by Leti Wesolowski, contributor
Celebrate with the artists at our opening reception this Friday, August 18th from 5 to 8 pm at the Creekside Gallery. Show runs from August 18th through September 11th, 2017.
Julie Kirkland grew up in an artistic family in California, but it wasn’t until she relocated to Colorado that she started painting. She first worked with watercolors but most recently she has switched to oil paintings. She paints still life, landscapes, people and animals, but her true focus is the contrast created by light and shadows. The light, or the lack of it, is essential for her to tell a story with otherwise ordinary subjects. Many of her paintings capture whimsical subjects that entertains and delights her audience, and this is the case with her latest “About Face”, a show of 100 small portraits of the back of people’s heads, instead of the more traditional portraits of faces. Julie noticed that we recognize our family and friends from the back as easily as from the front, so why not feature local residents and artists that we know. Even if you don’t know them all personally, some of these portraits are bound to remind you of someone! Spoiler: Chris and Liese Chavez, Phil Lear, Deb Komitor and Sean O’ Meallie are local artists among them.
Joining Julie are local potters Arlene Woods and Nancy Morse with face-related pottery. Arlene is one of the oldest Commonwheel members and she enjoys working with clay because it challenges to explore many possibilities. For this show she has created clay masks and vases with faces, and depending on her choice of glazes you’ll discover imaginative, humorous, meditative, childish and some just playful bold and colorful personalities. Nancy is also a Commonwheel member and a potter who loves the sculptural quality of clay. She has created whimsical coffee mugs with interesting and funny gestural faces that would remind you of old men.
A little bit about Julie Kirkland and her inspiration for this show.
Julie, how did you get interested in painting?
My grandfather was a sculptor, and my grandmother and aunt were painters, so I’ve always been interested in art. I started painting 19 years ago and now can’t imagine life without it.
What are your proudest achievements as an artist?
“About Face” is my proudest achievement. The sheer number of portraits and the fact that it took 2 years to complete weren’t something I knew for certain that I could stick to without losing interest. Instead, each portrait made me more excited to do the next, and the next. In fact, I’m still painting them.
What has inspired your artwork for this show?
My inspiration for the show was the fact that we all recognize people we know just as easily from behind as by seeing their faces. I’m always looking for a slightly different take on things and the whimsical concept of painting people from behind just tickled my fancy. What I didn’t think about as I began the series was that I was going to learn so much about painting skin tones, hair color and textures. I painted from photographs that I took of family, artist friends and strangers on the street. Approaching strangers turned out to be fun. After explaining to them who I was and what I was doing, I only had one person not allow me to photograph him. While a majority of people protest when you ask to take their pictures, people are completely comfortable with allowing you to photograph them from the back. That says a lot about how anonymous we feel we are from the back; only friends and family can recognize us, making these portraits of the back of heads somehow very intimate.
What emotions/reactions/thoughts do you want to cause/explore/achieve on the public looking at your artwork?
The portraits make me smile when I see them, and I’m hoping that they will bring smiles to the faces of others who view them and remind them of people that they know. After seeing “About Face”, perhaps they might even take a closer look of the back of their friends and family’s heads.
What is your favorite piece of this show and why?
Right now, I’d say that the portraits of my parents are dear to me. Two others would be the young man with blonde dreads and a young Southern girl I met in Garden of the Gods. I’ve also painted a few surprising portraits, and I include all of them amongst my favorites.
Where else can we find your artwork?
My work can be found in The Hunter Wolff Gallery on W. Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City, and also in my working space in The Second Floor Studios that’s just down the street. Online, you can visit me at http://juliekirkland.com and follow my latest works on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/KirkandFineArt/
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Additional information about Julie and this show can be found through RMPBS at