Artist Elisa Valenti describes having grown up “in a time before being plus size was normal” and how that had a profound effect on her. So many women can relate to the idea of never having seen someone who looks like them in pop culture or mainstream media and the feelings of self-doubt or otherness that are often associated with it. So she paints what she wishes she had seen back then, depicting women in ordinary scenes of life. She is a skilled painter with a demonstrated ability to balance the skin-toned hues of her figures with either lush and vibrant or more neutral colors in the background. Yet, you’ll find the most beauty from her work in the realness of each body and of each woman, and in turn you may be inspired to look for (and perhaps discover) that same unassuming confidence reflected in yourself.
Painting works that she has such a strong emotional connection to hasn’t come without its challenges. “It took many years for me to muster the courage to put my work down...I have battled with the limiting fear of perfection. I have left many paintings unfinished because I didn’t feel they were worthy or I feared ruining them” she admits. But she has persisted and has an ambitious body of work to show for it. What was at first a feverish desire to complete paintings quickly in order to see them fully realized has since been slowed down to a more methodical process of working a little and then stepping back to contemplate. Elisa often works on two paintings at once to allow this to happen more fluidly. When she is taking a break with one work, she can go back to a second one with fresh eyes. This adjustment allows her to be present in her creative practice, enjoy each painting as it develops, and push past blocks to creative breakthroughs.
How does she define beauty considering that it plays such an integral role in her paintings? “Beauty is the personification of humble confidence and selfless courage.” This is what she has spent years working through and exactly the vibe that she has cultivated in her recent series of paintings.
Elisa Valenti Artist Statement
I grew up in a time when eating in public was shameful, stomach rolls made you unworthy, and shopping for clothes was traumatic. I grew up before being plus size was normal.
My work reflects the images I wish I had seen—beautiful, luscious women doing ordinary things, just like everybody else. They are a reflection of my own battle with body image and my journey to mental health.
If you’ve ever been made to feel insignificant, I hope they inspire you to own your image of yourself and never give that power to someone else.
Elisa Rosa Valenti, whose brand is Elisa Valenti Studio, is an unapologetically body-positive and contemporary figurative artist living and working in Queens, New York.
Her work evokes a very personal interpretation of beauty, strength, and vulnerability. Through a combination of drawing or painting from models and staged photographs, her full-figured women come to life on the canvas. The varying flesh tones used in her signature variation on cubism make each figure seem as if it could be any woman and indeed many of her viewers see themselves in her work.
Elisa is a self-taught painter. She studied fine arts and art history at the High School of Art & Design and holds her Doctorate of Pharmacy from St. John's University. She has been featured by Create! Magazine, Canvas and Crumpets, and OprahComplex and she previously exhibited with Superfine Fair in New York.
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