Valerie Mendoza is an international lens-based installation artist, writer and educator. Her work has been exhibited in France, Ireland, Mexico, Portugal, and venues throughout the United States. Mendoza's practice mines the intersections between history, memory, language and media, where they are impacted and shaped by institutional power structures such as law, medicine, science and religion. Combining photographs, video, audio, objects, personal narrative, and various forms of information, her immersive installations create a cross-disciplinary dialogue between disparate sources to interrogate cultural assumptions. Her early work culled scientific theories and terminology as metaphors for human behavior. Recent work falls within the realm of social practice and addresses the causes and effects of lack of affordable housing in the U.S. and abroad. While much of her work examines contemporary and historical circumstances and events, the source of her inspiration is consistently rooted in personal experience.
Research for Mendoza's video/installation, "division" took her to Sclayn, Belgium in 2003, where she worked as part of an archeological team focused on Neanderthal belongings and remains. From 2005 to 2006, she worked at the border between the U.S. and Mexico for her video/installation "Different, naturally". In 2010, she was one of 8 artists in residence at Camac Centre D'Art, Marnay Art Centre, France, where she began to conceive and design her photo-based installation "Monument: 91 Images of One Vacant Property for Sale." Development of her companion installation, "Our Agents," began in 2014. In summer 2016, she spent four weeks in Portugal during a Caminho português de Santiago, taking over 2000 photographs, studying perceptions of land use both similar to, and different from those in the U.S. In 2017 she was one of 5 artists in residence at DE LICEIRAS 18, Porto, Portugal. There, she photographed and conducted video interviews with citizens throughout Portugal, which not only led to two, separate exhibitions, one in Portugal and one in San Jose, CA, but also inspired future work.
Three completed bodies of work were featured in Mendoza's solo exhibition, "O Custo de Vida" (The Cost of Living), which occupied all three floors of Galeria do Sol in Porto, Portugal in November 2018. A separate exhibition, "Café Espelho" (Cafe Mirror) was a part of the group exhibition "Reason & Reverie," Thompson Gallery, San Jose, CA, September 2018. Mendoza transformed a gallery corner into a simulacrum of the Café Bars that serve as vital local meeting places in towns throughout Portugal. Together, these cross-cultural exhibitions created space for public discussion, and introduced two populations facing similar problems to one another. "Our Agents," also a part of "O Custo de Vida," has been chosen for inclusion in numerous national, juried group exhibitions, including "Lie, Cheat, Steal: Contemporary Art and Ethics," Kresge Gallery, Lyon College, AR, 2019, "The de Young Open," de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, 2020, San Francisco Camerawork's "Forecast 2020," and "So Real–Surreal," O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA, 2021.
During the pandemic, Mendoza used statistical research to address international perspectives without travel. Her newest installation, "The Destination Café," pairs the local affordable housing crisis with similar challenges faced by citizens worldwide. It debuted at The Art Kiosk, Redwood City, CA, from August through September 2022. She is currently at work on a new, eight-image series which addresses the banking industry. With a mix of statistical information, personal narrative, song lyrics and audio, "We Value Your Business," like much of her past work, employs elements of seriousness and humor, where statistics represent sobering facts, while a playful design, pastel colors and music hint at the absurdity of our current accepted reality. The new work will debut in the Thompson Gallery, San Jose, CA, March 12th through April 10th, 2024.
Mendoza's practice is based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is an Associate Professor at San José State University.