Claudia X. Valdes was born in Santiago, Chile. Her family moved to the United States when she was three years old. Her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley included architecture, modern dance and fine art. In 2001, she received an M.F.A. from UC Berkeley.
Between 2001-2009 Valdes’ art practice exclusively focused on the history of U.S. nuclear arms. Her creative response to this subject was coupled with research into military and scientific documents, media-produced responses, conversations with nuclear physicists, examination of literary and video documentary accounts of A-bomb survivors, the collection of present-day text-based memories by the general public about the Cold War, and visits to historic nuclear sites in the US.
She has created over 40 nuclear-themed artworks that she collectively calls TEN MILLION DEGREES – single channel digital videos for installation and cinematic contexts, hybrid print/video works, digitally produced photographs, paintings, watercolors, performances, and an interactive networked installation designed to elicit participant performances.
The essence of her artistic practice is future-oriented in scope. Many works from TEN MILLION DEGREES model a disruptive future imaginary moment, a future condition, through history. In doing so, the hope is that viewers might pause, reflect and move to shape the present towards a more productive future.
Works from TEN MILLION DEGREES (2001-2009) have exhibited internationally including at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; WRO Center for Media Art, Wroclaw, Poland; the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA; Mills College Art Museum, Oakland; the UCR/California Museum of Photography; Centro Multimedia/Centro National de las Artes, Mexico; the Werkstätten und Kulturhaus, Austria; the National Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow, Russia; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, CA; Seattle Art Museum, WA; Charles B. Wang Center, SUNY Stony Brook; Exit Art, NY; Bauhaus-Universität, Weimar, Germany; San Francisco Art Institute/Walter McBean Gallery; and the Instituto Chileno Norteamericano, Santiago, Chile. A 5,000 ft2 solo retrospective, entitled TEN MILLION DEGREES, was featured at Lawrimore Project in Seattle, WA (2009).
Valdes has received numerous honors for her creative work including a 2008 Scholarship from the Santa Fe Art Institute; a 2007 Artist Grant from the Puffin Foundation; Honorable Mention at the 2006 Transmediale festival for art and digital culture in Berlin, Germany; and a 2006 Creative Capital Professional Development Retreat at the Santa Fe Art Institute. In 2001 she received UC Berkeley’s highest honor in art, the Eisner Prize, and she was an Affiliate Artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts from 2001-2003.
She developed and taught digital media art courses at UC Berkeley, the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media at the University of Washington, Seattle, UC Santa Cruz, and at Mills College and Stanford University as a Visiting Artist. Academic honors include a Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities faculty appointment within the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington.
Valdes is Associate Professor of Electronic Arts at the University of New Mexico. Between 2006-07 she was Associate Director of the Arts Technology Center within the College of Fine Arts at UNM. Between 2007-2009 she was also Associate Director of UNM’s university-wide interdisciplinary research center, ARTS Lab (The Art, Research, Technology & Science Laboratory).