Monthly Mentor

Jen Holsinger-Raybourn (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Jen Holsinger-Raybourn, now in her 16th year in arts education, began her career in Museum Education and has taught K-12 Visual Arts in both private and public schools. Jen serves as a mentor to the 2019 NAEA School for Art Leaders as well as the Elementary Division Chair for the Texas Art Education Association. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« Insect Interventions (Part II) | Main | VisAbility Art Lab, Rockville, MD »

September 16, 2019

Artist Justin Valenti 

By Benjamin Tellie

This week I would like to share a venture outside my school setting. I privately tutor adults and children on a case by case basis. More recently, I have been tutoring Justin Valenti, a 23-year-old artist living with autism in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I have worked with Justin for over three years, mentoring him on visual arts practices and portfolio development.

Watching Justin’s work evolve over the years has brought me great joy. Justin loves to work with painting, digital media, illustration, and animation. His style typically involves using 80’s iconography and symbols (e.g. airplanes, video game characters, people, cassette tapes, alarm clocks, food, drinks and more), superimposing those images onto optical backgrounds. The purpose of this process is to reimagine the object or person and place them into different contexts. Justin’s prolific work output and his curiosity about design have always amazed me. His work usually has bright and bold colors that can transport the viewer into a different space and time.

With Justin’s permission, I conducted a brief interview for the purpose of this post so he could share his story. 

BT: Can you tell me about how you got interested in the visual arts?

JV: I got interested in the visual arts when I was taking an art class in high school. I was taking Foundations of Art. I have been interested in art ever since.

BT: Who are your favorite artists that inspire you and your work today? 

JV: My favorite artists that inspire me and my work today are Peter Max and Vincent Van Gogh.

BT: Talk about one thing that is challenging for you and how you overcame it.

JV: My mental illness that I acquired at the end of 2015 has been challenging for me, but I have overcome it by participating in a day program and support group that helped me overcome my mental illness. I also keep busy with doing different activities. 

BT: What is the latest piece you are working on and why is it important to you? 

JV: My latest piece that I am working on is a fluid painting of the Maryland flag and this piece is important for me because Maryland is my favorite state.

BT: Your artwork was just on display at the Visibility Art Lab in Rockville, MD. Can you talk about this organization and how it’s helped you grow as an artist? 

JV: VisAbility Art Lab is a supported art studio for people who have disabilities. They have helped me grow as an artist in many ways. Since I joined VisAbility Art Lab in 2017, I have expanded my portfolio. In addition to creating digital artwork, I create other types of artwork such as acrylic paintings, ceramic pieces, fluid paintings, and work that involves mixed media. I also learned how to improve my digital artwork through VisAbility Art Lab. One of the staff members was very helpful to me. 

I included some of Justin’s architectural and landscape works and some optical iconography. 

To learn more about Justin and his work visit: https://jkvalenti2014.wordpress.com

-BT

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Photo 1_Tower of TerrorTower of Terror, Digital Media, 2019 

Photo 2_Grand CanyonGrand Canyon, Digital Media, 2018

Photo 3_Motorcycle DrawingMotorcycle Drawing, Digital Media, 2018

Photo 4_Optical AlarmOptical Alarm, Digital Media, 2019

Photo 5_80s Phone 80’s phone, Mixed Media, 2018

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