The artist Jeffrey Vallance would make the perfect dinner guest. His imagination is infinite, interests multifaceted and curiosities vast. He expresses himself with a genuine sense of wonder and reverence for life’s incongruities and quirks without cynicism, castigation or censure. He has wit and a humble charm, with a humor that provokes giggles as prelude to something profound.
As host of a dinner party, he’d serve up a sumptuous smorgasbord of ideas and inquiries on religion and political power structures, pop culture and the potential fluidity and democratization of art, while leaving the ultimate takeaway in the hands of his guests. He’d be a mischievous chef with recipes that linger.
Vallance’s artistic oeuvre contains a delicious array of disciplines – drawing, installation, sculpture and performance. Working under the genre of Intervention and conceptual art, Vallance is adept at blurring the lines between truth and fiction, the quotidian and resplendent. While simultaneously entertaining and philosophical, each expression taps Vallance’s expansive range of fascinations.
He’s conducted séances with deceased artists and an art critic summoned to review his show and exchanged political ties, literally, with heads of state. He’s staged an exhibition in the Liberace Museum, and created his own mini-museum in his Valley home’s backyard. In 2004, he curated “Thomas Kinkade: Heaven on Earth, which investigated the snubbing of the “Painter of Light” (RIP) by the legitimized art world, as well as produced his own illustrated Bible (available on Amazon). With subjects ranging from Richard Nixon, the Vatican to Tiki culture, each manifestation is unmistakably his own, filled with Vallance’s trademark inquisitiveness, and in some cases, tinged with autobiographical nostalgia. The results are always unexpectedly refreshing.
And what Vallance served me was a chicken, from which sprang the inspiration and nudge that shifted my vocational weathervane in a new direction. Jeffrey Vallance and “Blinky the Friendly Hen” helped usher in my allegiance to the art world.
My signing up to be an art world wallah was a career reinvention. I used to be in TV; a place where I thought I could help change the world. However, it proved to not quite be the utopian dream I’d hoped for. As a palate cleanser whilst in TV, I’d stared volunteering at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, back when it was on Main Street. And that’s where the exhibition, “The World of Jeffrey Vallance” (1995), rocked my world.
Among other tantalizing tidbits, the show featured the pictographic, video, and object-told tale of “Blinky the Friendly Hen” (1978). The show was a piece-by-piece rendition of the before, (sort of) during and afterlife of a store-bought chicken, AKA Blinky. Replete with artifacts and documentations of Blinky’s journey from grocery store to pet cemetery (where Vallance laid Blinky to rest), highlights included relics such as her original Ralph’s plastic packaging and a funeral video by Bruce and Norman Yonemoto. A year after being interred, Blinky was unearthed for a forensic postmortem analysis, as Vallance suspected his beloved hen had met with a suspicious demise.
Clever, playful and with ample existential overtones, in addition to the tenderness and tee hees the show had merch.
Vallance’s show was a game changer for me. With gentle humor with ample fodder for thought, here was art that poked at the supposed reliability of our customary conventions by spotlighting the inescapable confluence of life’s majesty and absurdity. The show was one-stop shopping spree stationed right in my wheelhouse. So rather than continuing to make sure Bill Maher’s opening jokes were loaded into the teleprompter on time, I’d discovered a world with a whole new slew of methodologies that could shake things up in order to proffer a more holistic take on life. A few months later I left TV. A few months after that, I started working the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
Luckily, or should I say ‘cluckily’, Blinky lives on. She was recently resurrected in a group exhibition at Evergreene Studio’s A Stranger in my Grave, which included a video of Blinky’s postmortem analysis.
She will also appear, in some form, at Vallance’s November 2016 Now More than Ever show at Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Culver City, CA. It is Vallance’s first show with the gallery. Now More Than Ever will include drawings and a “mystery installation,” accompanied by a catalogue that serves as a field guide to Vallance’s work, penned by Vallance with an essay by the incredible wordsmith Doug Harvey, a man highly suited to the task.
In speaking with Edward about the show, he enthused about the show’s importance in honoring a unique artistic stalwart so deserving of the art world’s attention. “Jeffrey’s free spirit is generous. His work is direct and immediate,” and a welcomed antidote to a world generally consumed with hype and hyperbole.
Some links for your to savor:
To get a taste of the man and his chicken, here’s Vallance on Letterman in 1993 describing “Blinky The Friendly Hen”. Fantastic stuff. It’s a two-parter.
Here’s a quick-hit, Los Angeles Times Q & A with Paul Young and Jeffrey Vallance on the deeper meanings of Blinky.