Ray Bacasegua Valdez is a Native American of Nahua/Yaqui (Yoeme) ancestry—and he’s so much more. He’s an artist who works with the Washoe County School District; he’s director of the American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada; and he’s a father. He was born in Kingsville, Texas, and has lived in Reno for 26 years. He markets his art not only in the Reno area, but throughout “Turtle Island.” (Turtle Island is a Native American name for the Earth or North America. The turtle, which symbolizes wisdom and longevity, holds the continents on her back.) Over the years, he has created many murals for the Washoe County School District, and others, including one on the water tank above Rancho San Rafael. In addition to his art, he holds ceremonies in the Nevada prison system and throughout Nevada. Learn more by calling 775-329-9015, or visiting www.rayvaldezstudio.com.
What are some of the things you do throughout the year?
I continue creating my art and facilitating ceremonies, as well as holding a Native American cultural class within the Washoe County School District. I have a studio/frame shop at 960 Matley Lane, No. 34, in Reno, where I create fine-art paintings and offer art framing to the community. I am grateful for the support I have received as I continue to spread my message through my paintings. We continue to hold our traditional ways and stand to protect Turtle Island. Also, I’m the director of the American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada. This work encompasses many activities such as the resistance at Peehee Mu’huh (Thacker Pass), which AIM-NNV has been involved in for more than two years. This is a challenging situation, as the federal government allows the desecration of a sacred site for lithium mining. The movement has been protecting our people for 52 years, and we will continue to ensure that the next generations have their traditional culture. Our climate, water and maala ania (mother earth) are in jeopardy, and the time is now for all people and the globe to create alternatives to protect our mother.
I understand you were recently in Europe. How did that turn out?
What an amazing trip to the Pyrenees mountains, near Arthez-d’Asson in the south of France, to facilitate our traditional ceremony. The people learned of our Native American ceremonies many decades ago, and I am grateful for the opportunity to pray with these relatives. I was also able to visit Barcelona and see sculptures and paintings from many centuries ago. I was able to create some plein air (outdoors) art of the Pyrenees and am excited to share this work at my next exhibition.
What do you have coming up this summer?
During the upcoming months, I will be attending many ceremonies throughout Nevada, as the summer is a very active time for traditionalists. This will be my 25th anniversary at 960 Matley Lane, and I am humbled to continue at this location all these years. I will be having an open exhibition on Saturday, July 15, from 3 to 7 p.m., which is open to the public. Come see my new work! Lios em chiokoe uttessia.