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Anna Valdez: Documenting Life Through Still Life Paintings

The Documentation of the Self

Having been born in and exposed to the hodgepodge that is the culture and art scene of California, still life artist Anna Valdez brings to the table pieces of her life and personality onto the canvas. The general perception of still life is that it is usually impersonal, plain, simple – paintings upon paintings of bowls of fruit. However, Anna uses the style to document the little things that serve as little reflections of herself while simultaneously delivering pieces that capture people’s eyes and hearts. Looking at her artworks, one could not help but be drawn to them.

"Deer Skull in Studio" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2018
"Natural Curiosities" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2018

“Contemporarily, art is an open form of an ethnographic study; historically it is the subject and documentation of specific cultures.”

"In Search of an Art Like Heritage" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2017

Before obtaining her MFA in Painting at Boston University, Anna Valdez completed her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology at the University of California, which heavily influences her work and workflow. Her background in the field has led her to view things a certain way and understand better why certain objects are used, what their value is, and how they enhance a certain composition of still lifes.

"Sally Sells Seashells" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2017

“In a way, facing a large painting is kind of like looking in a mirror. There is a certain level of self-reflection when trying to work through ideas visually.”

"Studio Moments" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2015
"Venus" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2017

The Creation of a Narrative

As art is often a reflection of something, whether it be politics, an event, a person, or an environment, Anna Valdez personally views artists as “cultural producers”. She works to expand the art and present it not only as personal projections but as pieces that have cultural meaning. Recently, she has begun to study and work on the various narratives that delve into her own traditions and history through painting.

"Ways of Seeing" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2017
"Stack" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2015

For example, Anna’s still life work is influenced by and references patterns, fabrics, and quilt. Her mother was a quilter and she grew up surrounded by them. She also uses plants heavily in her artwork due to her father being an arborist when she was younger. At the moment, Anna’s source material comes from her domestic environment, shuffling between her home and her studio. Her current pieces usually incorporate of the little bits and bobs she has lying around, some parts of her daily routines. These fragments of her life are integrated into her own work and become part of the narrative of her own culture.

"Cooking with Bacon" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2014

“I find myself using the same objects or patterns for numerous paintings. I didn’t realize how much of my personality is reflected in my work until I was completely surrounded by it and immersed in it.”

"Shell Collection" by Anna Valdez, oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 2018
"Afternoon Fern" by Anna Valdez, oil on canvas, 2017

At the end of the day, Anna Valdez weaves into narratives pieces of her life through her painting much like how we, as a generation, capture moments of our own lives with our cameras and smartphones, immortalizing glimpses of our own traditions and cultures.

All images copyright of Anna Valdez

You can view more work by Anna on her Instagram and website.

Article written by Kathlene Masilongan

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