Interview: Anna Valdez

As a visual artist with an academic background in anthropology, and video, I view artists as cultural producers. In my work, I attempt to combine these practices into a specific investigation that cultivates not only personal identity, but also cultural meaning. Currently, I am working on various narratives that explore my own traditions and history through a visual format. This process has led me to rely on photographs, stories, family recipes, horticulture, and the tradition of crafting as something concrete in order to construct my autobiography. I consider this examination to be a rite of passage into a globalized society while simultaneously finding my niche within.

Recently, many of my pieces have been still lifes. These arrangements have been composed from 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 to understand the domestic sphere as emblematic of both personal and collective experience.

Tell us about how you got started in your art career. You mention you have a background in Anthropology. When did you decide to become a painter?

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 never felt that Art was a huge leap from Anthropology since it combines cultural investigation, the maker’s psychology, and philosophy, and is an invitation into the thoughts of individuals and the collective consciousness. I find a connection through painting because there really is not a right or wrong answer as it is based on experience.  

We absolutely love seeing images of your studio. Tell us about your interest in plants and gardening. Was it always a part of your life?

My father was an arborist and managed the City of Sacramento’s nursery for the majority of my childhood. I remember our weekend project 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 become a reality.

What have been some experiences that made a positive impact on your art career? 

I think any experience that broadens my community and creates connections with other artists has been incredibly positive for my work and growth as an artist.

How has social media influenced your journey? Did you receive any opportunities because of your online presence? Share a few tips and best practices with us. 

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.

What are some ways you replenish your creativity? What do you love to do when you are not painting?

Reading, cooking, gardening and fermenting are my favorite pastime activities. They are all practices that amplify my creative process because they also require similar skills, such as patience, techniques, curiosity, and industriousness. I think at some point you just realize your tendencies and go with it.