Most of my time at University of Houston consisted of me working at the Jenkins Architecture + Art Library, a place that was as dreamy as it was therapeutic. I would gather reserves for professors, I would pretend that I was Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face and dress in monochrome colors, I would research anything for anybody and I would sometimes secretly see what books other students had checked out in their accounts. Yes, it was sneaky but it allowed me to admire and get to know my contemporaries in a different perspective. One of those people was Photography / Digital Media student Andi Valentine. I first met her at the circulation desk and immediately began exploring her special presence. Of course she was beautiful but in a way, it felt strange meeting Andi. I already knew that she was interested in all forms of light, minimalism and lots of female artists. Seeing her art now, many years later, one can easily see how much she carries these early influences with her into her work. It's lovely.
I had the pleasure of getting to know her at a deeper friend level when I graduated and had more time to explore the city. Back then, Andi was the Creative Manager of Settlement Goods & Design and I would regularly visit her at the store. It was at this time where I learned more about her interest in scouting local talent like Michelle Yue, her inspiration of her cat's personalities, her witchiness, her internalization and expression of her blackness, her appreciation of the body in all forms, her vivid imagination and mostly how relatable she was.
I'd like to think that this year has been good to Andi, especially this spring and summer. In April, Andi was featured in Assuming Identity at Rudolph Blume Fine Art / ArtScan Gallery. Her piece Jupiter stole the show and featured poetry, a light installation and video projection. I remember going in my cozy clothes because I knew that I wouldn't be judged. During August and September, I had the pleasure of being featured in LIT, Andi's first solo exhibition in the TOMO MAGS Project Space. After all of these years, I realize that Andi's true strength is her owning herself and her ideas. It has been a privilege witnessing her growth. She's successful because she thoughtfully researches and executes a vision just as she is. That type of confidence and character will take her very far. I am sure of it. Dive into the mind of one of my favorite people ever.
How would you describe your interdisclipinary style? Auratic in the way I deal with light and color. Textural, cathartic, experimental, in a way. I play with different elements until I’ve caught something I want to hold on to a bit longer or ideas I want to explore further. A lot of it is spontaneous and some choices are made at the last minute. The medium depends on what I’m trying to express. Often I start with words and build visually on those thoughts. I work well under pressure, or at least I enjoy the results that come from the rush caused by the pressure. And I wouldn’t say it’s the best method, but sometimes it is.
What is your favorite medium? I’ve thought about this quite a bit and it’s important for me to acknowledge light as being my favorite medium. I know there’s so much there I haven’t tapped into yet, it excites me and it’s definitely *~ The One ~* Studying photography came as a surprise to me, but I was able to create more abstract images and found the medium extremely flexible and useful. I would project light, photograph those projections, project those images, shoot video of them, project that onto objects, myself, whatever. It is endless. Besides photography, I like to write and I studied painting as a kid. I still paint / draw often.
What was your upbringing like? Are you from Houston? I had a really special upbringing. Special to me obviously. It was pretty difficult at times but now I can really appreciate it because I pull from it so much for my work, it’s mine, and I’m most likely stronger for it. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri. I was born in a little house in Blue Springs which is a tiny suburb of KC. My mom refused to give birth in a hospital. My dad and his side of the family were in the next room with my sister (who were all actively freaking out the whole time, I’m sure) as the midwife helped my mom through delivery. I was raised mostly by her, my big sister, and my grandparents. My father is quite special to me, although he wasn’t around much. I do have a good handful of nice memories with him, though, and I have him to thank for my affinity for sushi & vietnamese food. He lives in BC, Canada because that’s where he feels the best, I think. I don’t blame him or else I’m trying not to. He lives with a multitude of mental health conditions.
I spent a lot of time with my grandpa Tony, my dad’s father. He was always taking me on adventures involving tractor rides to the pond for fishing or planting trees and riding horses and bikes. He’s still a challenge to keep up with at 82, and he’s my rock. He’s taken me to 5 countries and countless road trips.
I lived in Dallas throughout elementary and junior high. I think that’s where the artist in me began to come out, the art and architecture and history in Dallas does not suck. I had an art teacher in 4th grade who was really influential and encouraging in regards to my abilities, she encouraged me to enter my first art competition. Other than that, I’m so glad I moved to Houston in 2004, this city has been kinder to me than Dallas was.
My mother is a renaissance woman and she wiggles 90% of the time. She forced me into dance classes and I thank her for that now. She’s an expert in classical belly dance and most of my memories growing up include her draped in sequins, twirling around, crashing finger symbols, balancing a sword on her head. She even had a pet snake that scared the shit out of me. I still don’t think I ever met another kid who was raised by a belly dancer.
What first inspired you to start creating art? I’ve always been drawn to the arts and practiced in some capacity. As an adult, I decided to go back to college only when I realized that I wanted to study art and art history and it was at UH that I was able to really focus on creating. I’m surrounded by so many thinkers and creators in Houston, it’s hard not to be inspired. If I’m in a rut creatively, there’s plenty to do and see here to keep me going until I’m ready to make work again.
Does music influence you? What are you listening to these days? Absolutely, I’m extremely musical. I really really want to make music, actually. I listen to whatever gets me going, whatever I can sing to or get lost in. Very much the cliché response. Right now I usually always have Solange, Rihanna, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, Sadé, Alex Cameron, Angel Olsen, Lower Dens, Porches, Connan Mockasin, James Blake, and St. Vincent on loop.
You are also interested in design. How did working at Myth + Symbol influence you? Truthfully, I wouldn’t be where I am now without Jenny Schlief Morgan and the Settlement Goods & Design family. Working there taught me countless things: how to think bigger, the ins and outs and perils of our fashion industry. How to support designers who are working ethically and smart in every aspect of their business practice. Jenny exposed me to some of the artists that I now attribute to being very influential in my work, she taught me about the art world and she was honest and supportive. She made me the creative manager of the shop, though we all worked together and bounced ideas off each other. She let me take the lead on curating an art show at the shop (which we exhibited shows in frequently). That’s when I brought in Michelle Yue of SHOPNONHUMAN, and she sold some of her first pieces there. It’s been so rewarding to see all of the progress Michelle has made since then, and I absolutely believe in her brand. Settlement taught me the beauty of independent artists and designers. I was allowed to be free creatively and in the best setting where inspiration was walking through the door every day.
I fell in love with the Myth + Symbol family when I worked there as a shop assistant, and we still work together when I model for their online store. I was able to continue celebrating craftspeople and those makers who are committed to creating thoughtful products. It taught me about the value of good design and ethical business practices. I am so drawn to small businesses because often their products have more exciting stories of origin and craft. They are more thoughtful all around and you know where your money is going. Plus, working in women-centric spaces is just the bomb and I’ll take as much of that as I can get.
What do you like the best about the Houston art community? I like how supportive everyone is. I am always overwhelmed by support when I’ve had shows or spoken with other artists and I think Houston’s art community is incredibly smart, gifted, and well rounded.
Who are your favorite artists?
SO MANY: Dan Flavin, James Turrell, Robert Irwin, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Jenny Holzer, Christo & Jean Claude, Olafur Eliasson, Agnes Martin, Robert Smithson, Keith Sonnier and Colette.
Currently working / Houston based: Lovie Olivia, Petra Collins, Alina Maria Birkner, Ryan Francisco, Bret Shirley, Jordan Hughes, Angel Oloshove, Emily Peacock, Sally Glass, Darcy Rosenberger, Michael Heizer, and Ed Templeton. Literally all of my peers.
If you could go back in time, where would you go? I would probably go back to 1920’s Paris. I bet that shit was fun.