Be­hind the scenes with oil painter and dig­i­tal artist Anna Valdez in her Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, stu­dio

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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. an­

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