As an Albanian woman and the daughter of a human rights activist, the scope of Valbona's work is informed by experiences and issues she has witnessed throughout her childhood. Early in her life she has seen the extent of police brutality, injustice, and discrimination of minority groups within the Balkans, specifically in her own family. Through the voice of activism Valbona translates many of these stories into historical narratives using layers of media and memory.
Valbona's art practice began soon after being diagnosed in 2014 with two chronic illnesses; Endometriosis and Interstitial Cystitis. The battle she faced during this time led her to discover her abilities as an artist and activist. During a hospital visit Valbona's father, who was by her bedside, handed her a pen and paper and encouraged her to draw. She began drawing as a therapeutic method of expression, and soon found herself using it as a voice for others. Thereafter she experimented with various approaches and media. She started her art career vocalizing works as a form of activism and empowerment. In Valbona's first solo exhibition The Nameless, she created large scale portraits of women from different backgrounds, to elevate and give them power. Today she continues to create with this philosophy in mind. Through using layers of media, Valbona speaks to the memories of those who have faced discrimination and also depict a history, her history, that has been neglected.
Valbona received her B.F.A. from Oakland University and is a candidate for her B.A. in Art History. She is currently furthering her education in hopes of one day inspiring students in their artistic developments and encouraging them in the same way that she was encouraged. Valbona has had two solo exhibitions and several group exhibitions. She has won several awards and grants within her department such as the Holzbock Scholarship award and the Marion Adams Bunt Endowed Fund. Her piece, Para Entender Tudo, won Best in Show at Oakland University's senior thesis exhibition in 2019.
Photograph by Mikayla Baxter, 2020.