Local artist finds beauty in what drives the rest of us nuts: Houston traffic

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HOUSTON — For most people, driving in Houston traffic is like their worst nightmare. But for artist J. Maria Valdez, it's a source of inspiration.

As she drives around the city, she snaps photos of traffic scenes on her smartphone and turns them into emotional works of art.

"I try and find the beauty within that landscape as I am driving from place to place," Valdez said.

The works vary from mysterious and dangerous to joyful and reflective. Several paintings are on display at the West Loop Campus of Houston Community College in an exhibit called "The Commuter: Daily Reflections."

"Some of my more recent work, I wanted to kind of focus in on the idea of reflections," she said. That includes her painting "Morning Commute - Rearview Mirror," which contrasts strong oranges and maroons in a rearview mirror with a blue-grey, foggy morning through the windshield ahead.

She explains, "Whether we're thinking about what's going to happen during our day in front of us or what has happened in the past, we're always kind of spending time reflecting in our cars during our commutes."

The exhibit by Valdez, an art professor with HCC, is open and free to the public Monday through Saturday until Oct. 22.