Behind the Scenes: "Shell Collection" by Anna Valdez
AGA Gallery is taking longer to open than I thought it would. We are waiting on some permits from the City and our new Opening Day is some time in October.
I consigned "Shell Collection" by our featured artist, Anna Valdez for the month of August so this week is my last chance to show it. Here is some information on the piece in case you're interested in checking out the painting this weekend (Gathering at the Gallery August 31, 2-5pm) or purchasing online before she leaves AGA Gallery.
How "Shell Collection" Became a Part of AGA Gallery
I first came across Anna Valdez years ago on Instagram. I was intrigued by her palette at first and I read in an early caption of hers that she makes many of her pigments by hand. Then I became drawn to her subject matter. Anna primarily paints her own art studio. She re-arranges her books, plants and different ephemera and paints them as a buzzing still life.
It wasn’t until I sought her out at her artist studio that I learned the meaning behind her work.
Anna’s studio is huge by Oakland art studio standards. The natural light pours in. She has a kitchenette and hang-out area painted in similar hues to her paintings. Large shelves of canvases greet you as you enter. A printing press takes pride of place in the center and the far half of the space is her painting studio.
A massive canvas, maybe nine feet tall rests on an easel. Anna prefers to paint huge and often does. She is preparing for a solo show at Hashimoto Contemporary in NYC. Crates, shells, plants, and pottery sit stacked behind the easel, the subject of her newest painting.
The Meaning Behind Anna’s Work
I understood that Anna paints her studio. But why?
She told me she did her BA in anthropology then went on to get her masters in fine art. During her experience as an anthropologist, she thought a lot about the way individuals and cultures are remembered by the items they keep with them, and she thought about how this is documented in various ways, including art.
Her artworks archive her life. They are images of the things she keeps around her, the paintings are a document of how she spends her time... painting.
In a way, her art is as folksy as scrapbooking, a favorite pastime in my own family. In a way her paintings are the documents that will describe what it was like for a young woman living in the Bay area in the twenty-ohs for generations to come.
What Anna’s Work Means to Me
In art school, we had to do still lifes in ever medium. It's part of the practice, a way to learn to see. All the greats do them, have made masterpieces of them. I’ve done several beautiful still lifes that mark my own moments in time. Anna’s are different.
Maybe it’s because she’s done so many of them that I felt like I knew her and her studio before I ever met her, or maybe it’s her pallet that makes her studio feel like it’s on an entirely different planet.
Perhaps it’s the way her still lifes have taken on a life of their own, the objects gathering themselves into position before Anna even has a chance to rest before she’s painting another one. There is a certain hurriedness in her rendering and a charm in her brushwork that makes Anna’s studio come alive like the Beast’s castle, like Anna is painting to capture a moment before the seemingly mundane wakes up and moves around again.
Anna in the Press
Anna has a solo show coming up in October at Hashimoto in NYC. She has a full-length book of her artwork called “Natural Curiosities” coming out at the same time. She has shown in various museums and is currently exhibiting at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art right next to Georgia O’Keefe.
Anna has been published numerous times including a recent spread in “New American Paintings.” We are grateful to have her work in our gallery and I hope you have the chance to make it yours before it’s gone!