It was such a pleasure talking with Hudson Valley, NY based artist, Julia Whitney Barnes, in this interview about being flexible in your art practice, experimenting with new processes, and creating boundaries to play within. By relinquishing the more traditional and time-consuming aspects of her oil-painting process, Julia was able to retain the creativity of blending colors and creating compositions, and let go of the tedious underpainting process – which, in her case, she achieves through cyanotypes. She also discusses a big income-maker for her: prints! Although initially she was resistant to the idea of selling prints of her work, she found quality materials that worked well, and met the challenge head on.
In addition to her water-colored cyanotypes, Julia also makes oil paintings, ceramic sculptures, murals, and site-specific installations. She has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally. She was awarded fellowships from New York State Council on the Arts administered through Arts Mid-Hudson, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Abbey Memorial Fund for Mural Painting/National Academy of Fine Arts, and the Gowanus Public Art Initiative, among others. In her “Hudson River of Bricks” installation, she mirrors the scale of the Hudson River with old handmade bricks from Hudson River Valley brickyards – their varied colors and imprinted names on each brick a view into the past.
As we delve more deeply into her process and artist/mother life, we look at how her upbringing shaped her artistic and creative path. Born on a kitchen floor in Vermont during her aunt’s birthday party, and then growing up in a very musical and creative family (her father being a poet and her mother having degrees in Psychology, Teaching, and Divinity), Julia’s path to becoming an artist was natural and encouraged. Even though she entered Parsons School of Art & Design as a declared Fashion and Art major, she quickly learned that she preferred the fine arts route, and threw herself into oil painting. It wasn’t until she had children that she expanded her art practice into photography – namely, cyanotypes.
The cyanotype process affords Julia the perfect mix of freedom, play, and boundaries. She enjoys the immediacy of creating her floral compositions with the cyanotype process (often times involving her young children), and also revels in the joy of watercolors – the way she can mix a color on her palette, leave it for a month or longer, and with just the simple addition of water, return it to its full potential. We also discuss how these same thought processes apply to the artist/mother life so perfectly: the balance between letting go and at the same creating boundaries reveals a calm and a sense of play that is so satisfying and necessary. Through this very specific art-making, Julia delightfully forges new territory and nurtures these new processes into fully realized works – much as we all nurture and shape our children.
Biggest Art Crush: Betty Woodman and Inka Essenhigh
Dream Trip: Holland and/or Portugal
Film or book: Wizard of Oz
Favorite meal: Salmon with cous-cous and veggies that husband makes
Shout-out: Husband, mom, sister
To see more of Julia’s work please visit her website and follow her on IG @juliawhitneybarnes
The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn
Thanks so much to our sponsor COZI for helping us bring you this episode! Cozi is a surprisingly simple family calendar that can help busy families stay organized and well connected!