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Ken Vallario

Published January 25, 2018 

Ken Vallario artistQ & A

What have you been doing since graduating from FSU?

After I graduated in 1997, I moved to New York City to pursue fortune and fame. I lived in New York and the surrounding area for 17 years and had a successful one-man show in Chelsea, New York’s art district in 2005. It was a validation of a lifetime of work. Ultimately, I grew skeptical of the relationship between the ‘Art World’ and society. As I got older I grew more political and more philosophical. Doing so, I began to alienate myself from an industry whose values I no longer shared. I committed to taking the ‘road less travelled,’ seeking intellectual greatness and artistic success outside of financial metrics. Eventually, frustrated with New York’s name-dropping culture, I moved to Asheville, North Carolina and opened a studio there that had direct access to an eager public. Being free from the gallery system and working directly with the people allowed me to exercise authority over my work, and improve my ability to speak and defend the values my work sought to illuminate. In hindsight, I think any lessons to be learned from New York should be characterized as apophatic. To an art student, I would suggest leaving the city earlier to embark on a mission of being a thought leader in one of the many small-cities that are beginning to cultivate more interdependent art communities.

What did you learn at FSU to get you there?

My favorite professor at FSU was Ed Love. He had high standards, he was passionate and political, and he never shied away from pointing out falseness and cowardice. To some students he seemed hard. To those who shared his discipline, he was a huge-hearted man who cried in the presence of beauty, as I do now. He passed away too soon, and I hang his picture in every studio I’ve ever had since. Ed Love did not teach me how to be an artist. He taught me how to be a man and how to embrace trouble as a principle ingredient in the life of a vital artist.

Ken Vallario's philosophic artWhat advice would you give to art students?

Develop a reading practice. Read direct sources and cultivate your general knowledge about the human condition. Your imagination is the instrument, art is there to reflect its richness. Decide early on whether or not you are interested in the Truth or Fame. They both have costs. Making a clear decision will help you accept the costs with honor, and free you from resenting those who make other choices. I am not opposed to Fame, but I think the current culture doesn’t adequately tie it to the values I am committed to, hence the need to engage in philosophy, because that helps with such dilemmas. To me art is not a career, it is a path, with great dangers and adventures. Take it seriously, and do not pollute our tradition with ironic detachment. Be kind and strong, and never bow to false masters.