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Studio Visit - Anna Valdez

Studio Visit

Studio Visit with Anna Valdez

As a visual artist with an academic background in anthropology, and video, Anna Valdez views artists as cultural producers. In her work, she attempts to combine these practices into a specific investigation that cultivates not only personal identity, but also cultural meaning. She is currently working on various narratives that explore her own traditions and history through a visual format. This process has led her to rely on photographs, stories, family recipes, horticulture, and the tradition of crafting as something concrete in order to construct her autobiography. She considers this examination to be a rite of passage into a globalized society, while simultaneously finding her niche within. Anna Valdez received her MFA in painting from Boston University in 2013. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States.

Q.

Describe your practice in three words.

A.

Observational, Frantic, Anticipative

 

Q.

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?

A.

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.

 

Q.

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?

A.

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.

 

Q.

What is the significance of plants to you?

A.

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.

Q.

What is the community of artists like in San Francisco?

A.

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.

 

Q.

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?

A.

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.

 

Q.

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

A.

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.

Studio philosophy

"Work every day. And by work I mean: create, look, read, listen, write, inhabit the studio space."

Q.

When did you start calling yourself an artist?

A.

I guess I started identifying as an artist when creating became my primary focus.

  

Q.

When do you make your best work?

A. 

I tend to produce my best work early in the morning or later in the evening, when everything is quiet.

   

Q.

Regarding your method of making, is it a case of the material or method dictating the idea or the other way around?

A.

When I am in the studio and I notice small moments that spark an interest, I am naturally motivated to explore them further. In general I am a curious person, so I gravitate towards discovery – whether that be in subject material or methodology. At a certain point my motivation shifts to be more about the process. So I guess it isn’t either or, more of a give and take. Sometimes the subject inspires the process initially whereas other times it is the opposite.

 

Q.

Is art making therapeutic for you?

A.

In a way, facing a large painting is kind of like looking in a mirror. There is a certain level of self-reflection when trying to work through ideas visually. I am not sure if that means it is therapeutic, but creating art definitely contributes to my growth.

 

Q.

What are you most proud of?

A.

The relationships I have built, and continue to build, in the art community.

 

Q.

Artist whose career you covet?

A.

Covet is a strong word. Everyone’s career takes a unique path based on their circumstance, so I don’t necessarily wish I had someone else’s career. However, the list of artists I admire is long, like Charles Garabedian, Lois Dodd, Elizabeth Blackadder, Joan Brown, and Jennifer Bartlett to name a few.

About Anna Valdez

She is currently working on various narratives that explore her own traditions and history through a visual format.

 

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