Briefly describe the work you do.
I am inspired by natural phenomena and catastrophic events. My explorations for the past seven years or so have been focused around water, but more specifically engage with the effects of erosion, flooding, and storms. I generally work on smooth panels, and most recently, I have been printing on and paper, cutting it, and reassembling the results.
My choice to employ screenprinting allows me to relinquish control over my own process and relate to water in a more authentic way. I build my own replicas of natural processes out of dirt, sand and water, and transfer them onto my screens. Like nature, I repeat these patterns onto various surfaces. I let my patterns drive my process. I print, then I observe where the patterns fall. The edges of the printed water determine where I layer and where I cut. Whenever I grasp too tightly to the imagery, it ends up being too planned and too tight. My process completely relies on my willingness to let go and be surprised. In a way, this is perfect because I am studying a subject that humans have little to no control over.
My current body of work explores storms via raindrop textures that I work with on my silkscreens. Right now, I am creating a work of art inspired storms of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. I have been following the weather reports, the radar maps, and the names that have been preselected for the season. I am fascinated by the human translation of these events and the struggle for understanding that comes when studying the power of these storms.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I used to say that “landscapes happen to me after I leave them”. I have lived in a lot of different locations over the last ten years or so. Each landscape has its own baggage, and is effected by nature in its own way. My moves have shaken up my perception of nature and made me more sensitive to it. I find that I am most attracted to the scariest of locations. When I lived in the Mississippi Delta right beside the river, I was awestruck by the power of the water, and its ability to transform the landscape at the drop of a hat. I think that fear is an important part of what we find to be beautiful. The whole idea of the sublime is that it is able to destroy us and we know this, yet we find ourselves drawn to the danger. I think about my work the way I think about turning my back to a dark ocean in the middle of the night; nervous about the next step, but ultimately moved by the power of it all.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
As a full time art instructor, I am often composing works in my mind while away from the studio. While many things compete for my attention, I am fortunate that these stimuli feed my work as well. I have a studio in the garage of my home. My process sometimes requires a lot of waiting between the layers. By having my studio close by, I am able to walk in and out of it efficiently. I also take pictures of works in progress and stare at them as I fall asleep. My mind enjoys the exercise of solving the problems I am facing with any given work of art. I also try hard not to underestimate the process of thinking. I am constantly telling my students that staring is work. I try to embrace moments when I am surrounded by the work and thinking, because I know that it will lead to meaningful next steps if I am patient enough to let it happen.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
While this is more of a state of mind, I am surprised at the level of confidence that is needed to be an artist. I have found that I need to be fiercely behind my work which is hard when I am still figuring it out and trying to let it evolve. In hindsight I am generally happy with my work, but it is especially difficult to be a “fan” of my work when it is so new.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
While there is not a particular time of day that is best for me, I do find that a specific environment is necessary. In general, a larger block of time is especially suitable. I need to be able to fully immerse myself in my subject and forget about everything else around me. It is also essential to get myself in the right state of mind before going to work. Generally, I will put on my noise canceling headphones while doing housework, and slowly move into the studio when I am in my own head. I also find that cleaning my studio just before going to work is especially helpful. The energy expended by sweeping the floor or stacking paper creates the momentum that I need to begin.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I am at the start of a very new and divergent body of work right now. The introduction of color and works on paper is a large part of this as after working on hard surfaces and monochromatically for the last several years. However, I am still focused on the study of the sublime, and the effects of water on the macro and the micro level. I also find that I am often revisiting ideas that I had from the very beginning, but in different ways.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Right now, I am really influenced by the weather reports. I find myself reading articles about storms, and jotting down what is said about them. I tend to cling to lines of text. For example, when I was working on tropical storm Claudette, I kept remembering that she was described as “disorganized”, and kept channeling that feeling into my process.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Within the art field, I feel conflicted. When I work in color, I want it to be quiet and monochromatic. When I work small, I want to the work to grow larger. It is difficult to feel complacent while making work. Outside of art, I was always interested in math and science when I was younger, and never considered being an artist until I was almost through with high school. But then I went to a pre-college program at Ringling School of Art and Design and fell in love with what I had always discounted as a hobby. I discarded all plans to become an engineer or architect, and applied to art schools instead. I think that once you have that moment where you discover that you enjoy what you are doing so much that the hours blur together, you need to listen.
Julie was born in New Jersey and lived in multiple regions of the country and abroad. She currently lives in Raleigh, NC. She attended the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and concentrated in areas of painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Julie studied for a semester in Rome, Italy, and later graduated with her BFA in Sculpture. Teaching has always been a part of her professional practice, and after teaching middle school art in the Mississippi Delta, she pursued her graduate degree in printmaking at The Ohio State University where she taught Beginning Drawing. Currently, she is a full time college instructor, teaching a number of foundations level studio courses and Art Appreciation. Julie is fascinated with examining the residue of water in every location she has lived. Whether drawing the debris left behind by the flooding Mississippi River, or exploring the ever changing border between the coast and the Atlantic ocean, she enjoys the illusive nature of her enduring subject. Julie exhibits locally as well as nationally, including shows in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Oregon, Utah, South Carolina, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Ohio.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.