Art saved Pedro Valdivia's life. One misstep during his high school years could have plunged him into the underworld of gang life, he says.
Instead the former Pasco man's fervor flows from his soul to his fingertips, and onto the canvas.
He's got a reminder of why that's important -- a tattoo of an AK-47 on his belly. His father was shot and killed in Mexico when he was in grade school.
"Your hands have power. But they also have the power to give life," said the 26-year-old who now lives in Seattle.
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Another tattoo -- he has nine of them and refers to them as tribal marks that chronicle different periods of his life -- shows pixelated designs cascading down his forearm to his wrist to remind him that his art comes from his heart before reaching his hands.
His latest exhibit, Adream: Genesis, is on display through the end of February at You & I Framing & Gallery, 214 W. First Ave., Kennewick. An artist's reception is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 5.
Valdivia's work has changed a lot since he was a student at Pasco High, said his former art teacher. He now incorporates strings, beads and crystals into his work.
"It's amazing -- his ability to see things and use a variety of materials and the way he did that metal sculpture at Pasco High," said Katherine Rice, who now teaches at Chiawana High.
She's talking about a piece he was asked to design and build for the Confluence Project that involved renowned artist Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"It's one of my pinnacles in my art development," Valdivia said. "Working with Maya Lin's team was rewarding."
Rice, who has been teaching art for about 20 years, nine in Pasco, has an abstract acrylic painting by Valdivia displayed in her classroom. Students often ask her about it, she said, adding, "It's very inspiring to them."
Over the years Valdivia has sold many of his paintings to a wide variety of groups, institutions and people. He recently sold one to Whitman College in Walla Walla.
The college also commissioned Valdivia to create a series of images for its State of the State for Washington Latinos project (walatinos.org), said Paul Apostolidis, a politics professor at Whitman.
"So much is going on in Pedro's artwork. He manages to bring in not only a sense of challenges and difficulties that people face in his community but what hope means in a concrete sense," he said.
Valdivia is using the money he makes from selling paintings to see art in other cities. He has traveled to New York, Puerto Rico, Mexico City and England, and Tokyo and Miami are next on his list.
"I want to use what I see and incorporate it into my art, to be more of a well-rounded global citizen," he said.
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*Kristina Lord: 582-1481; firstname.lastname@example.org