Ivette Valenzuela presented some of her astonishing artwork at the University of Nevada, Reno on Sept. 16 in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. The posters she has designed include homages to “La lotería” (Mexican Lottery) and social justice works that are meant to be printed out and used for protest, such as her poster for the organization of donated pictures, “Imágenes en voz alta” (Images On Loud Voices) for the “No al acoso” (No To Harassment) campaign.

Squared pictures of colored art posters made by Valenzuela.

Natalie Katsaros/Nevada Sagebrush
Ivette Valenzuela presents pieces of her posters for her lecture at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Valenzuela, who considers herself a graphic designer, has mentioned she has often been given the artist label when referencing her posters.

“A poster that doesn’t catch your eye isn’t a poster,” she said.   

Her work certainly embodies that; the work she did for Artown’s twenty-fifth anniversary, for example, is colorful and vibrant, and can be seen repurposed even on beer cans.

Much of her work focuses on activism in particular, as she believes what she creates serves to change the mentality of people. This can be seen in pieces such as Nelson Mandela 95, which was a project where 95 different artists created works to honor Nelson Mendela. Valenzuela’s contribution to the project depicts a black dove, a purposeful inversion of the age-old imagery of a white dove representing peace.

She also heavily features women in her work, including a piece honoring Korean activist Yu Gwan-Sun in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the Korean Independence Movement. Another female-centered piece is one celebrating the four hundred eightieth anniversary of the printing press’ arrival in Mexico. In “Viudas Impresoras”, Valenzuela depicts a “printing widow”, which is a woman who would make a career for herself out of her deceased husband’s printing press.

Much of Valenzuela’s work is commercial work for choral and dance events. Sometimes getting her vision across can be difficult because of men, particularly those in more conservative areas, rejecting her work on the basis of it being too provocative. This occurs especially when she presents work that deals with gender roles and sexuality, such as her project for Amor Libre. The project, along with other pro-LGBTQ+ pieces of art, was vandalized as she mentioned in her lecture. 

The art Valenzuela has created, both for nonprofit and commercial use, is all incredibly unique. Every piece has a completely different feel, and there is no set style or obvious set of rules she adheres to. Despite that, all of her pieces work and do their job of reflecting their purpose with flair, being able to send a clear, universal message no matter what language the text is in.

Valenzuela was born in Mexico and currently lives in Reno, but has done work internationally and has her pieces exhibited in Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Mexico, South Africa, Taiwan, The United States, Turkey, Venezuela and other locales. 

She is currently developing art for interactive exhibitions in museums and for her website, where some of her older work can be found. 

Natalie Katsaros can be reached at nkatsaros@nevada.unr.edu or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.