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Julia Randall Interview  
Posted on Sep 24 2012

As a child, did you have contact with works of art?
I was an extremely lucky kid to have family, teachers, and mentors who all encouraged my early interest in art. I was born and raised in NYC, in close proximity to fantastic art; my aunt frequented museums and took me along. She was a wonderful, oddball character who exposed me to a lot of work from various traditions. I started my collection of art books back then—gifts from her.
Can you recall the first piece of art that caught your attention?
I was endlessly fascinated with the Egyptian wing at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. I loved the hieroglyphs, both carved in stone, and the painted versions. As a young teenager, I was already interested in making art, and I went to the Museum of Modern Art often; Max Beckmann was my favorite—I was attracted early on to the dark mood and foreboding in his paintings, and how active his marks are.

Can you define what it is that triggers each new artwork you work on? Is it a thought, a picture, a dream maybe, or none of that?
It has varied a lot over time, and is not so easy to pinpoint. There are overarching themes that have sustained my work, since I was in art school. The pleasure and discomfort of female desire continues to find its’ way into much of my imagery, although my approach has varied radically along the way.
I am very attracted to verbal or visual puns, and I adore double-entendres! Often an image or idea starts from deliberately pitching the visual against the verbal, so that the “meaning” of the imagery is changed or layered. I want my audience to have a sense of surprise, and this is not always easy--I come up with many ideas that are flat, too one-dimensional, and that I never end up fully drawing.
I also take a lot of inspiration from sources outside of my own head. Looking at things I love often sparks my imagination: botanical drawings, natural history museums, decorative arts, and other artists’ work.

According to your biographical information, your images are simultaneously erotic and humorous - would you elaborate for us in what ways eroticism is related to humor?
It is a challenge to make an image sexually charged and compelling. It is so easy to lapse into cliché or use overly familiar tropes to express eroticism. The same is true for humorous images, and there is a big difference between “ha-ha” and “ha-ha…huh?” (the latter being more complicated and interesting).
When I come up with my images, I employ the tension created by combining supposedly opposing sensibilities, erotic and humorous. For me, genuine humor and eroticism both have something mysterious and unquantifiable. There is often discomfort in both humor and eroticism; both have the potential to be raw, abject, and can make you feel vulnerable. What is funny/sexy is also very private. What I find funny/sexy isn’t necessarily the same for you--both impulses are exactly that—impulse, which lies beneath the surface of our endless ability to rationalize. I am happy when people see my imagery and want to giggle with discomfort, look away, and look back again.
 If I asked you to describe your artistic sensibilities with three words, which would they be?
Precise, surreal, beautifully disturbing

During the time you have been working as an artist, do you find that your ideas about art and the way you look at art have evolved in time?
If so, in what ways?

Obviously seeing more art, befriending more artists over time, learning about work in art history courses, traveling, and sustained studio practice have altered my perceptions about art in general and in specific. In many ways, my tastes have become more varied, and I appreciate a lot more about work that is clearly situated outside of the tradition I work in.  At the same time, I can be boorish in my opinions, and sometimes dismissive about art that I find pretentious or thin or dishonest. Also I have less time now than I did when I was younger, and I only want to use this time to see work that I am really interested in.  I think teaching, in particular, demands that I keep fresh eyes.
If you could change one thing about the art world, what would that be?
I would eliminate pretense; there is often an institutionalized posturing or self-importance in the art world. I believe that this stems from competition, for who gets to act as a cultural bellwether and decide which art is “Important.” Myself, I prefer the “buffet model” for the art world—that there be a wide variety of art from many different traditions to sample from. I prefer the inclusivity of this approach.
If you could save only one work from a major catastrophe, which would it be?
Maybe I would rescue one of Jan Van Eyck or Hans Memling’s stunning masterpieces?

For my own work—I find it very hard to answer this question. I tend to divorce myself from my work once it is finished—I look at the drawings almost as if someone else made them—it is often hard form me to remember the experience of having drawn them. Maybe I would save what I am currently working on, because it still compels me. From my past work, I might save the drawing, “Compact.”

Which is most important for an artist: To gain recognition, or to become more creative through time?
This obviously varies depending on which artist you ask. For me, the evolution of my work, making my drawings strong, original, beautiful, and strange is the most important. I need to feel proud of my work, divorced from anyone’s reaction to it (possible exception is my husband’s reaction). Having said this, I care deeply that others are moved by my work—I am not making these drawings for my own eyes. And of course I want to be recognized, to have an audience, etc.
Are you ever troubled by insecurities? If so, how do you deal with these feelings?
In my work or life in general? Answer for both: yes, of course!
Although I would love to portray myself as very even-keeled in my relationship with my work, I would be lying. I go up and down all the time in the studio, and have been like this as long as I have been making art. I get very “into” what I am working on in the moment, and I tend to fret a lot. My husband tells me that I am hyper-critical of whatever I am drawing at the moment: that I always bemoan how my “now” work is never as good as what I may have recently finished. 
He may be right about that.
How I deal with this—I have a couple of “go-to” people, all artists; they are very tolerant of me voicing my insecurities, and will humor me for a while, then just tell me to be quiet and get back to work. Also, although I am 44 years old, I still talk to my mom about my doubts—she is a great, tolerant listener.

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Precious Stone  
Posted on Jun 12 2012

Stone brings to mind images of toughness, endurance and most of all  lack of flexibility. And yet your works evoke a sense of fragility and elegance. Would you explain how it is feasible to make stone seem delicate and fragile?
People from all over the world know that stone is hard, so my work is established. When I create works in stone, I imagine the material of the counter electrode. And, because its closer to the image of the material, É ask for help such as from a zipper or a knife.
I have been creating works for 30 years. The technology has progressesd and now what is needed is little silly ideas and a magic powder.

 Which were your influences while growing up? In other words, how were your aesthetic sensibilities formed?
The paintings of Rene Magritte, which I saw while I was in junior high school. Also film
and the words of Shuji Terayama. The sculpture of Isamu Noguchi.

You enjoy instilling a fine sense of humour in many of your creations, which is something rather unusual in contemporary art. Why do you think is that?
Apparently, it is believed that Japanese people are very serious and destitute of a sense of humor, but humor has been a very prominent feature
of the world of arts and craft since 12th century in Japan. If my art makes people smile, I am very happy, because my works are meant to follow in the
wake of our tradition. I would like to express the rich sense of humor in a contemporary way.

 If you could change one thing about the contemporary art world, what would that be?
I have never thought such a thing.

 What is your most ambitious plan regarding your work?
There are no special plans. Only to make work fun than anything else.

Would you describe your studio for us? And maybe a typical day in your life?
The studio is located in Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture in Japan.  My
family has been running the store which are dealing with stones since 1879
and the studio is in the second floor of the store.
I work as a stone mason for orders from the clients. These orders are  stone monuments or the decorations for the gardens or houses in daytime. I make  my own artworks during the weekend or night. I also work as a committee member for several organizations in a community, so my life is quite busy.

In what ways do you think is contemporary Japanese art distinctive from European art?
It resembles the work of young children who do not want to become adults

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Fun with Fashion  
Posted on Mar 10 2012

 While growing up, what was your relation to the visual arts? Did you grow up going to museums and exhibitions,
did you get to see paintings etc?
Yes I did go to museums. i grew up in New York and was able to visit museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
and the Museum of Natural History on a regular basis. i was probably more interested in the models, dioramas,
and dinosaur bones at the museum of Natural History than I was in paintings.

Did you like comic books and comic strips as a child? Were they a part of your life in a significant way?
i loved comics as a kid. i read comic books all the time and i also loved Sunday newspaper comic strips. I learned to draw the figure from copying comic books, not from life. So I suppose my life drawing skills are not quite right. But I was able to draw a figure at a pretty early age because of comics.

You poke fun at super heroes - which among them do you find the most interesting super hero of all times and which
one is the most boring?
I don't think that my mixed media series is poking fun at super heroes. it's just having fun with the theme. There is nothing malicious about it. I think there are many interesting superheroes and it's hard to pick just one favorite. I think the stupidest ones are all the sidekicks.
Characters like Robin and Superboy always bugged me.

Which have been your aesthetic influences ?
I have had many influences over the years. Of course my favorite painters have been important influences, and some of my great teachers too. Brad Durham and Richard Bunkall were a couple of influential teachers for me.  But I am also influenced by advertising and commercial art. I am influenced by fashion photography, and by film as well. I am influenced today by the great amount of advertising that I see around me on a daily basis. Billboards, television commercials, internet advertising. These are all influences. 

Would you describe how it feels when you start working on a new painting? Is it already there in your mind,
or does it create itself as you go along?
I rarely start with something in my mind. I always begin working on ideas on the computer. I use photoshop to create my sketches or comps.
They often begin with one single image, which can be something I found on the internet, or something I scanned, or a photo that I took myself. Then i begin to play with it in photoshop and build ideas around that image. That is basically my process. When I am successful, something evolves that I did not foresee or expect.
It can take awhile sometimes.
Patience is required and it can be frustrating.

Is there one of your artworks which you are sentimentally attached to?
There are probably several pieces that I am a little bit attached to. Sometimes I finish a piece right before a show so I do not have time to live with it. Then, if it sells, I never see it again. Sometimes I miss these pieces. Whereas other pieces might be hanging on my wall for a year before they go to a show, so I have had time to live with them and I don't miss them as much. "Premonition" has always been a personal favorite of mine and perhaps the one piece that i would like to have on my wall today if I could.

In many of your paintings you satirize fashion brands - what's your take on the fashion world, as a whole?
This is a complex question. In my last show I have been parodying fashion ads and advertising in general. Fashion advertising has something alluring to me, when it is done well. It can be some of the most beautiful and creative art that we have right now on earth, far more interesting than most modern art you see in museums. At the same time, it is mostly ridiculous and completly vapid. It is nothing more than glossy, beautifully designed branding. A certain lifestyle is for sale in these ads, not really a product. This is the idea behind all product branding, but it is rarely more apparent then in fashion ads. Fashion ads simply require beautiful people doing nothing special other than looking like they are beautiful. They are either living the good life, or they look like they have just died. There is really no good reason why the clothes, or bags are so expensive, other than the fact that they are associated with a certain brand, which we are being brainwashed into believing is somehow special. And we are a culture that worships models, people who do not do or make anything, and have no skill whatsoever, other than the natural gift of being attractive. It's all a giant joke,
but it's ingenious and irresistable.

Your artworks are inhabited by really stylish persons - which do you believe are the attributes
of a strong personal look?

I have never thought much about this. although I do spend a lot of time looking at websites that involve fashion, i am not personally interested in fashion or style. I find it interesting to look at from an artistic point of view. But i am not interested in dressing up like a model or being stylish. Some of the things I wear are absolutely the opposite of stylish.

 Do you have an ideal of elegance? Would you name an example of a truly elegant person, in case one comes to mind?
Again, this is not something I spend much time considering. I suppose that elegance suggests a maturity that may not be present in someone who is simply young and beautiful.

 In your everyday life, do you care about clothes and fashion?
Mostly I do not care. However, on the rare occasions when I need to go to a special event like a benefit, or a gallery opening, I always regret my lack of interest in fashion and I always feel as though I look inadequate. That's why I try to stay home and paint most of the time. :)

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Posted on Feb 28 2012

Scarred Hybrid  30 x 40 inches  Charcoal on Canvas

What is it about adolescence that fascinates you?
Childhood has an air of mystery to me. Everything is fresh and new and exciting and uncorrupted.

Do you draw inspiration from your own teenage years too?
I'm sure I do.

Do you find it inspiring, or maybe inevitable, to draw ideas and pictures from autobiographical sources?
Creation is and should be a personal process and everything is taken from autobiographical sources, whether it's a specific event or a source of inspiration.

There is something quite dark about your pictures, it's something in the atmosphere,
in the feelings they emit - is it intentional?
I don't think of it as darkness because I think that suggests there is something to fear expressed in the work and
that is not necessarily true. I think of certain imagery as confrontations of my beliefs. How you receive the information is all relevant to your beliefs. What I think might be beautiful can be interpreted as dark by someone else.
It's all okay with me though. All art should be open to interpretation.

What is the best thing about fairy tales in your opinion? And is it OK if they're scary?
Some of those stories were meant to scare children into being good so they're intentionally scary. Even Peter Pan suggests that freedom and fun is all good but you will be alone and lonely forever if you don't return to reality.

As a child, were you in contact with paintings and art in general?
I was creating art but I wasn't around tons of other art, not any more than the average child.

Home Abduction 24 x 36 in Charcoal on canvas Contact for availability

Do you think that the way people choose to look reveals something about their innermost dreams?
Of course, you have full control over your reality. If something in your life exists, it's because you believe in it.

Do you find an interest in fashion and clothes frivolous?
I think fashion is another form of creation. Some people are more passionate about it and create very beautiful clothing. We all choose
to wear clothing so it can't be frivolous.

Can you recall a childhood outfit that you hated to wear?
I can't remember hating a certain outfit. Kids have great clothes! 

Do you ever attach sentimental value to certain of your outfits?
I have favorite outfits because they make me feel good. I used to hung on to certain pieces because I thought they
looked beautiful even though they didn't necessarily look good when worn, but I've gotten over that. If I'm not going to display it as art
or wear it, there's no use in it for me.

Do you have an ideal of timeless beauty in art? Would you name a work of art that you feel embodies it?
There are so many paintings and art from different eras that can be timeless -otherwise interest in them wouldn't have lasted this long- but my favorite has been Grande Odalisque by Ingres ever since I saw at the Louvre.
It's so flawlessly beautiful.

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