Talking Art with Julie Wolfe – The Yards
August 4, 2017

Walking into the home of Julie Wolf is like walking into a world of beauty, inspiration and wonderment. So many genres of art and design appear throughout her home, and every corner is thoughtfully curated. Julie is quick to admit she’s a self-professed collector.

Your home is beautiful! It’s art in its own right. How did you curate the design? I’ve collected things from all over! I’m an avid flea market shopper on the East and West Coasts, as well as places like Copenhagen, Paris and Berlin. Our Queen Ann Victorian home was built in 1890 and we have retained all of the original architectural elements. I like to mix these with Mid-century fixtures and furniture. Much of my work is hanging on the walls, as well as other local DC artist’s paintings. This collection is always rotating. My house and my workspace are both also for family living, visits and appointments, so I like to make it interesting for people to visit and see new art. You’re also an accomplished jewelry designer. Tell us about your line. I’ve worked with Barneys New York for 21 years, creating a new collection each season. I use sustainably mined precious metals like 14k and 18k gold and sterling silver mixed with Akoya and South Sea pearls, opals, rough-cut diamonds and sapphires. The pieces have an organic, yet minimal appearance and are sometimes mixed in with Victorian Mourning and Georgian pieces, antique French seed pearls and other found components. You’re a multi-faceted artist! How would you describe yourself? I am an artist and a designer. This may confuse some people, but I believe there can be a successful, meaningful way to blur the line between the two, aesthetically and conceptually. One commonality might be the use of beauty vs destruction – the dark alongside the opulent. For example, setting diamonds into blackened, distorted silver skulls or daggers. My art is socially and politically charged and intended to be taken more seriously. My jewelry is a little more self-indulgent and a means to reflect the importance of beauty in our lives. What themes remain consistent in your work? I enjoy both art and design, but over time have found that my art is more intellectually challenging. I believe that my voice is much more important, considering the current political climate. My practice is mostly based on salvaged materials while working on an existing foundation. Combining hundreds of small intricacies into one larger more powerful statement is stimulating. There’s a color series that hangs on the wall of your workspace. Can you tell us the story? It’s called Cultural Values: Language of Protest. There are 240 book pages that were in a recent solo exhibition at American University Katzen Museum. The pages are taken from old history books. I noticed that many of the chapters and subtitles included phrases like “The Importance Of Artists in Society,” “Cultural Diversity,” “Language of Protest”. As a visual person, I respond to text in the form of color and shape, a synesthetic process. I choose a word or phrase from each page and create a drawing or symbol that illustrates that term. In the end, I have a type of visual vocabulary that I will use over and over in other paintings and drawings. Is the environment where you work very important to your creativity? It’s extremely important. I like to have materials and tools at my fingertips, and I work in a spontaneous, intuitive manner. I need to be comfortable with the surroundings and able to get “in the zone” so that ideas and thoughts can flow. Are you inspired by faraway places and cultures?  I travel several times a year and stay as long as time allows. Whether I’m working on a specific project in another country or just soaking up the environment, travel is essential to my practice. I find ways to see as much art as possible and try to spend time getting to know how the people operate. I also have a thing for public transportation and learning the layout of the city. The manifestation of this research may happen immediately or become apparent years down the road.  Some recent and inspiring places are Quito Ecuador and the amazon region of Ecuador, Berlin, Andorra and Copenhagen. When does inspiration normally hit you? Walking around cities, the study of color, charts, graphs, old photographs, Bauhaus design, seeing how things are ordered and arranged to create patterns, old books and obviously nature and industry. Do you remember the first thing you ever created? My dad was an inventor, creator and biologist. He taught me about wonder, curiosity and conducting experiments. He carried a book with him where he made fabulous technical drawings of his potential inventions and ideas. Some came to fruition and some were never realized. At a very young age, I often tried to imitate this process by drawing my own abstract equations. When I felt more frivolous, I’d paint 60’s inspired motifs on old wooden shingles or rocks with neon paint. Your work often feels like an experiment in language and thought. How do you achieve that? Incorporating language into my work is my way of seducing the viewer into taking a closer look, or hijacking the mind, so there’s an urge to find the connection between word and image. It’s experiment, and an intuitive abstract process between the artist and the viewer. Often playing with language and text seems like a successful way to encourage the act of understanding.

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