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Interview | Anna Valdez

Describe your practice in three words.

Observational, Frantic, Anticipative

You received your degree from Boston University. Could you tell us about your work then when you were fresh out of school, and the most noticeable growth you’ve seen since you moved to Oakland?

During my last year at BU I was painting both figurative and still life work. Since moving back to California I felt much more drawn to still life and landscapes. It’s not that I intentionally stopped painting the figure, I just didn’t feel the need to paint it. Most of the plants and tapestries act as surrogates for the figure in regards to form in a composition. I felt omitting the figure allowed more flexibility and room for invention through observation.

Your studio is seemingly filled with all sorts of objects and plants, which come through in your work. What is your fascination with depicting place and objects, and how do you determine what makes its way into a composition?

I am always thinking a about composition and how objects in my work are in relationship to each other. I reference my immediate environment because I exist within that space and thus it contains collected thoughts, experiences and memories. By collaging those ideas into a composition, each painting serves as documentation to that specific moment in time.

What is the significance of plants to you?

My father was an arborist and managed the City of Sacramento’s nursery for the majority of my childhood. I remember our weekend projects in the spring and summer was to work in the garden, which is a tradition I have carried on. I’m not sure if it’s through nature or nurture that I feel connected to plants but there is something incredibly therapeutic about watching something come to life right before your eyes. Perhaps I also think of them as a metaphor for how paintings emerge. Through patience and ritual (practice) ideas come to life. So, my desire to have them in my studio (an extension of my living space) fills both a formal and functional role.

What is the community of artists like in San Francisco?

There is a large diversity of artists in the bay area, although my interactions are mostly with other painters. One of the best things about the Bay Area is that it tends to attract people from all over the country. It's great because most of the artists I socialize with have studied from a variety of art programs throughout the states, so each studio visit provides a new perspective and access to a different teaching lineage.

Tell us about your creative trajectory. Did you always want to become a painter, and what was the moment like when you finally decided to commit yourself to that?

I don’t really recall a specific moment when I decided to become a painter. I think with anything that you feel a need to do, you prioritize it, and I kept prioritizing painting. Art, and particularly painting, seemed to open a door for me to explore ideas in an infinite way. I find connection through painting because there really is not a right or wrong answer as it is based on experience.

How does your degree in Anthropology affect how you view both your subjects and your completed paintings?

This is a difficult question to answer because I do not think of painting as separate to Anthropology, I just think of it as an additional field of research and communication. However, my interest in Anthropology has laid the foundation for me to think critically about my subjects that ultimately shapes the narrative throughout my work. It has also provided context for me as to why there is placed value on objects, the significance of ritual and how we communicate and connect culturally. Contemporarily, art is an open form of an ethnographic study; historically it is the subject and documentation of specific cultures.  

Many of my paintings serve as a study for a larger narrative, but the majority of my paintings are snap shots of my personal experience. They function as both documentation to a specific time and place as well as a link to historical and contemporary painters.

When was the first time a work of art affected you? What was it?

The earliest memory I can recall would have been during a 2nd grade school field trip to the Legion on Honor in San Francisco where I saw their collection of William-Adolphe Bouguereau paintings. I remembered stumbling upon a room filled with large paintings of young beautiful women with big doe eyes, dressed as peasants or biblical characters. The figurative work itself wasn’t what captivated me. It was the awe I felt at the expressions of figures as well as the way he captured and portrayed light. It felt like I was looking into an alternate reality. I’m not even sure I really cared about the painter or the significance of the work; I was in 2nd grade after all. However, I loved those paintings so much I spent the little money I had (probably given to me for lunch or something) at the gift store on a little catalog of postcards filled with the Legion’s collection of Bouguereau’s paintings. Those images were so precious to me I never used them as postcards. In fact, they were the beginning of my random collection of printed art postcards and flyers that currently litter my walls, cabinets and flat files.

Can you identify and describe a person or event that changed your life?

Every interaction and experience shapes and shifts our lives and adds to our perspective. I think that’s another reason I have gravitated towards artistic communities, people seeking growth and development collectively.

What would be in your ideal art collection?

There are so many artists I find connection to and admire. The list of artists that I would ideally have in my personal art collection would be ridiculously long! Obviously, I would be ecstatic to live with paintings from the Masters as well as my contemporaries. I have been grateful to participate in trades with so many amazing artists and thus have begun the foundation for my ideal art collection. I not only love the works I’ve collected thus far from a technical and more formal perspective, but I connect to them on a deeper and more emotional level since I have had personal interaction with the artists.

How would you define the role social media plays in art? Art making? Art promoting?

Through social media I have been able to connect with artists that are not in my immediate network. I think social media provides access for anyone trying to expand their communities, and it’s great for exposure to new artists and exhibitions. I post on my Instagram and Tumblr pretty regularly and think those two applications are great for finding new work and establishing connections.

Tell us about your upcoming solo exhibition!

My upcoming show is with Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco. The exhibition is titled, Works Sighted and is a nod to the concept of references as a still life painter. I am incredibly excited for the show and cannot wait to engage and participate in dialogue with my community through this exhibition. The opening is on June 3rd and runs through June 24th, 2017.

See more of Anna's work here.

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