For many artists, the studio serves as a sacred space. It’s a place that should be calming and inspiring, able to serve as a getaway to creativity and a place of work. In the paintings of Anna Valdez, the studio is at once the subject being painted and the setting of the painting. Her colorful works are packed with plants, fabric, and other paintings. In her newest series, Still Life, the Oakland, California-based artist focuses on the houseplant as a source of inspiration, and even thinks of the plant, with it’s slow movement and reaction to the seasons, as a slow-moving subject.
“I wanted to be an archeologist or an anthropologist,” Anna Valdez explains to The Creators Project of her path to painting. “I went and studied anthropology and got a bachelor’s degree in sociocultural anthropology. And I felt like video was a good and interactive way of communicating the things I was learning. I don’t know how I got into painting, exactly. One day, I woke up and was like ‘Okay, I really like being able to tell stories about my experiences.’ Painting seemed like a good medium for that.”
In almost every work there’s greenery. The houseplant, hanging plant, potted plant, become ubiquitous in her work. “My little oasis in the studio is definitely very intentional,” she explains, in spite of her industrial surroundings. “But I get a lot of great light in there and the plants are able to thrive. The thing I love about plants is that they kind of serve as the figure for me. They’re moving, the vines are climbing and reaching, they occupy space, they move into things.”
il on canvas. 52 x 48 inches. 2016 by Anna Valdez. Photo courtesy of the artist
“I’m painting my environment and everything is autobiographical in that way,” says Valdez. Her work incorporates vases, statues, and milk crates, the vestiges of the life of the artist. “Something I learned when I studied archeology is: you are able to reconstruct people’s lives, and the stories of how they lived through their environment, the artifacts that they had. You can reconstruct their stories in that way. I think that’s why I like painting still lifes, because it shows so much about a person and their interest without showing somebody’s face or postures. You don’t have to introduce the figure in that way. You’re using their environment to construct the story.” In Valdez’s paintings, clues to her own life abound. “There are gifts that are given to me that make their way into the paintings, there are other painters’ paintings in these paintings.”
See more of Anna Valdez’s amazing work, from Still Life and beyond, on her website.