice challenge the viewer to see past the frivolity and manipulation society often associates with feminine coded signifiers. Common representations of archetypes like, “Valley Girls” reinforce a systemic condition of the invalidation of expressions of emotions from women. Valley Girls may be coded as “superficial,” but upon further investigation reveal a deeper repressive condition for femme identifying people in our culture of consumption.
As a child my family lived in an isolated wooded area. My elderly Great Aunt Marie would visit our house bearing 35mm slides of her journeys around the globe. A magical soft light projected hundreds of images across our living room depicting the beauty of everything “different”. Unconsciously I was falling in love with the soul of art; the unique, or exceptional which alters our perspective and enhances our world. Art school training and an esteemed Skowhegan scholarship would further cement in my mind the importance of creative originality. These formative exposures would serve me marvelously in my career as an artist and owner of a boutique animation studio in Hollywood. After 17 successful years working for film and tv clients, I relocated to the San Fernando Valley. Just as my Great Aunt understood how travel expands your mind with new experiences, I am confident the multifaceted diversity of the population and landscape of the San Fernando Valley will continue to enhance my creativity.
From birth to nine I lived in Van Nuys; it was a small postwar world, perfect for young kids on bikes, up and down streets and zooming around the cul-de-sacs, over and over again. We then spent three years in Italy and returned to a bigger Valley house with a pool in Sepulveda. The main difference between the two neighborhoods was placement. Our house in Sepulveda was smack in the middle of the Valley. We were on the upslope of a hill so we could see mountains in every direction. The south of Ventura Boulevard hills, the Chatsworth hills to the west, the Santa Susanas to the north and the San Gabriels to the east. The importance of being in the middle of mountains is that space becomes defined. Relative distance is established. And on the other side of those mountains was a place I called FREEDOM. So I knew where I was in relation to my goal. And I knew that someday I would climb over the hills and attain it. Oddly, for a kid who badly wanted to escape the Valley with its frustrating suburban limitations, I've spent a good part of my painting life of 45 years, painting the SFV and the larger environs of Los Angeles. Why? I don't know exactly. Likely, it has something to do with my innate sensitivity to my surroundings, land and city. Also, the relationships and observations that we have as children sink roots into our souls that last our whole lifetime. Poolroots, 1981 is the view of my teenage backyard from the house. It was no different than the thousands of other swimming pools and backyards that surrounded us. But that was my unconscious reason in choosing this tableau-this was not just my daily view, this was our collective view. It's a sort of suburban archetype.
Los Angeles 2012, 2012 is one of many, many images I've painted of the LA landscape. The
mountains in the distance, the relentless and expansive spread of development; both a testament To human desire and to human disregard for nature. Yet, it is still my home.
I moved to the Valley in 1992. The proximity to nature, the spaciousness, less traffic and peaceful solitude were appealing. Most of my mature artistic life has taken place in the 27 years here. The Valley had an undeserved reputation as predominantly white, conservative suburbia. Of course it’s nothing of the sort, having undergone the same diverse cultural and demographic shifts as the city. What transformed my art practice from my previous epic, photo derived landscape paintings that expressed a mediated experience of nature, however, is my close observation of and contact with the changes occurring in average American communities. I am now acutely aware that the utopian dreams of 50’s and 60’s suburbia have been supplanted by the dystopian issues of today. Intimately encountering middle class behavioral patterns as they impinge and encroach on adjacent natural areas, I walk daily through streets and neighborhoods collecting the detritus from the rampant consumption that defines our culture. My paintings then depict in monumental still lifes the waste these lifestyles incur; beautiful bits of decaying nature are intermingled with these found objects and fragments, signifying the complicated face of consumerism and the current earth-destroying globalism.
The imagery and inherent critiques in these paintings depend on the accessibility of this material. Rather than being on the irrelevant fringes of the culture --as was once thought of the Valley-- I feel I am at the epicenter of a tidal wave my paintings reveal to the entire world.
Rain Lucien Matheke
As radiantly beautiful as life can be, sometimes I very much want to die. I am a chronically ill woman of trans experience who has spent the majority of her life in the valley. The valley is where I get my monthly infusions – it is the longest running site of this treatment. The valley is where I began my transition. I frequently use poetry as a the confines of illness. These paintings are displayed in mausoleum format as an acknowledgement of my own mortality and vulnerability. It is a humorous way to pay respect and allow space to mourn the parts of me that are no longer with us, and the parts the will continue to be lost – both for myself and for those that have known me. These paintings are about and of the ephemeral body and act as a living memorial to bodily dissociation, self haunting, loss of loved ones and relationships, and the inevitable slow death that comes along with living. Thank you for your time, I love you.
I was born in Northridge, and lived in the valley until I was about 8 years old. I returned for college, and have lived here ever since. My grandpa grew up in Tarzana, and my grandma moved to the valley when my mom was just 3 years old. It has been my family’s home for a quite some time. The feeling of home, or pursuit of home, drives several themes in my work. I use a combination of drawing, painting, collage, and printmaking to focus on complex relationships within the family. I reference personal and found photographs of the mid-twentieth century to explore and compare shifts in narratives surrounding commitment, stability, and accountability. This newest series uses thread to symbolize the attempt to rebuild or secure one’s place and/or connection to others. These connections can be incredibly fragile, and benefit from solid foundations. I would definitely describe the valley as a foundational force in my life and can’t imagine growing up without its influence.
A photo booth portrait of me circa 1970 when I was still a teenager. I took a photography class at Van Nuys High School with the wonderful Barbara Login Robertson. The first photograph that I took and printed was a portrait of my mother painting. It is the image I saw each day when I returned home -- my mother painting. My mother opened a whole creative life for me through art, book, travel and example. An incredible example that I could and would be an artist. My mother, now 90, is still a very active artist. I grew up in Sherman Oaks and was very much shaped by the experience, but my mother opened the world to me.
I was fortunate to have strong role models for a young woman becoming an artist. Barbara Login Robertson, my high school art teacher, Mary Ann Glantz and her generosity at CSUN, Peggy Aylesworth, now 98, a poet, my neighbor growing up and still my neighbor. Miriam Schapiro, my mentor at Cal Arts, my many friends who I attended college with and others who are friends and colleagues still today.
I treasure my curiosity about everything and the ability to grow as an artist and a person.
My work examines the malleability of material and time within and around the body. Photographs, installation, and video works overlap the literal and abstract, shifting between materialism and idealism in a never-ending consumption of itself. Boundaries between outside and in, whole and part, are blurred formally and conceptually. This process of uprooting contexts are tied to the untangling of my own identity. My two works in Valley Girl Redefined were not created to talk about aspects of femaleness, yet there I was pouring blush pigment into my installations and using red lipstick in my performances. As I worked towards understanding how the body abstracts material through the senses, I was also learning how culture abstracts materials to create collective identity. In this case that identity was the tinseltown-adjacent valley girl.
The ever-evolving conditions of the San Fernando Valley have been constructed by industries built in the early nineteen hundreds. After the arrival of the Railroad, opportunities for manufacturing expanded, as agriculture became less prevalent. The influx of movie
studios and military service companies massively expanded available employment. However, both industries propagated ideals and values of the human body through their direct effect on the constructed environment, and their ability to mold perceptions through the use of visual propaganda. My orientation to the Valley is based on this polarity, a space where daydreams and harsh realities coexist, and the boundary between public and private is continually blurred. My work incorporates materials from the body to break it down and allow it to redefine its own containment. The production of corporeal objects such as human hair spun from the collected locks of multiple, often anonymous, individuals, serve a historic function, binding multiple bodies together through space and time. My best friend and I used to joke that people from the Valley either never leave, or they leave and never return. As it turns out, I am a lifer.
I have always had a connection to animals, growing up in Sunland, I was surrounded by horses and other livestock. I think people always associate the Valley with the city and suburbs, when in fact there is a lot of more rural areas on the outskirts of the town. My early childhood consisted of unbridled freedom. Our neighborhood had a lot of kids my age and we all possessed a sense of adventure. Leaving in the morning we would spend the entire day in the hills that surrounded Sunland, Tujunga and Burbank. Exploring gullies and trails, crawling under fence posts to get into neighbors stables and playing handball on the garage door was our daily life. The general rule was to be home by the time the street lights came on. I think that mindset never left me, and even though I moved to a much more urban part of the valley later in life, I am still the adventurer and animal enthusiast.
Currently living in Mission Hills, I began painting while being at home raising my four children. Utilizing my built in models(my children) enabled me to hone my craft between endless loads of laundry and preparing meals. Currently the owner of two dogs, and cat and two chickens, they too have become objects of my work.
I had no idea that the valley spoken of in movies and television where the Valley Girl resided in was my valley. I didn’t grow up as a mall-rat or had spending money; the closest I got to window-shopping in the 90’s was walking around the San Fernando Swap Meet. On special occasions my family and I would hit up a Hollywood Video and Thrifty for snacks. My world was small. Television and movies were a large part of that world however, and I soon learned about stereotypical standards of beauty and how unreachable they were. Don’t get me wrong, glossy pink lips, teased blonde hair in an arc of aqua net majesty and tubular aqua marine plastic hoops sounds like a good time; but the valley I grew up in consisted of people from different walks of life, racially diverse, and varied in size. My work mirrors the true identity of the valley, that’s how engrained my home is to me.
Nothing feels more like “coming home” than landing back in LA from a plane ride and being presented with a lovely view of the SFV hills and mountains. The valley has always been the bridge between the suburbs of Thousand Oaks and the more central city of Los Angeles. In my adolescence, I spent many weekends at the Cobalt Café watching local punk bands, and as I grew a little older began to love exploring the nature and gems around all unique SFV neighborhoods.
My work for this show explores the landscapes of my home and my insights of being a southern California native. Composing together both personal curiosities of my own hometown as well as what I’ve culturally and physically been surrounded by, creating this body of work has only connected me more intimately with the land around me.
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley to creative parents who scraped by resourcefully as musicians, actors, and party entertainers. My youth was a very “LA” experience—eclectic unstable, and weird. I spent many of my childhood afternoons watching music videos and playing Pac-Man in a professional recording studio, and being taken along to auditions and New Age “metaphysical church” services. My mother started a makeshift business as the “Lizard Lady”, bringing a menagerie of reptiles to entertain and educate at children’s birthday parties and schools. A mini-zoo of animals lived with us –snakes, lizards, tortoises, etc; feed animals that sometimes became pets–chickens, rats, and mice; as well as our many cats and dogs. My parents divorced and remarried other people several times.
They now have had a combined total of six marriages between them, and I have three half-siblings that are not related to each other and all live in different states. My sense of identity around family and the home has always been complicated, and I believe that this has been a foundational contributor to my artistic practice. The most recent transformative experience in my life has been that of becoming a mother and the resulting struggle to structure my
own professional and family life. Scouring thrift shops for discarded treasures to recycle as creative wardrobe and décor was a regular activity for my family as well as a means towards self-expression as a teenager. In my artwork, I engage this same vernacular landscape by searching thrift shops, estate sales, and dollar stores for material—pre-existing objects that I transform through my unique process. In my work, collectible kitsch ceramic objects and functional ware are arranged together and subjected to the same firing conditions. The process produces the literal and metaphorical melting down of the materiality of domestic and artistic space. In the firing, some objects retain their form, while others liquefy into fluid clay and glaze in work that engages in conversation with still life, narrative, and abstract painting; post-minimalist sculpture; hierarchies of materials and taste; and the role of the kitsch object.
My recent work establishes a metaphorical relationship with personal narrative, referencing my experience as a new mother. In the “Motherhood Secrets”, I fill halved wheel-thrown vessels with ceramic material, fire, grind, and polish them to produce a finished surface that resembles a geode. The objects function as metaphors of my own maternal experience—a metamorphic soup of isolation, insulation, and potentiality.