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Julie K. Gray

Jan 13, 2018 – Mar 10, 2018
In the Window

Waiting Room depicts a domestic space full of personal effects, houseplants, dated electronics and one lone chair, all created with naive materials including papier-mâché, yarn, paper, clay, acrylic, and other like materials. Gray takes inspiration from her grandmothers’ longing to pass away and their collective sense of loneliness, loss and anticipation in reuniting with their partners. The physical space created in the installation nods to the psychological space of “limbo”, of physically being in one space but mentally and emotionally residing in another plane. Through the use of naive/childlike materials, Gray aims to bring levity and even humor to such somber subject matter. 

After experiencing a near-death incident in 2009, Gray finds that much of her artwork addresses mortality and the psychological space of “limbo,” thematically. In order to address these intangible subjects, she has come to use symbolic means, humor, kitsch, cultural signposts and varied media (primarily needlepoint, childhood craft, photography and video) to become more accessible to the audience, and to perhaps open up dialog about mortality and spiritual inquiry (and doubt thereof)-subjects typical deemed “taboo” in contemporary North American society.

D. W. Winnicott once said, “it is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers self.” But while Gray encourages the notion of play and cultivates creativity and discovery through childhood craft, her work also nods to the innovative works of Friedrich Froebel, creator of Kindergarten in early 19th century Germany.  Froebel stated that his lessons, which stressed more serious experimentation with simple forms, tools and the study of nature’s geometry were “intended to be nothing less than a model of universal perfection and the key to recognizing one’s place in the natural continuum.”

Specific concerns about guilt, innocence, reward, punishment and the destination of one’s soul serves as the impetus for her current work, and it is through combinations of play and tedium, simplicity and sophistication, study and intuition, and the use of varied media and cultural signposts that her work has become a meditative study toward Froebel’s greater goal of understanding one’s place in the natural continuum, as well as a study of mortality and the unknown.

Julie K. Gray is an interdisciplinary artist based in Saco/Biddeford, primarily working in papier-mâché, mixed media sculpture, needlepoint and photography. She earned her BFA in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design in 2005 and has since earned her MFA from Maine College of Art (2012). She has exhibited in ME, MA, RI, NH, NYC, NJ, TX and IL.

Instagram: @juliekgrayphotography

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