On Serving Community With Art: 2019 Resident Artist Edith Valle
Edith Valle is a graphic designer and artist in #BBATX’s 2019 Residency. In this interview, she discusses her relationship to family and its influence on her practice and pursuits.
This interview has been condensed from a conversation with #BBATX board member and committee member Xochi Solis..
about the artist
Edith Valle is a graphic designer and artist who actively works to serve her community. Since graduating from St. Edward's in 2016, she has been involved in the local art scene painting murals, being involved in community art projects and organizing workshops and lectures about design and publications for the Austin public. She currently works at the non-profit Deeds Not Words working to engage young women through art and advocacy.
Tell us about your work and practice:
I was born in Austin. My parents immigrated from the region of “Tierra Caliente,” Michoacan, Mexico and ended up settling in Elgin, a small town just 30 minutes east of Austin. My family would travel back and forth from Elgin to Austin on the weekends to buy groceries and clothes, and visit my mom’s friends who primarily lived in North Austin. My parents had friends there and eventually my older siblings went to school there, and me soon after. I am propelled to continue making work here because I want to contribute to the culture of the city that I’m most familiar with. As a designer and artist of color, I want to continue making art that is authentic to my experience as a Mexican-American woman in Austin and also uplift other artists of color in the process.
Much of my art has come from collaborating with people that I volunteer with at nonprofits and nonprofits, in general. I think in those instances, it has been very important to know the people that are doing the work around whatever issue I’m making art for. Not only that, but I think it's important to have them involved in the process and make something with them rather than just for them. You can always tell when there is a disconnection with the people and the art when there is no collaboration with the communities the art is supposed to be serving.
Tell us about your experience with creative burnout and where you find inspiration to make art.
Lately I’ve been kind of burnt out. I feel like I’ve been producing more than actually creating and really engaging with the process. I haven’t had an “urge” to do anything but take a break, if I’m being honest. If anything, as I answer these questions and talk about my family, I feel a spark and realize that's definitely something that inspires me. My paintings always start with me crying about something that made me sad and needing to channel that emotion. Most people don’t see me cry, so yeah—I’m a sad girl in disguise.
What is your ideal gathering or meeting of the minds?
My ideal gathering would be meeting with my ancestors and learning about my family history. Very little of my family history is documented, so I would love to hear stories about where we come from and how we got here.
PLACES + MUSIC + BOOKS + ANIMATION MOST INFLUENTIAL TO EDITH
I come from a family of farmworkers stemming from the geographical region in southern Mexico known as Tierra Caliente. It is a region that comprises of some low-elevation areas of the states of Michoacán, Guerrero and Mexico. The region is super hot (as the name rightfully states) and it one of the most agriculturally rich areas of Mexico. My grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles still live there. When I visit, I witness what it looks like to truly live in community. Most of the food that they grow is shared with their neighbors and vise versa. Every few years that I visit, I learn something new from a place that hardly changes. I think about this a lot since I have the privilege of being able to go back to my family’s roots, and also see where our branches extend.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Calle 13. Their last two albums, Entren Los Que Quieren and Multiviral were very influential to me when I was in college. That was probably one of the first times I was challenged to think critically about my Latinx identity and I felt like those albums helped me explore what that meant. I can say the same about Cafe Tacvba. However, I’m not really into Residente as a solo artist these days.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is probably one of the only books besides Harry Potter that I constantly read over and over again. It’s a story about two women from different generations and how their lives are brought together by the sweeping wars in Afghanistan. They struggle to survive, raise a family, and find happiness. It goes back and forth from the perspective of each woman and I liked that I was able to see the story from both sides. The last time I read it was probably two years ago—I can’t really answer how it shaped me, but I will definitely read it again with that question in mind.
Avatar the Last Airbender is an anime that came out when I was in 5th grade. I’ve always loved the philosophy in this show. As a child, and as a grown up now that I own the dvds, it really motivated me to look introspectively and think about my mental weaknesses and how to combat them. The Legend of Korra which is the sequel to that show is just as good. Period.
About #bbatx's The Residency: We annually work with 10 to 15, Texas-based women-identifying and nonbinary visual and musical artists to produce site-specific work, commissions and exhibitions throughout our programming and events. Through these residencies, we invite the public to learn more about their process, approach and sustainability of their practice. Click here to meet this year's artists.