Nationally known Gregg Valley's work on display at Penn State New Kensington
For as long as he can remember, New Kensington native Gregg Valley, 53, always thought of himself as an artist.
“It was always very satisfying for me to be able to use my abilities to make art for people, from the earliest days as a child to creating massive paintings on the sides of buildings for everyone to see,” says the now nationally known Carnegie Mellon University graduate whose one-man show, “Facets of My Life,” is on display through June 1 at Penn State, New Kensington, gallery. A free meet-the-artist reception is 5-7 p.m. May 11.
Regardless of the scale, he loves to create with vibrant, energetic, bright colors that put a smile on people's faces. “I have heard many times from people that they love seeing my murals as they drive to work every day,” he acknowledges. “It's always exciting for me to see a completed painting whether it's on a building or a canvas.”
His Penn State debut includes 20 original paintings and 16 signed and framed prints.
“Gregg is extremely talented and was chosen for his unique illustration and public art projects that he was commissioned to do in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas,” says gallery coordinator Tina Sluss. “There are numerous benefits to public art. With all of the revitalization happening in our area, it can improve the quality of life in many ways.”
He has created several murals throughout Western Pennsylvania and Northern California, some of which are up to 60-feet tall and 75-feet long. His most recent work is a five-story mural in the city of New Castle, completed in the summer of 2017.
The respected regional Arts and Education at the Hoyt, formerly the Hoyt Center for the Arts, commissioned him to paint its first public art project, a large mural in the stairwell of the municipal parking garage.
Valley says his work has gone through many changes over the years. He worked as a scientific illustrator at the Carnegie Museum or Natural History, an illustrator for a daily newspaper and for many years freelancing for children books, magazines and publishers.
Clients have included The U.S. Postal Service, National Geographic, the National Wildlife Federation, National Public Radio, Pepsi, The Houston Press, PetSmart, Ocean Spray and Tyson Chicken.
Famed American pop artist Burton Morris, a Pittsburgh native, was his roommate in college and remains his best friend, and Valley's work is ongoing with Burton Morris Studios. Valley created and managed national and international projects, including the 76th Annual Academy Awards, 2004 Summer Olympic Games, 2005 Senior Olympics, 2006 Major League All Star Game and the 38th Annual Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland.
“Gregg is one of the most talented and gifted artists I know,” says Morris. “His faceted style of art is vibrant and colorful, and instantly recognizable. I have followed his career since our college days at Carnegie Mellon University, and have always admired his creativity and painting skills.”
Valley's commissions by the City of Pittsburgh include painting an 8-feet by 8-feet portrait of Michael Keaton for the public art project “Pittsburgh All-Stars.” He also was commissioned to design an 18-feet by 90-feet mural, “Pennsylvania Wilderness,” in Pittsburgh.
Peduto is a fan
Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto remains a big fan.
“I have known Gregg since 1984. We were fraternity brothers at Carnegie Mellon University. While there, we began what would become a 20-plus year Pi Kappa Alpha tradition. We established ‘Batman' as the official ‘brand' of the fraternity's annual carnival tradition,” he recalls. “To me that summarizes Gregg's style. Like his good friend, Burton Morris, he captures a ‘pop' element in his work. You can easily identify his work, but it is provided in many different ways.”
Two years ago, after his 2016 election, Peduto worked with Valley again. “This time it was on my Christmas card, which Gregg created and made into a poster,” he explains. “It was a call to ‘Peace' and benefitted immigrant and refugee Pittsburghers. From Batman to refugees, Gregg Valley's art is able to capture everything.”
A renaissance man?
Valley laughs when it is suggested he might be a Renaissance man, with his background that includes illustrator, painter, sculptor, muralist, designer, photographer, avid kayaker and experienced chicken farmer, but he does acknowledge possessing “some rather unique interests,” all of which inform his creativity to some degree.
Those viewing his Penn State exhibit will see the body of work he has created over the last several years. “They will see who I am through my work. I believe a lot of my personality comes through in my work,” he says. “I hope that everyone who sees it can appreciate what it took to create.”
He believes his strengths are in form, color and design.
“I feel like that is what my work is about. I like for my work to be visually stimulating to the viewer,” Valley says.
Michael Killen, co-founder and partner of Animal Inc. production studio in Pittsburgh, says his friend since college has always had one of the best straight up drawing skills he has ever seen, and has the capability to paint, sculpt or create in a variety of media.
“As an artist that can do amazing things with a pencil, he also uses software to build shapes, moods and environments. His paintings are the result of all these explorations,” he says. “When he puts brush to canvas, or paint to a wall, he has plotted out precisely how all the pieces come together. The result is a colorful unique progressive point of view of our world.”
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.