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Art Talks with Julia Westerbeke

Name: Julia Westerbeke
Where you are from: Bay Area, California
Where you live now: Brooklyn
What you do: Artist, Educator, Art Director

Portrait of Julia Westerbeke

What was your first experience with art?

My mother is a fashion designer, so I have a lot of childhood memories of playing in her design studio: painting prints with my miniature watercolor set, making forts out of fabric rolls, collecting pearlescent buttons, ribbons and lace swatches from the archives like a magpie. Those early experiences certainly influenced the artwork I make today, which deals with pattern, texture, the minute and the playful.

What is there too much and too little of?

Too much multi-tasking and haste, not enough focus and time. Every creative person I know in this city has to wear a lot of hats to keep it all going…and of course pay the rent. And while this juggling act can be inspiring, I wish we all had more hours for thinking, discussing and making. I dream of 1970s-era Bowery studios with low rents and 10-year leases!

Hypnagogia II, detail

What influences you?

I’m always on the look-out for fantastical truths, creatures and occurrences that seem too strange or uncanny to be true, but are in fact all the more striking because they are so. Like the purple siphonophore that was recently discovered on a deep-sea mission, which looks and moves like a single organism but is actually made up of thousands of individual zooids, each with their own respective job to serve the whole. This creature could have been pulled directly from a sci-fi set. Or even the fact that our bodies house 10 times more bacteria than they do human cells. Of course, this bacteria is crucial for the immune system and digestion, but it’s still an alienating and wonder-inducing thing to think about: that there is otherness even within our own bodies.

If you were another person/place/ or thing what would it be?

I don’t want to be one of the zooids, but it would be pretty amazing to travel at the bottom of the ocean for a day, or maybe go through a Fantastic Voyage à la Raquel Welch. In the spectrum of reality, perhaps a photographer for National Geographic.

Proxy, detail

What are you obsessed with?

Good people and conversation.

What are you currently working on?

I just finished a series of shadow boxes and drawing-based works for my solo exhibition at A.I.R. Gallery. The imagery is semi-abstract and biomorphic, inspired by science fiction and biological illustrations. I’m very interested in mixing fantasy and fact, so that each piece feels organic but also somewhat alien or otherworldly. The goal is a familiar-yet-foreign dynamic, which speaks to our complex relationship with nature and the body. Many of the works explore visceral materials and place an emphasis on texture. I often begin with a series of drawings, which I then hand-cut and collage into accumulative patterns and forms.

What is your WILD Wish?

A floating studio in Antarctica…with proper heating.

Seam, 2014 Ink on vellum, white-wax glue, wood shadow box	 31” x 31” x 6”

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text by: Kate Messinger

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