Abstraction comes in a number of varieties; the iteration embraced by Valerie Jaudon is known as “Pattern and Decoration,” a post-Minimalist approach that emerged in the mid-1970s. In part a response to the disorderliness and improvisational nature of Abstract Expressionism, the new style emphasized mathematical precision and often incorporated influences from other eras and cultures, such as Celtic manuscript illumination or Islamic and Indian art. Less restrictive than the Minimalist movement that both preceded and coincided with it, “P&D” is visually rich and was originally practiced by many women active in the feminist movement. When challenged to defend the word decorative, Jaudon once articulated: “The prejudice against the decorative has a long history and is based on hierarchies—fine art above decorative art, Western art above non-Western art, men’s art above women’s art.”

A native of Greenville, Mississippi—a small historic city located along the Mississippi River—Valerie Jean Jaudon first attended the Mississippi University for Women, less than three hours away, between 1963 and 1965. She then studied at the Memphis Academy of Art and the University of the Americas in Mexico City, before completing her post-graduate work at London’s St. Martins School of Art in 1969. Upon her return to the United States, Jaudon settled in New York City and has been teaching at Hunter College since 1987.

Drawing on music and language for inspiration—particularly the concepts of line, interval, meter, and rhythm—Jaudon creates image through form. Consistently inventive with materials and design, she regularly uses metallic paints that give a sheen to surfaces which she further enhances with textural brushwork. Her compositions, frequently symmetrical and large in scale, employ dynamic contrasts of positive and negative shapes that flood the canvas. Patterns are reminiscent of Gothic architecture, Moorish tiles, early American quilts, and, in recent years, of Asian calligraphy. A thoroughly abstract artist, Jaudon assigns formal titles to her works, a convention many non-representational modern painters resist. Some of these labels derive from geographical locations in her home state, places like Yazoo City, Port Gibson, Egypt River, and Lucien. Jaudon notes other connections between the South and her paintings: “Growing up in the South, one becomes naturally saturated with its culture of civility, well-mannered forms of address and protocol . . . the elaboration within given boundaries, the necessity to look between the lines. There are parallels there.”

Early in her career, Jaudon was briefly affiliated with an architectural firm, and although she never worked as a draftsman, the experience served her well in the execution of several monumental public art installations. Long Division (1988), located at the 23rd Street station of the New York City subway system, is a sixty-foot-long welded steel fence. At Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, Jaudon’s mosaic floor medallion entitled Solstice (1995) is showcased along with works by several fellow Pattern and Decoration artists, including Sam Gilliam. Under the auspices of the United States General Services Administration, she designed the Filippine Garden (2004), a two-acre park in St. Louis, Missouri, comprised of interlaced gravel paths and segments of manicured grass. Two pendant paintings measuring thirty feet in height hang in the Jacksonville, Florida, federal courthouse.

Elected to membership in the National Academy of Design in 2011, Jaudon has been the subject of several solo exhibitions and represented in important group presentations. Her work can be found in the collections of leading national and international institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.