By KJ Philp, February 2016 Web Exclusive. Back to Echo's Desperado 2016 coverage.

Since 2010, the Desperado LGBT Film Festival plays host to the top filmmakers, directors, actors/actresses, media, movie aficionados and community members.

This annual Valley tradition, which will take place Jan. 29-30 at Paradise Valley Community College’s Center for Performing Arts, includes a kick-off party, Q&A and discussion sessions, music, vendors and an artist gallery.

This year, the festival’s featured artist is Marisa Hall Valdez (pictured), a local artista who has been pursuing art full-time since December 2012.

Marisa now has studio space as a resident artist at 11th Monk3y on Grand Avenue.

Her work has been shown in “She Deck” at Frontal Lobe Gallery and “For the Love of Frida” at the Phoenix Burton Barr Library. Additionally, ahe created “The Carpa Plays,” a mural backdrop for Second Place Art Tank awardees and, along with Hugo Medina, she co-created 68 feet of “Somos Familia,” the first LGBTQ and Latino mural in Phoenix.

As part of the film festival, she’ll be displaying 15 of her latest pieces, all of which are available for purchase, and will be on location to meet with attendees Jan. 31 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Echo caught up with Hall Valdez to get a sneak peek at her work and to talk about her inspiration for the show.

Echo: Can you explain a little bit about the selection process for the Desperado artist gallery?

Hall Valdez: To be honest, a friend of the community, Ted Kirby, encouraged me to apply. He was very kind to speak highly of me and my work to the Desperado committee. I'm not sure of how many artists were considered, or applied, but I'm honored that they thought I was good enough to show.

Echo: What does the opportunity to have your work showcased as part of Desperado mean to you?

Hall Valdez: This is a huge honor, probably my biggest and most important show to date. I'm humbled beyond words.

Echo: In what ways does your art coincide with the LGBTQ films being showcased?

Hall Valdez: Not knowing much about the films beforehand, during the planning process, gives you a bit of disconnect. Typically, there's always love stories in the mix, and with this show, you'll definitely get the sense of love.

Echo: How many pieces will you have on display?

Hall Valdez: Right now the goal is to have a 15-piece show ... Everything is being created new for this show. The running theme is “Love And Romance.” I’ve taken some favorite scenes of some popular movies and paid homage. There will be some hearts as well; I love adding hearts into my work.

Echo: Would you care to get into any specifics of any particular piece?

Hall Valdez: I will say that I paid homage to a scene in Fried Green Tomatoes between Idgie and Ruth. It's where Idgie offers her honey to Ruth. There's just always something about the innocence of the scene, yet it's not.

Paintings by Marisa Hall Valdez.

Echo: Would you say this collection is an accurate representation of all your work (and mediums)? Why or why not?

Hall Valdez: I'm definitely pulling out all of my mediums, even adding collage into the mix for his show. This will be a pretty good representation of me and my work – from the different painting styles and the bright bold colors to realism, animals and cartoons. I'm having a lot of fun putting this show together and the work is definitely showing that so far.

Echo: In your opinion, why are spaces/events specifically designed to showcase and celebrate LGBTQ art (all forms) still so important? 

Hall Valdez: In this day and age, even with the mainstreaming, it's still nice to have a dedicated spaces/events. Places that you know you'll be safe, you know you wont be a minority and you feel welcomed. Events like Desperado also create exposure opportunities for artists and filmmakers that would otherwise be ignored based on subject matter alone.

Echo: Tell us one little-known fact about yourself and/or your work.

Hall Valdez: Well, since I paint in layers, I usually paint naked people in those layers.

Echo: Where can our readers see your work after the film festival?

Hall Valdez: Yes! First Friday (Feb. 5) at 11th Monk3y, 1022 Grand Ave., I will have a mini show called 39 for 39. My wife challenged me to paint 39 pieces for my 39th birthday. I also have a dedicated art wall at Pizza People Pub in downtown Phoenix and Tangled Roots Botanical in downtown Glendale.

For more information on Marisa Hall Valdez and her art, like her on Facebook at and follow her on Instagram at @marisa_artista.

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