Anna Valdez

Exhibit Description
The Nature of Things features paintings and ceramics depicting maximalist compositions of large still life arrangements that explore how objects form culture and make meaning. Valdez rearranges her growing collection of natural and human-made objects in endless permutations in her studio in Los Angeles. Plants and flowers, shells and corals, semi-precious rocks, animal bones, taxidermized birds and small stuffed mammals, paintings and photographs, ceramics made by the artist, antique vases, books about art and milkcrates to carry them in, textiles and rugs – objects are never deaccessioned, and parts of her studio often resemble a small natural history museum.
Collection and observation delight Valdez as much as painting or working with clay. As she plans compositions from grouped items, new narratives arise. Considering the cultural or personal significance of objects as well as tactile qualities like color and
texture, objects are positioned to tell stories. “My paintings are like contemporary versions of cabinets of curiosity, presenting viewers with a visual feast of carefully chosen objects and arrangements.” First appearing in 16th century Europe, the cabinet of curiosities, or wunderkammer, is a predecessor of the modern museum. Ranging
from portable cabinet to enormous chamber, cabinets of curiosity housed animal, plant, and mineral specimens, ethnographic artifacts, religious relics, antiquities, and oddities from around the world. Cabinets were expressions of pleasure and power that inspired philosophical musing and scientific study—a microcosm of the world that alluded to greater cosmic truths.
Valdez’s new paintings are some of her densest yet. Objects are cozy, placed in close proximity, with patterned fabrics covering most vertical and horizontal surfaces underneath and behind objects. Large speckled or striped leaves interrupt space from
the edges of canvases, inviting viewers to peek from one layer through to the next. Detailed, verdant, abundant, and saturated, Valdez strikes a balance between order and chaos. As the collection grows, objects are painted again and again. Valdez finds a variety of ways to render an object in paint, which can signify the passage of time or help differentiate between two representations of the same idea. Strategies of pattern, repetition, and reproduction are particularly evident in Valdez’s ceramics, which can echo preexisting objects or offer portals into paintings. The imagery found on her vases wraps completely around the surface, forming 360-degree scenes. Despite their simplicity in form, the complex painted imagery encourages the exploration of multiple visual access points and the discovery of various uses from a single object.
Many of Valdez’s works feature landscapes in the form of landscape paintings or photographs from national parks or botanical gardens, with bouquets, houseplants, rocks, and animals offering additional segues to the natural world within hybrid spaces. Valdez uses taxidermized birds as avatars for the human figure, full of symbolism and subjectivity. In The Nature of Things, Valdez offers multiple perspectives as the natural world is woven into the rich tapestry of art and cultural history, encouraging viewers to contemplate the interconnectedness of life and the depths of human experience.

Image credit: Courtesy of the Artist and OCHI. Photo by Deen Babakhyi.
Artist Biography
Anna Valdez is a multi-disciplinary artist who examines the relationship between objects, cultural formation, and collective consciousness. Creating epic tableaux in her studio, Valdez moves
seamlessly between still life and landscape painting as she collects objects and makes new ones — throwing, firing, and glazing new ceramic vessels inspired by ideas for paintings, new plants or
taxidermy, recent trips, or works in progress. Toggling between collection, creation, observation, and fictionalization, Valdez works with saturated hues and surprising scale shifts to communicate an
abstract temporality. Layering the personal with the historical in dense compositions that collapse foreground and background, Valdez’s compositions resemble immersive installations.
Valdez (b. 1985, California, United States) received her BA in Anthropology and Art from University of California, Davis in 2009 and her MFA in painting from Boston University in 2013. Her work has been exhibited internationally at venues including Dangxia Art Space in Beijing, China; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR; North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC;
New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT, Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, NC; Cañada College in Redwood City, CA; Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, CA; David B. Smith Gallery in Denver, CO; 1969 Gallery, Alexander Berggruen Gallery, and Nancy Margolis Gallery in New York, NY; and OCHI in Sun Valley, ID and Los Angeles, CA. Valdez’s work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Juxtapoz, Artforum, Artsy, and Artillery Magazine. Her work is included in various private and public collections including the Columbus Museum, GA; the New Britain Museum of American Art, CT, the American Museum of Ceramic Arts in Pomona, CA; Xiao Museum in Rizhao, China; the Phyllis & Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art at Chapman University in Orange, CA; the Microsoft Art Collection in Seattle, WA; and Aritzia in Toronto, Canada. Valdez currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA and is represented by OCHI.


Artist Name(s): Anna Valdez
Exhibit Name: The Nature of Things
Gallery Location: CAM Lower Level Gallery
Current Status: Past