MY DESIGN SPACE
Behind the scenes with oil painter and digital artist Anna Valdez in her Oakland, California, studio
Artist Anna Valdez’s studio is located in a large historic building in Oakland, California. Built in 1901, the space was originally used for manufacturing speciality automotive parts, licence plates and steel containers, but it has now been revamped to provide studio space for 25 artists.
Valdez has been based in the building for the past three years. It’s the perfect place to be creative, with plenty of light, tall ceilings and communal areas. The majority of her neighbours are also painters, with a diverse range of different focuses. “I consider myself fortunate to have found a studio in this community of artists,” she comments.
Influenced by her studies in anthropology and video, Valdez views artists as “cultural producers”. She is currently putting together a visual autobiography that explores her traditions and history. As part of the project she has collected photographs, stories and family recipes, as well as exploring horticulture and the tradition of crafting. “I consider this examination to be a rite of passage into a globalised society, while simultaneously finding my niche within it,” she says.
Valdez’s studio is almost autobiographical in itself – it is cluttered with plants, books, paint, vessels, art supplies, paintings and tapestries. “There was never an intentional design to my studio, things have just accumulated over time and I try my best to keep it organised as much as possible in order to continue working in it,” she explains. “It is unique in that it reflects and houses my specific interests and history.”
Thankfully, this clutter provides plenty of interesting subjects to paint, and art history books and monographs of artists feature regularly in Valdez’s work (1).
In fact, many of the objects in the space have found multiple uses – a case in point being this French Market coffee can (2). “When I lived in Boston, I would habitually drink FM coffee in the studio,” she explains. “I found the empty tin cans to be pretty useful in holding brushes in oil.”
Patterns fill every corner of the studio, including the crockery. This mug (3) was collected on a road trip. “In addition to the gorgeous pattern and being a vessel for hot drinks, I enjoy the memory it provides,” Valdez says.
Outside of her work as an artist, Valdez is also very interested in horticulture, and the studio is brought to life with houseplants (4) and flowers from her garden (5). Like many of the items in the studio, these provide compositional interest in her paintings, but they also feed Valdez’s creative spark.
“I realise my studio resembles more of a nursery than an artist studio at times, but I enjoy being surrounded by things that are alive and grow with me,” she smiles.
Anna Valdez is a visual artist based in Oakland, California, with an academic background in anthropology and video. Her works investigate personal identity but also cultural meaning, and have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the US. annavaldez.com