06.09.21 Press

Amanda Valdez featured in Artsy: “6 Rising Contemporary Artists Using Traditional Craft Techniques”

Read on Artsy.

The popular practice of reviving ancient and traditional crafts in contemporary art is nothing new; age-old techniques have become ubiquitous across the art market and in museums and galleries alike. The reemergence of such methods has been described as a gesture towards something more certain and tangible in a troubled time, or a means of rejecting the digital in favor of the handmade. The popularity of crafting also signals the shifting away from rigid perceptions of “high” and “low” art forms and of the gender, sex, and race of people who make them. Crafts represent a genuine intersection that resonates with the present moment.

And yet, amid the clamor for craft in the art world, some of the details of these traditional techniques have been lost. While artists like Anni Albers were forced into their craft “unenthusiastically,” artists working today are choosing to engage with craft with intent and purpose, and to represent the specific origins in time and place of their chosen technique. There are many more stories to be discovered in the ways artists are adopting and adapting their ancestors’ traditions, and much to be learned by understanding the roots of these processes, as well as the social and political circumstances that have conditioned them. Here, six contemporary artists recount how and why they work with traditional crafts and what the techniques they use—often inherited through their families—mean to them.

Amanda Valdez

b. 1982, Seattle. Lives and work in New York.


Textiles are so deeply ingrained into our culture, history, homes, and bodies. So if I’m using quilting, or weaving, or hand-dyeing fabrics, or embroidery, people often share their memories or experiences with these materials and are excited to contemplate them within the structure of painting and within my abstract shapes,” said Amanda Valdez, who uses warp and weft (the matrix in which a cloth is woven on a loom) to create inviting, textural abstract works that mix quilting, sewing, weaving, and painting. This piecing together of materials is deliberate, allowing for all kinds of intersections. “The egalitarian foundation of this approach with abstraction paired with bringing modes of making that are outside of painting into painting usually communicates quite clearly to viewers,” she said.
Valdez has been influenced by the architecture of the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up, and her own physical and emotional confrontation with the world. Introducing different materials in her work is a way of thinking through all of that—but recently she had the chance to go bigger with her ideas. Valdez traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, on a residency at New Roots Foundation, situated within a large, world-class textile mill known for unique textiles that are exported worldwide.
“At my request I was given an eight-harness floor loom nestled within the mill to experiment on,” she said. Learning different modes of weaving with Luc Deweerdt, a fourth-generation Belgian textile engineer, Valdez conceptualized a large-scale weaving made on a huge loom that required four people to operate. “It was important to approach the weaving like my paintings, so I brought together unlikely combinations of weaving methods into one piece, as in a chenille shag with a flatweave wool. As I got closer to finalizing the piece I kept thinking other artists who weave would do something so much more sophisticated given this opportunity. This mill wove the Sheila Hicks Venice Biennale pieces, and here I am using chenille shag!”


by Charlotte Jansen

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