Briefly describe the work that you do.
My work is comprised of painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, animation, and digital media. The prominent presence of patterns and textures in my art references physical associations, as well as memories. Recently, many of my pieces have been still lives. The set-ups for these have been composed of various household items such as my clothes, quilts, scarves, blankets, houseplants, drawings, paintings, books, records, and vessels. These items exist as a part of my domestic environment, and I have put them in my paintings as forms of self-representation.
I use various media to explore concepts and to see how each idea is expressed. My process is to work with the same image over and over yet using diverse media.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
My mother is a crafter and quilter. I grew up making things. However, as a little girl I only remember envisioning myself as one day becoming an archaeologist. Ironically, while working as an archaeologist at the age of 22 I somehow decided that I was actually an artist. Art as a career never occurred to me until about eight years ago during my field studies in archaeology while working on a historical site in Ireland. When learning how to properly excavate a site, the program director noticed that I kept a sketchbook, and encouraged me to work on creating maps and scaled drawings using assorted measuring devices. While conducting this architectural analysis in my spare time, I found myself constantly drawing these abandoned spaces, and like a good archaeologist I created a story that interpreted the data gathered from the site. I realized I felt more comfortable with the idea of a loosely based interpretation rather than something set in stone or a textbook. I am not currently an archaeologist. But this knowledge and training still lingers, and I find myself noticing similarities between the practice of art and archaeology.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
The desire to make stuff was inherited from my parents. My mother surrounded us with craft supplies instead of toys. And my father was always telling us stories of his life on the farm.
I grew up in Sacramento, CA. Demographically, Sacramento is a diverse city and I felt that my neighborhood was a good sample of a typical lower-middle class urban neighborhood. Most of my childhood friends were not born in this country. Their identities were deeply rooted in specific cultures, languages, and religions that formed an extra community. I noticed this formation at an early age and it caused me to feel left out. I only spoke English. And we did not attend church. I can remember 90% of the time upon meeting someone new they would ask me, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?”. I was always embarrassed when I had to admit that I was just American with Spanish and Basque heritage, and unable to provide context to what that meant. Mostly everyone thought I was Latina, because of my last name and slightly dark complexion, and they expected me to act as such.
I have no doubt that this experience has shaped who I am regarding my interest in anthropology, and the themes that continue to develop in my work.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I use various media, depending on what I think is appropriate for the image at the time. For example, In addition to painting I work on my computer, making animations and videos.
Media indecisiveness is due to my curiosity about different painting techniques. I make most of my paint from raw pigment and linseed oil. I also love working in egg tempera because it merges the kitchen with my studio. Surfaces are very important to me. I think I spend an equal amount of time preparing my surfaces as I do in actually painting.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
Curiosity, discovery, and pleasure motivate my studio practice. There are so many variants that prompt an idea for a painting, drawing, or animation. Most of the time my purpose for creating is to answer a question that I might have about myself regarding a thought or action. I think it can be said that most artists create work that is reflective of their personal experience or mindset. I tend to draw from everyday experiences such as my domestic environment, conversations with friends, and questions regarding identity.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
This is a difficult list to compose, as every day I am exposed to new work either through galleries, museums or the Internet. But here are a few names that instantly come to mind:
Joan Brown, Matisse, Bonnard, Vuillard, Bacon, Munch, William Scott, Guston, Morandi, Goya, Henry Darger, Gauguin, George Tooker, Mu Xin, Charles Burchfield, Grandma Moses, Charlotte Salomon, Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone, Chris Marker, Federico García Lorca, Charles Garabedian, Hockney, Allison Schulnik, Dana Schutz, Amy Silman, Mamma Andersson, Nicole Eisenman, Katherine Bradford, Elena Sisto, Anne Sofia Meldgarrd and Lisa Sanditz.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
In a way I feel that everything I do is centered on making something. Whether it’s functional or purely visual.
Preparing food tends to take up a large part of my day: I cook, bake, ferment, brew, and cure foods. Living in Northern California—especially the central valley—has made it very easy to access fresh quality foods. Horticulture is a very important element in my life. My father was raised as a tomato farmer. Thus, agricultural knowledge in the form of tending to a small garden was always a feature of weekend family time. Having a garden whether small or large has therefore always been a priority to me. Working with foods that my community has grown makes for a nourishing experience and a happier me.
Anna Valdez is a visual artist living in Northern California. Her interest in pursuing the fine arts took root during her undergraduate studies in Anthropology at UC Davis. She graduated from Boston University in 2013 with an MFA in Painting. She currently works primarily as a painter and animator in San Rafael, CA