Albright-Knox Art Gallery

07/22/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/22/2021 15:10

Artist Spotlight: Hervé Tullet: Shape and Color Resident Artist Julia Bottoms

Julia's current body of work has its origin in 2012, after learning of the death of Trayvon Martin. Horrified by the stereotypes that the media proliferated around a slain child, Julia began to craft work that would speak back against this kind of brutality. She writes, 'In a culture that reduces the beauty, grace, and intellect of black men to a two-dimensional caricature, it is necessary to promote images that break the cycle.'

Her portraiture of black men highlights qualities such as softness and vulnerability for which there is little space in a world that can be hostile and dangerous. One witnesses how much care is in her artistic vision as she describes one of her subjects, Philmore, 2016 : 'He has some of the most beautiful skin I've ever seen. It is rich with pigment and reflects the light in the most captivating way. . . . It is strange to me how anyone could not see the beauty in his skin.' Shearing away the clichés and negative stereotypes attached to Black men, Julia centers the warmth and light of human experience that shines through an unguarded face.

Julia has now extended the spotlight to another part of her community, Black women. At a recent show at Box Gallery called HER, Julia presented nude figures for the first time. While she worried that the portraits could be interpreted as sexualizing Black bodies, she learned to trust her work. 'This is what's in me to do,' she says.

The mural she is completing now as a resident artist for Hervé Tullet: Shape and Color at Albright-Knox Northland is about the wisdom women pass down through generations. Julia often paints people that she knows, friends and family, making her work almost an extension of that family tree. One of the figures in this mural is Julia's niece, who has a lighter complexion and blonde-brown hair; the other is Julia's mother, a Black woman. 'My family is multi-cultural, and we look very different,' Julia states. 'I remember when my mom had my youngest sister. She looked pretty different than we do when she was little. She had blonde-ish brown hair and gray eyes when she was born.' People assumed her mother was a babysitter.

Race in this country is often thought of as a complicated thing, impossible to understand. That may be true. Often race is painful, covering scars that run generations-deep, but sometimes it's not complicated, like the pencil drawing that a mother makes of her daughter, or the paintings that a daughter makes of an ever-growing circle of loved ones, or a grandmother and her grandchild.

'Keep it simple,' Julia says, 'They're family.'

We invite you to come and interact with Julia, as well as artists Tricia Butski and Rachel Shelton, during their residencies at Albright-Knox Northland from June 26 to August 1. In order to ensure a safe environment for all, we encourage you to review our Courtesy Code and reserve your visit date and time prior to your arrival.