Dallas Artist Pays Tribute to Mother, America's ‘Working Poor'

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It’s a sight that quickly catches the eye of those walking and driving past: A brightly colored paper mache car at the corner of Polk and Davis in Oak Cliff.

“When people walk up I want them to touch it, to feel it and intellectualize what is happening in our city,” said artist Giovanni Valderas.

The car is a replica of the first car his mother came to own after immigrating to America from Guatemala in 1976. Upon arrival, Rosemary Valderas, like many immigrants, confronted discrimination, poverty and the simple challenge of just getting to work.

“It was very hard, I didn’t know how to drive and I had twins,” she recalled.

For her son, the paper mache car is a symbol of the challenges facing the working poor in Dallas and across America, as well as the optimism they confront it with.

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“The fact is a lot of working-class families aren’t seeing the benefits of this city,” he said.

Property owner David Spence partnered with Valderas to put the installation in front of his businesses.

“This corner is perfect for it,” said Spence. “There is what it brings visually and there is the dialogue it brings.”

Valderas says the car was also partly inspired by the inequity he saw during the early days of the pandemic, when COVID-19 testing lines in minority neighborhoods were disproportionately long.

“For me, it was a really sobering moment when I would be on my way to work and see long lines to get a COVID test,” said Valderas.

All of it he hopes is reflected in the car, which was initially displayed at the Nasher Sculpture Center and will now remain at the intersection of Davis and Polk through the end of this year.

“I wanted to make something that was attributed to her, and show her how much I love her,” said Valderas.

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