Studio Visit with Liz Robb & Anna Valdez

POSTED BY: GISELLE GYALZEN

We're looking forward to hosting Liz Robb & Anna Valdez in our gallery for their collaborative art show, Texturally Speaking. We visited them in their studios and asked them to talk a little bit more about their work and themselves and we're happy to be able to share this with you!

 

GG: Liz, how did you become a soft sculpture artist?

LR: My background is in fashion design, and I’ve always enjoyed draping and creating three dimensional forms on the body. After volunteering a few years ago on a farm in rural Wisconsin, I became more interested in building from the fiber up, which has led me down the path to where I am today.

Liz in her studio (Photo by Dave Medal)

GG: What types of tools and materials do you typically use? 

LR: I typically use all natural materials such as wool, cotton, and linen, however recently I’ve been experimenting with resin, metallic, and paint. I love to experiment with different types of looms and brushes!

Liz at work (Photo by Dave Medal)

GG: You also dye your own materials; can you talk a little bit more about that process?

LR: I love the process of indigo dyeing, it’s like magic! I studied a few years ago under a master woad dyer in Provence, and ever since I’ve enjoyed creating vats on my patio and dyeing just about everything! It’s a very witchy process, and understanding the temperament and chemical components of indigo has kept me on my toes.

Indigo dyed thread (Photo by Dave Medal)

GG: What do you like most about your studio?

LR: My studio is where I can have all of my collections, inspirations, and artwork laid out in a manner that is entirely me. It’s a fun zone where I can view the East Bay while weaving on my floor loom! I can also jam with my fur son, Hank, which he loves because it’s messy and full of yarn.

Liz's loom (Photo by Dave Medal)

GG: Anna, how did you choose painting as a medium?

AV: I have always connected painting to tradition and the romantic history of art. However, I did not choose to focus on painting as my preferred medium until recently. In the past I have worked in various media such as video, animation, printmaking, and drawing but through this exploration I have found that painting works best for my needs as an artist.

GG: You also make your own paints. Can you tell us a bit about this process and why you choose to practice it?

AV: I think it’s wonderful to learn about materials through the process of making paint. While my work is not conceptually based around process, process is certainly considered as a large part of the finished piece. As a curious person, making paint and surfaces adds another layer of discovery to the act of painting, which I find to be quite satisfying.
Making paint requires a lot of patience but I can zone out and enjoy the physical aspect of making something. I also relate this process to cooking, as it becomes a recipe that I am constantly trying to perfect in order to get the paint consistency and value that works best for me. In addition to the practicality of having paint always accessible, it is also really fun to play with raw pigments and to see the vibrant colors transform into paint.

Anna's studio (Photo by Anna Valdez)

GG: You've been making a lot of still lifes lately. Why?

AV: My paintings are autobiographical and my environment depicts aspects of who I am through what I choose to surround myself with. In addition to painting objects and scenes that I have a personal connection to, I find that through a specific arrangement of things I am able to construct complex installations that allow me to create interesting compositions.

Some of Anna's work (Photo by Anna Valdez)

GG: What inspires your work?

LR: Traveling is a big part of my life, which certainly informs my work. I like to plan a trip every year to somewhere I’ve never been, and residencies have been a great way to explore new parts of the world!

AV: Curiosity inspires my work, as I am constantly learning how to paint and to see the world around me. For me, the act of painting is an action of discovery. 

GG: Can you talk about the work for your upcoming show at RD. What's the story behind it and what inspired it?

LR: This is the first time Anna and I have created together, and I couldn’t be happier! It’s truly a collaboration, layering drawing, painting and stitching. We deconstructed and reconstructed drawings in silk and cotton, layering paint, and pastel. This work looks markedly different from our normal individual work, and we hope to continue this series on a larger scale in the future!

AV: I was excited by the opportunity to work with Liz, not only through exhibition but also through a collaborative setting. We have had a great time brainstorming and working through our ideas. It been a wonderful learning opportunity for me to see how another artist works and to have so many fresh ideas introduced through a new process.

GG: You guys are making very collaborative pieces, with both of you working together on one piece. Can you talk about how that's different for you and what sorts of adjustments you've had to make for yourselves and for each other. 

LR: It’s been great getting to know Anna and how she works in the studio. We work together easily, and communicating ideas and experimenting has felt seamless.  

AV: I learned that I really enjoy working collaboratively. It’s been so fun to be able to bounce ideas off someone else and to also be presented with new perspectives.

One of Liz's gorgeous weavings (Photo by Dave Medal)

GG: What should we look forward to from you in the near future?

LR: I’m pretty jazzed about a new series I’ve been working on inspired by my summer in Joshua Tree. It’s full of desert brights, transparency, and opennness.

AV: More paintings!