A warm color palette inspired by California sunsets and still life compositions as self-portraits are the main themes of the creative universe of young American artist Anna Valdez. Her vision of contemporary culture is based on story telling and autobiographic connections with everyday life inspired and nourished by Anna’s anthropologic education.
In your still life paintings the composition is full of personal references to your roots. How do your origins and personal experience affect your work?
Many of us are products of our environments. That said, a lot of what I am creating in my work is a self-made environment. The still life arrangements are really self-portraits. I do not overtly think of my paintings as referencing my roots; however, all of my interests as an adult have grown from my accumulated experiences. The objects in the paintings are chosen as a representation of who I have become and what I want to project about myself.
You were born and raised in California. How has this place influenced your work? Would you ever live anywhere else?
I think the most influential part of being a Californian and an artist is how the landscape and environment have affected my palette. I really enjoy colors that radiate or give off a certain heat. There is something familiar and comforting about deep reds, pinks, and yellows. Even when I use cool colors, they tend to be warm in a way. I imagine myself as an adventurer, ready to set sail at any moment for the next voyage.
Your art definitely reflects the contemporary zeitgeist. What’s behind your creative process? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I am a participant in contemporary culture so my work is reflecting that involvement. My creative process involves the current flows of cultural production and re-production and my reactions to that system. Much of our contemporary reality is based on stories. My creative process employs story-telling to paint a narrative that reflects who I am. I take inspiration from the many stories told, untold and waiting to be.
How have your Anthropology studies influenced your work?
My studies in anthropology have helped me develop concepts for my paintings. Anthropologyis a very broad subject but can be generalized as the study of humans. The act of making objects, pictures, and tools have helped set in motion everything that societies are today. Keeping this in mind has helped me focus on the simple, honest moments of the everyday. It’s also really nice to paint about things to which you feel connected.
In the female portrait series "Mask and Veils" you painted women whose faces are flat, abstract masks, while paying a lot of attention to fashion and interior details by delivering a surreal yet domestic and familiar atmosphere. Would you like to tell us something more about this series and the role of the female in your work?
Many of my paintings are stories that were intended for me, but never shared. They are interpretations of memories that, due to the identity-altering effects of Alzheimer’s, were never passed on. This occurrence has caused me to focus on a narrative of self-perception as experience and how with the loss of an autobiographical memory, one’s identity can become abstracted.
I use the motifs of the mask and the veil to symbolize the power of the unknown: a reference to the biological and social struggles for identity and self-identification. The frequent use of patterns suggests my personal relationship to these forgotten memories. They represent my attempt to connect these objects, people, places, and events to my own experiences of them.
There seems to be no way to escape the importance of the female in my work as my experience is painted by my positionality. This is one of many reflections on the female experience in my current cultural context. It is my way of reconfiguring and re-defining the feminine space; a kind of re-writing history through picture making.
Your "Still Life" series consists of accurate compositions of iconic items reflecting the projection of a personality that reminds me of social networks like instagram, pinterest and facebook. What is your relationship with them? Do they play an active role in your life and in your art?
I think it all goes back to the fact that I am referencing objects and set-ups from my life and environment. I am very active in sharing my work through social media outlets and I look at other artists’ work there as well. It’s a very exciting time to be an artist because you have this huge community forming through social media. Tumblr and Instagram, for example, are amazing networks that are about the sharing of images and are truly remarkable resources for artists. I’ve had interactions with artists through social media that may not have been otherwise possible.
Returning to your statement about “…compositions of iconic items reflecting the projection of a personality…” I feel that painting has always done this since it became an individual activity. We are only noticing it so much in real time now because it’s being so prolifically documented, shared, and witnessed.
You also do animation and video. Could you explain what it’s like to work with different forms of media?
Before I started to focus on painting, I envisioned myself becoming an ethnographic filmmaker. I see this as the most perfect union between socio-cultural anthropology and film. Somehow I got distracted along the way by drawing. I made drawings of people, places, and things. Animation is a great way to breathe life into a drawing. Lately I’ve been using video and animation as tools to figure out paintings. My bigger still lifes have a collage-like quality. I think this has a lot to do with how I’ve trained my brain to link images together to form a narrative. It’s an incredible challenge to do this in a single image yet I’ve noticed this happening a lot in my bigger works like, 'References' and 'Picnic'. In summary, I think working in various forms of media has helped me develop a stronger visual language.
Your extremely colorful compositions remind me of textiles and patterns. Would you like to collaborate with a fashion brand? What is your relationship with fashion?
My mother is a quilter. So my relationship to textiles is one that relates to home and family. To this day, I find sewing machines to produce one of the most soothing sounds. I have a few friends that work with textiles and we have talked about collaborating on a few pieces. I really like the idea of collaboration in general. I’ve always found that through these projects I am introduced to new ideas and ways of seeing. I’m less certain about my relationship with fashion. I’ve never had a budget for high fashion but I’ve been complimented on my sense of style.
What are your wishes and projects for the future?
To keep painting!