Walking into Julie Wolfe’s home and studio is akin to stepping into a world of wonderment, awe and beauty. The moment I entered her four story town house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C., I could see the breadth of so many genres of art and design, thoughtfully curated in every part of each room. I wanted to immediately start looking at everything. My eyes settled on the large mesmerizing striped starburst canvas that welcomed me in the living room.
In front of the painting there was a round marble top Saarinen table with red and white figurative sculptures, perfectly contrasting the geometry of the painting. We sat in the sunlit bay window of the living room as we began to catch up about our mutual connection in Berlin — the Takt Artist Residency, where in one of their galleries, we’re planning a show this coming summer 2017. The main subject of our conversation and the purpose of my visit that day was to talk about how she came to make the current body of work that will be shown in a solo exhibition “Quest For a Third Paradise” starting on January 28, 2017 at the Katzen Art Center at American University.
Julie Wolfe loves to collect things. She also loves to organize and categorize and dare I say, covet. Whether they are objects of desire or objects from her artist friends’ studio, or objects from a past adventure. Each thing has it’s own history and energy. It is evidence and yet malleable. Julie keeps things that have been carefully chosen for the purpose of transforming them and reorganizing them. She is a scientist, a thinker, a philosopher and an inventor putting forth questions and prose in the form of paintings, drawings, diagrams, books, prints, collages, jewelry, installation and sculpture. It is astounding to experience the diversity of her talents.
Perusing through her collections of thrift store paintings, porcelain bird sculptures, vintage jewelry and so much more — was a joy unto itself. This action of collecting and careful displaying is definitely seen in much of her work. The dialogue of form and mark seems to be a conversation in mimesis, where the manner of organizing in her sculptural work reappears in her paintings and drawings. One cannot help but see Joan Miró, and Alexander Calder’s line, color and forms in her work; clearly a strong influence. As well as that, there are whisperings of Gene Davis and Sol Lewitt in her minimalist painterly abstractions, yet always conceptually driven. As stated in a curatorial statement by Claire D’Alba, who is curating her forthcoming solo at the Katzen:
“Inspired by artist and art theorist Michelangelo Pistoletto’s concept of a third paradise, the fusion of a first environmental paradise in which humans are fully integrated in nature and a second artificial paradise developed by human intelligence through science and technology — Wolfe not only formally visualized this evolutionary transition, but provides a systematic map replete with the visual data for how to get there.”
Perhaps what connects me most to Julie’s work is how her whole practice feels like a giant experiment in language and thought. She achieves this by creating systems that are recognizable (a row of jars containing water samples sat organized in a colorful spectrum) so we too can enjoy the formality of how she translates her questions into art. Her visual language also honors systems of geometry and cartography where forms never become elements to define depth in space, but rather move about on a shallow surface attempting to self organize as they relate to one another without any element of illusion. Julie’s solo show this past year at Hemphill Fine Art clued us into this current body of work. Titled “Language of the Birds,” Julie was already addressing notions of coded communication as inspired by nature, poetry, and yes, beauty. There was a moment when a red cardinal perched just outside one of her studio windows, and she immediately took notice. Thankfully, Julie proclaimed it was a sign of good luck, and I’m happy to take any sign of luck these days.
It’s also important to note that Julie is an accomplished jewelry designer, having her pieces showcased in prestigious venues such as Barney’s New York. Beauty pervades Julie’s studio and home as she prepares and continues on her journey and the “Quest For a Third Paradise.”