Elisa Valenti promotes self acceptance and diversity through her artwork

Elisa Valenti in her studio, Queens, NY

“I am good enough”: these words welcome you on the website of artist Elisa Valenti and they reflect the message of self acceptance and diversity that she shares through her artwork.

Her story is inspiring, her artwork is beautifully executed, with a powerful message resonating with many of us and she’s genuine while sharing her message on her Instagram account.

“My artwork is a story I tell from my own life.” Through her paintings and drawings of curvy women, she shares a very personal interpretation of feminity. “I’m inspired by the idea of portraying a body type we are not used to seeing and exposing beauty where it may not have been recognized before.”

Less than a year after her first exhibition at Superfine Art Fair, her work has quickly gained attention and been featured on Create Magazine – thanks to whom I met Elisa during their party at Art Miami-, The Jealous Curator and Glamour Magazine. She has a busy schedule ahead and I am very excited to share her artwork and inspiring story.

Tell us about yourself: Where do you live? What is your background?

I live in New York City. I am of Sicilian descent. I grew up the youngest daughter of immigrants. I grew up in two worlds- the world of my family’s heritage and the world where I was born. Where I am born and where my roots are from have always been really integral to my identity.

I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood in Queens and went to high school in Manhattan. I grew up with very open minded parents who enjoyed culture. They were proud to be American, took pride in their heritage and welcomed the cultures of the new friends they made in America. Being Sicilian, I also take huge pride in the fact Sicily’s history is rich with the enmeshing of other cultures.

I always like to think I am like a river : picking up bits of the cultures I am surrounded by and becoming richer thanks to them. When I was at the wedding of my Egyptian friends, I felt I was Egyptian. When I am part of my Chinese friend’s affairs, I gain a bit of them. When I am with my Greek or Jamaican friends, I become part of them. When I’m with my Hispanic friends, my soul gets better.

It’s important to me that my art is reflective of this diversity, I had the privilege to be exposed to, to have been submerged in and to have expanded who I am as a human being. I wouldn’t want my world to have been any other way. 

You are self taught with a background in pharmacy. When did you decide to switch careers and what were the steps to do so? 

I have been drawing since I was a child. I’m creative and industrious by nature. I’ve worked in pharmacy since 1997 and as a pharmacist since 2006. I’ve painted for pleasure for years. It wasn’t until 2016 I felt unrest. I would fantasize about painting in board meetings. In 2018, things aligned and I resigned from my position. I did not resign with the intention to “become an artist”. I resigned with the intention to take some time off. My mother died in 2014 and I never felt I properly mourned her death. I drowned myself in work and distraction. I took time to find some peace. I closed myself off to the world and created a mental sanctuary for myself. I started painting for 8 hours a day. I had a robust series of work and started dreaming about how nice it would be to show my work. I planned that 2020 would be my year— but life decides your journey as much as you try to plan. I applied for an art fair set for 2020. The day after applying, I received a call I was accepted in 2019– the rest is history. 

Girl with the green bathing suit, 2018, 24×30, acrylic on canvas

Your message is about self acceptance and diversity. Can you share about the place of your art in your own journey.

Self-worth and acceptance are a theme from very early on in my life. My intense work ethic, and dedication to work derive from the need to prove my self-worth. It’s a life long journey. I’ve struggled with my weight and my longing to find a place in this world. My paintings are a diary of this journey. The figure in my work is a symbol of anyone who has been made to feel insignificant or unworthy. And as I grow through my own journey, the beautiful side effect is others resonate with it and grow too. 

My artwork is a story I tell from my own life.

Elisa Valenti

Your paintings seems to be mostly self portraits. What is your process / inspiration? 

My artwork is a story I tell from my own life. Whether I draw a person, plant or animal, the brush strokes will always reflect who I am. I use self portrait because I know myself best. I share my story and myself with the viewer. I’m inspired by the idea of portraying a body type we are not used to seeing and exposing beauty where it may not have been recognized before. I force the viewer to delve into and challenge their own prejudices and standard of beauty. I take pride in having a “universal look”. People question where I am from. I am told I look from countries all across the globe and I love that. Although the figure in my work has light skin and dark hair, she’s is a symbol for everyone and anyone who is in need of feeling seen and accepted for who they are, as they are. 

Your IG account has a great following with engaged people. What is your relationship with social media? Do you manage your promotion yourself?

I love social media. I respond to each and every person myself and have an excellent relationship with the people who follow my work. I take a great responsibility in making sure my page feels like home. Yes, I am the woman behind the Instagram. 

What is your dream project?
I can only name one? Lol-Current dream—an installation project with more details to come in the future. 😉 – Spreading the message of my work to more people. The response I receive from my work is incredible and I’d love this message to be felt by more people. -Showing my work across the globe. 

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