UCLA professor Rodrigo Valenzuela receives Guggenheim fellowship to fund his art
Rodrigo Valenzuela, an assistant professor of photography at the School of the Arts and Architecture, has received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to fund his upcoming project.
"For Rodrigo Valenzuela, photography goes beyond the camera lens.
An assistant professor of photography at the School of the Arts and Architecture, Valenzuela was recently awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to fund his upcoming project. After immigrating to the United States from Chile in hopes of becoming a filmmaker, Valenzuela said photography was initially a way for him to communicate and respond to texts in spite of the language barrier. His art eventually began to expand to different mediums including painting, film and sculpture, he said. Now, tackling issues such as imperialism and Chilean history, his work has become a place for his personal experience and political issues to coalesce.
“I had a lot of support from … the other faculty, my partner, my friends to go through the application,” Valenzuela said. “I wasn’t expecting (the grant), but I knew I did the best I could.”
In his application for the fellowship, Valenzuela said the works he submitted focused on the experience of belonging to the working class. For example, he said his documentary “Maria TV” speaks to the stories behind “invisible jobs” – occupations like maids that are only noticed when their duties are left unfulfilled. Along the same vein, Valenzuela said his planned project with the fellowship will comment on the disappearance of labor unions in the U.S. and the precariousness of entering the job market as a young person.
To Valenzuela, the lack of job stability in America is not an unfamiliar phenomenon. When he first immigrated, Valenzuela said he experienced a lot of instability working as an undocumented construction worker. In contrast, he said the labor organization of Chile provided benefits for his father, which enabled Valenzuela certain privileges while growing up.
“One of the reasons why (my family) could go (on) vacation, be able to afford a house and go to school with me and my sister is because (my parents) had a very, very strong labor union,” he said."— Austin Nguyen, Daily Bruin, Apr. 23, 2021