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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Napa’s Public Art PowerHouse - KLY & Izzy


Kristina Young and Israel Valencia

By Linda Bausch


To say Napa Valley has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talented artists would be an understatement. The list is long and admirable—a few are more high-profile than others. That’s because these people are prolific and relentless not only in their quest to create art but to share in the public displays for the beautification of the environment. Some of our public artists have garnered global recognition. Gordon Huether and Jessel Miller easily come to mind; there’s no doubt that their contribution talents and leadership have influenced the subjects of this feature.


Kristina Young and Israel Valencia, (aka KLY and Izzy) have been well-known and highly respected as members of the professional art scene for many years. They have added cultural enrichment, from one end of the Valley to the next, all while being full-time professional artists—because, as Izzy reminds us, “Exposure doesn’t pay the bills.” 


For an artist to provide a good living can be difficult, especially in a place as expensive as Napa Valley. To maintain a professional level of income by making art encompasses much more than the word ‘artist’ implies. Besides making work, they must become competent business people: managing budgets and contracts, marketing, grant writing, paying taxes, fundraising, garnering volunteers. The list seems endless some days—KLY & Izzy’s efforts are at the heart of it. KLY did remind me, although they work nonstop at times to keep things going, the couple appreciates the flexibility they enjoy being artists, because they ultimately are in control of their own time. 


They have enriched private collections and created public art, large-scale and small—KLY as a painter, book illustrator, printmaker, tile maker, or in Izzy’s case as a multi-genre photographer, and because they work well together—both have become mosaic artists. Of course, their disciplines are far wider than my short list.


KLY’s early ambitions were of becoming a commercial artist with the drafting table and tools that go with it; or maybe as an art therapist—connecting deeply with others and helping them heal. The second choice was thwarted when her empathetic leanings kicked in, drawing a shadow on her spirit as she fostered healing for others. She 

received her degree in painting from a small arts college in London and studied illustration and design in the States. But she was destined to become immersed in community art once she was hired in 1999 to design ARTscan, an Arts Council Napa Valley (ACNV) publication. 


Eventually, after years of working at ACNV as Program Manager and Director, she struck out solidly on her own. 


KLY said, “I really dove into public art at ACNV when we were working to pass the percent for art ordinance in the City of Napa, the first in Napa County. But I have always loved murals—how they make me remember a place and tell me about the greater community and what they care about. I always see a healthy public art presence as a sign that working artists have a voice and are a valued part of that community. Public art can do so much more than decorate.”


Kristina’s creativity took a backseat for quite a few years while she supported the blossoming art scene in Napa with the Arts Council. One day someone said to her, “I didn’t know you were an artist.” That changed everything. It was then she knew... it was time for a change.


In 1997, after a couple of successful years as staff photographer for the Saint Helena Star, Izzy received a diagnosis of leukemia which he confronted for four years to persevere and claim his future. “Sometime between my first and second autologous transplants, I worked for Gordon Huether off and on, for five years. It was at his studio that I first learned about public art.”


This time was followed by eight years as an event and wedding photographer, after which Izzy stepped back to hone his fine art photography skills. He has since earned a valued, sustainable client base. 


When Kristina began her work on the Napa Quake Mosaic, Izzy rekindled his appreciation of public art. He told me, “It has been really inspiring to see how Kristina involves and works with the community to produce meaningful public art installations. This inspired me to add the same elements and values to my work to produce photography exhibits, and potentially more public art installations. Creating public art for personal and financial enjoyment goes hand-in-hand with doing what I love,” Izzy said, “and at the same time, I am expressing myself, my values, and what I believe is important in life with the goal of having a positive impact.”


No sooner than Izzy made the transition from wedding photographer to an events-centric calendar, well, you know what came next, the pandemic. Quick to act, Izzy went back to his creative roots of fine art photography and developed a focus in social and environmental justice. “In the last three years, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer and provide my photography to indigenous immigrant organizations and the indigenous communities they help in northern California. I have been fortunate to be invited to their home countries to document inter-tribal gatherings. In the spring of 2023, I accompanied one of the organizations and their members to The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues event at the United Nations in New York.”


Izzy spoke of his current display, “It is very exciting for me to have my photography beautify the Napa post office landmark building, especially after the building has been in disrepair and unoccupied since the 2014 earthquake. My piece is one of four public art installations for sites identified as part of the Napa Downtown beautification project.” The display consists of more than eighty photos Izzy took in the early 1990’s when he first came to Napa Valley.


“Recently, I received a grant from Arts Council Napa Valley to produce a photography exhibit honoring indigenous immigrants and their contribution to the wine industry. The exhibit consists of portraits of people from indigenous communities of Napa and Sonoma counties, printed on grape leaves, in a sustainable printing process utilizing photosynthesis.”


You will be stunned by the up-close-and-personal compositions, electrifying colors, and culture Izzy has captured, one frame at a time in his remarkable, commercial, and documentary images. See them at infinityvisuals.com 


The art duo has been involved—individually or collectively—in multiple major installations out of the area: Greater San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Oakland, West Sacramento, Lake Tahoe... to just name a few. You can see KLY’s extensive past exhibitions, murals, large-scale mosaics, and current projects featured on her website, studiokly.com.


Kristina travelled to France last spring assisting Nancy Willis’s, “Path of an Artist” painting trip; they went to Paris and Coullioure (in the South where Matisse and many of the Fauves painted). Nancy is planning a new trip in the Hudson Valley this June. “I can’t go this time, but highly recommend it.” Here’s the website: nancywillis.com/path-of-an-artist-trips-and-tours


“Last fall, I also worked at Ann Trinca’s “Colores Retreat,” a weeklong creative reset specifically for

women in Playa Troncones, Mexico. We just announced the next one in Mérida, Mexico happening October 23-29.”


Kristina and Izzy spoke of the importance of many great teachers who recognized in their students’ talent and one’s drive to create, then steering the student into the path of creativity. 


We discussed writing grants and winning the awards of financial support. Advice to artists who want to create art as a livelihood—develop these important, business skills if you want to garner support and financing from entities willing to foster private and community art. 


Lend your voice, there’s room for everyone’s creativity to shine. Also, Izzy added, “As a new artist, it’s OK to offer your work for free to gain experience and network, but once you are established, don’t be afraid to be more choosey when prospective clients or friends tell you about the great ‘exposure’ you will receive in exchange for creating art for very little (or no) money...” 


There’s a lot of exciting news on the horizon: plans for the Quake Mosaic installation to be overseen by the Rail Arts District. Kristina has many irons in the fire, including a project with Burbank Housing and the Gasser Foundation: ninety-nine small paintings depicting species of plants and animals indigenous to our county. These will be installed as markers for each apartment, granting each resident original art in their space. Israel’s ‘Native Sun Leaves’ exhibition kicks off a series of three, using a natural (almost no chemicals) photosynthesis photography printing process using fresh leaves, distilled water, stencils and the sun to produce images naturally. They have also just joined 100 Coombs Creative Collective where they share an art studio (100Coombs.com).


Congratulations, on all your efforts, KLY and IZZY, your community appreciates you.

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