Dominican-born painter Julio Valdez has spent the past several years focused on water, which he describes as “a metaphor for consciousness and identity.” In works like El Mar de los Delirios, his interest in psychological and societal depth is evident. The entire piece is devoted to water—a many-hued, blue, translucent, swaying mass of water—that is utterly alive. Light is absorbed in areas of dark blue, and it glints off the water in swirling lines of bright turquoise. The water sloshes and heaves. The simple subject of water has become unexpectedly complex and poignant.
Water is laden with meaning, especially in its Caribbean context. As Valdez puts it, “In the Caribbean region, the surrounding waters . . . create a sense of light and space that are at once a blessing and a curse. The same beautiful waters that tourists enjoy as the illusion of paradise and freedom are also experienced as [a] natural ‘prison,’ a source of suffering, death and pain for many natives, hoping to improve their lot while risking their lives as they flee their islands in fragile makeshift vehicles.”