Have you always been a painter?
No. I was originally planning on going to law school. I started out with painting and had always been photographing friends but never took it serious until I graduated college. Once I took an internship at a gallery in Chelsea, I felt inspired by being around other artists.
Was it difficult for you make that transition from law to art? What spurred your interest in law to begin with?
I always wanted to have a law degree because I wanted to pursue civil rights and women’s rights. I didn’t necessarily have to practice law, but I wanted to council or help other women. That is what I am passionate about. But it became harder and harder for me to want to go to law school and finish what I started. It was easier for me to immerse myself into the art world.
If you could go back to school, what would you want to study?
I want to study more language. I hate that I only know two languages; I want to know more. I was a political science major, so I always appreciate a good debate or discussion. I also love to cook so I would have loved to have taken more cooking or nutrition classes.
Have you ever taken formal art classes?
I actually just got a scholarship for the New York Academy of Art. I want formal training. I am an academic and want to learn. I want to take away technical skills and learn about art history as well. Everything at this school is very old-school. They teach you traditional painting and sketching. Everything to this point has been self-taught, so I’m excited to go back to school.
I noticed that the progression of your paintings from 2014 to 2016 vary from dark colors to lighter pastels. Did you notice this transition as well?
In 2014, I started to mess around and play with color more. My mood and how I feel has a tremendous effect on what is exposed on the canvas. It was me just trying to find my own style and come up with a color scheme. I went from going to colorful to really light and now I’m going dark again. The number one thing that remained constant was that I will always do figurative with an abstract element.
Do you title your works?
I do but I like to keep most of them untitled. Titling isn’t a huge factor in the creative process for me. I don’t want to assume anything before anyone sees it because with my paintings, there is a lot of personal perspective. I want the viewer to create their own reality when they see it.
Why did you start to paint the female silhouette?
Photographing different models led to me drawing the female form. I really love working with the composition and lighting of nude photos.
What painters inspire you?
My taste changes for artists. Right now, I’m obsessed with Jenny Saville, Frida Kahlo, Lucian Freud, and Francis Bacon will always be an inspiration.
Photography-wise, do you gravitate towards digital or film?
I use both. I’m open to everything.
I also saw your photographs of the nude model walking down the street in New York. That’s pretty ballsy. How did that shoot come about?
It didn’t take much to convince the model. I did a legal search to make sure that we wouldn’t get into trouble for walking down the street topless. We definitely did get honked at while photographing though. The model was very open and her boyfriend was like my assistant helping me out. When I finished shooting, I had her boyfriend put a coat on her so that a group of bystanders wouldn’t form, but of course people couldn’t help but stare. I wanted it to appear that she was by herself and in motion, and luckily we got that shot.
And in that photograph, is she wearing a gas mask? How did that happen?
For my paintings and photographer series, most of them really happen in my dreams. I have a really crazy imagination. I had a dream of a tall, beautiful, fit woman with a gas mask with post-apocalyptic vibes. The mood is kind of lonely in a sexy way. Luckily, it was in October so I was able to get a random gas mask and we just went outside to shoot.
You seem to have very lucid dreams. Do you keep track of them?
I have a book by my bed or I use my phone. Sometimes I can’t even make out what I dreamt or what I typed. Once I had written down: “bloody tears on a tree.” [Laughs] Sometimes it makes no sense.
Who would you like to photograph?
Andrea Mary Marshall. She has been a major inspiration for me, artistically. She would be a dream.
Everyone knows about the ‘struggling New York artist’ stereotype. Have you personally experienced it?
What I think is overdone is that to be a struggling artist stereotype is almost sexy. I don’t think it’s sexy at all. I know a lot of people who struggle to pay rent and put food on the table because they are literally living for their art.
There are many women who say they are pro-women’s rights but don’t identify as a ‘feminist.’ Are you a feminist?
Majorly. Anyone can be a feminist. If you are for women, you are a feminist. Living as a woman, I don’t know how any woman can’t be a feminist. That is what encouraged me to want to paint women and be around other women. I identify with woman more than anyone.
What feminists keep you inspired?
Politics-wise, Elizabeth Warren is an amazing feminist. She’s helped out so many people in the middle and lower class. Andrea Mary Marshall also creates work that speaks to female empowerment. I appreciate that and I see my own work going in that direction.
Have you personally experienced instances of slut-shaming or just general disrespect on the premise that you are a woman?
Of course. Every young woman goes through that in some point in their life in their adolescent years. None of it affects me. That said, there are very specific types of people that will comment on an Instagram photo of mine with a critique majorly coming out of left-field. It’s not even slut-shaming; it’s demoralizing. One comment once read: “Why do you objectify women?” I’m sure the comment would be different if I was painting a man nude. I think it is time to embrace nudity and female form, rather than slut-shame. I’m not objectifying women. I’m glorifying us.
Speaking of Instagram, which accounts do you find yourself revisiting?
@love.watts, @nakid_magazine, @24hrchurch
What films could you re-watch?
Anything with Tom Hanks. A Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling was also weird and creepy but exciting.
Are you a reader?
When I was first in college, I loved murder mysteries like Black Dahlia, The Mind of Hitler, and Helter Skelter. I really loved reading into the mind of a serial killer. I recently read 12 Steps towards Political Revelation by Walter Mosely, which was fantastic.
What musician do you wish you can see live?
Otis Redding or Frank Sinatra.
What’s your drink of choice?
Where do you want to travel to?
I want to visit Russia, Australia, China, Norway, and Italy again.
Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?
And lastly, how do you define beauty?
Beauty isn’t just aesthetic for me. It is more of a feeling. So many things can be beautiful to me, whether it’s a person, a thing, something someone says. It’s a feeling that someone or something leaves with you: a beautiful feeling.
For more of Julie’s work, check out her website.