Interview with Katie Bonadies, RWS Admin
Photo description: Julia Baugh at work in her studio.
Julia works in ceramics, steel, paper, plaster, trash–anything in abundance that she can get her hands on. She has been at RWS for three months. Julia graduated in 2021 with an MFA from MECA&D, where she now teaches. While earning her degree she produced a series of figurative ceramics that focused on piling and layering that had a look of decay. She studied color and was inspired by a Hyman Bloom exhibit at the MFA Boston, “Bloom was an abstract expressionist who painted corpses in a way that made them look like the end was this brilliant, beautiful thing.” The exhibition got Julia thinking about decay; how she is in decay and how it’s an important, inescapable part of the life cycle, and how Western culture tries to deny its existence.
Her fixation on death and decay didn’t start there; it's something that has always been present in the back of her mind whether she was aware of it or not. Even now when Julia sets out to play around and have fun with her work her subconscious steers her toward visual representations of decay. When she was recently cutting up elongated seed pods that she had made on the wheel to study their proportions based on the golden mean and as it applied to figures, she noticed that because they were large at the top the shapes resembled urns.
Easily Startled. 2020. Mixed media. 72"x30"x30"
When she was about five years old Julia lived with her grandparents. Her mother was caring for her grandfather who had colon cancer and Julia would help her mom change the colostomy bag and could see the inside of his intestine. She observed her grandfather dying and her grandmother grieving, but Julia didn’t understand what was going on. She was alone a lot of the time because her family was preoccupied and grew up low-income, so she began to make things out of what she could find and discovered that if she tried really hard she could turn things that had been thrown away into something beautiful.
E2BS. 2020. Light, spray paint, steel. Tsunami Hairball. 2020. Mixed media.
Being an artist is a passion and a selfish act for Julia because she’s not creating for other people. She has to keep her hands moving, and making art doesn’t necessarily bring her happiness but it brings her fulfillment. She returned to art after being a respiratory therapist in hospitals for ten years (she holds a BS in Respiratory Care) and thought, This is what was missing. The hole in my chest is filled. The satisfaction she experiences comes from the flow state in which time dilates, “Time gets very short. You could spend eight hours working on something and it feels like an hour. You know what to do from one second to the next without thinking about steps. And when you’re there you know it and it feels great.”
Strange Beauty. 2021. Mixed media. 3.5'x3.5'x15'.
Family. 2020. Mixed media. 144"x72"x144"
Skeletal Constellation. 2022. Steel, aluminum. 2'x1'.
Making art has been a way for Julia to process her complex emotions surrounding decay in a tangible way, “This is necessary. We have to do this; we have to die.” Her philosophy extends to material objects as well, ‘throw-away’ objects that are not decaying and piling up in landfills. Julia’s work is a call to recognize the necessity of an object’s decay because we are running out of room. “We are actively dying as a world right now,” Julia believes that if we change our view on decay we can change the way we live and may have a chance of halting our course of destruction. She’d like to be a part of that change, which is in direct conflict with her ceramics; she makes objects by turning clay into rock that only decay if she breaks them down. This is why she likes to frequently break down her art and reuse it. She is also considering sharing her art with other people so that it does not pile up in her studio. Julia has just been accepted into the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts PhD in Visual Arts: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory program in Portland, ME. Contact Julia via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on her website, www.juliabaugh.carbonmade.com.