Since the late 1980’s, Bocanegra’s work has ranged from painting, video, and installation works to performance, costume, and set design. Throughout her practice, she returns repeatedly to subjects that interest her - romantic ideas about nature, idealistic views of the pastoral, how costumes communicate and reveal character , how art and theater interact, and how art intersects with real life. By accumulating and collaging personal and historical narratives, Bocanegra creates works that can be interpreted literally, metaphorically, and satirically all at once. Much of her work is collaborative; Bocanegra frequently works with actors and musicians, using their physicality, movements, and sounds as vehicles to project the various modes of interpretation. By working with actors, she makes a comment on avoiding the audience’s gaze, reclaiming a power that women often lose.
Art critic and art historian Hal Foster notes on the artist’s recent work, “all these pieces are not only personal stories; they’re also cultural essays.”
Valley is an eight channel video reenactment of the wardrobe tests originally performed by Judy Garland for the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. Garland, fragile and worn out from exhaustion and years of studio mistreatment, was let go from the film before shooting began, and these wardrobe tests are all that remain of her participation. Bocanegra has retrieved the original footage, spanning approximately five minutes, in which Garland is clearly, uniquely vulnerable. For her installation, Bocanegra cast eight women whose own work touches on performance to play and honor Garland, including poet Anne Carson, dancer and choreographer Deborah Hay, artist Joan Jonas, actor and singer Alicia Hall Moran, actor and activist Tanya Selvaratnam, actor Kate Valk, artist Carrie Mae Weems, and ballerina Wendy Whelan. Bocanegra used the film clip as the script, and the actors were guided by Garland’s text and gestures. Although all of the women are dressed in the same costume and moving in unison with each other, each one interprets the material in a different way. Art critic Helen Shaw notes, “There’s a sense in Valley too of beautiful things being rescued from the flames, of defeat being repurposed into strength.”