Amanda Valdez is an artist who is hot for teacher. Just kidding, but she places an important value on education as her professors promoted her self-expression and encouraged her artistic development throughout the years. When she arrived in the Big Apple for graduate school, Amanda had an amazing cast of educators who challenged and nurtured her as she brought her abstract language of shapes into contact with materials like painting and textile traditions – allowing her art career to take off. History remains a source of inspiration for her travel, artistic research, and general faith in humans’ ability to create, and as an artist she sees history as the story of what people have created with their hands.
Amanda’s first solo museum exhibition is about to open in September – Rotherwas Project 1: Amanda Valdez, Ladies’ Night at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. Her work here is influenced by feminism, quilt design, Western and non-Western art, and combines paint, fabric, and embroidery on canvas to yield abstract forms with undeniable relation to the human body.
Amanda can’t live without podcasts, ChapStick, water, nature, her family, and a good dance party. Art Zealous caught up with Amanda to chat more about what makes this colorful chick tick.
Art Zealous: Coffee or Tea?
Amanda Valdez: Decaf coffee, I’m a grandma in training. I quit caffeine a long time ago but growing up in Seattle with coffee culture it’s still part of me and something I want.
AZ: If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
AV: I wish I could be a panda bear caretaker. I think I would be really happy.
AZ: Favorite book?
AV: I’m 150 pages away from finishing the last of four books from the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. That felt like an honest tale of the complications of friendship and the way an artist can grow out of the conditions of their birth and reflect back into that space while simultaneously honoring the opportunity to change.
Then anything Margret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, and David Mitchell.
AZ: Who do you admire in the art world?
AV: There are many levels of admiration. There is history so artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Agnes Martin, Hilma af Klint, and Annie Albers, who I admire for the merging of risk and confidence in their work and life decisions, they give me courage.
In my contemporary life, I admire my peers and collectors supporting female artists. I need people embedded in the battle with me, creating solutions and dealing with what we encounter as emerging artists: navigating opportunities, life as renters in New York, creating collaborative relationships, and celebrating our feats.
Collectors who are acquiring the work of female artist have my admiration because there is a lack of balance in the ways women artists are supported in the marketplace, so they are doing the heavy lifting in creating a foundation to support and enable female artists to have their art practice be self-sufficient. I’m aware that this is a completely self-serving statement, but it’s so real.
AZ: What’s your fave piece of your own work?
AV: I always struggle to answer this, they all have such specific meaning to me. Right now I’m really proud of tube raid. It’s about to hang next to a Judy Chicago plate of Emily Dickinson and that is a dream to me. It’s a weird painting that is still revealing itself to me. I did a series of tondo paintings, and I loved reacting to the circular frame. It was David Little, the director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum who first saw the connections to Chicago’s Dinner Party and is placing the two together in his show Accumulations: 5,000 Years of Objects, Fictions, and Conversation.
AZ: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
AV: This fall I will be going to Japan for the first time. I have a solo show at Koki Arts in Tokyo opening the end of October. I can’t wait to walk Tokyo and Kyoto, take Shibori dye classes, visit the gardens and temples, and have time to get lost. I’m curious to see how my work will resonate with the Tokyo art scene. I’ve been working on hand dyeing the fabrics I am using, and that will appear heavily in the Tokyo show. I have two other projects I am keeping close to the chest right now, but check back in!
Be sure to check out Rotherwas Project 1: Amanda Valdez, Ladies’ Night at the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, September 8 – January 2.
Don’t forget to follow Amanda on Instagram @thunderloves.
Feature image, photo credit David Le.