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Meet Julia Betts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julia Betts.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born in 1991 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania in a rural area. I started at the University of Pittsburgh as a sociology major in 2009. I switched it to studio arts in my sophomore year. I didn’t really feel like art was a practical pursuit and I wasn’t sure if I was “good enough” at it to warrant making it a career, but I did it anyway because I got a lot of encouragement from my professors and I was really engrossed already in making things. After I graduated in 2014, I took a year and made more work and did some residencies and shows. I started at RISD MFA Sculpture program in 2015 and I graduated in 2017. My work became more performative and installation-based in graduate school.

After I graduated in 2017, I worked for a year at a progressive art gallery in Pittsburgh with artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I really loved my experience there, but I wanted to concentrate more on my art practice, so I left in October 2018. I have been doing a string of residencies since I left. I was a fellow at Virginia Center for the Arts for about a month, then I began at Montgomery College as their artist-in-residence, and then I went to Columbus State University as their Visiting Scholar for a couple weeks. I currently am back in Maryland at Montgomery College working in the studio on a new project.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In terms of pursuing my art, it hasn’t been that easy, but I never expected it to be. Overall, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with my art. It’s hard work to be an artist. I put a lot of time into making my work and often the experiments fail. It can also be difficult financially to pursue the arts.  There are ways to work around that though.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.

My practice is a series of radically disparate projects at the intersection of sculpture, performance, and installation. The medium and materials vary greatly from piece due to the site-specificity of my work in which each environment calls for a separate set of answers. Overall, in the approach to the materials, there is an essentialized, elemental quality to the outcome of each piece.

Spills have been an recurring theme in my work for the past few years that I am contuining to explore. Spills relate to my interest in creating situations of vulnerability and helplessness. I see spills as embodied chaos. Currently, I am working on an installation in my studio that involves realistic rendering of vessels filled with liquid. I am also curating an exhibition about the use of spills in contemporary art. The show talks about the turn toward all things accidental, improvised, and cludged together and how artists work with that or against that. Spills create emotive responses ranging from slapstick humor to psychological trauma.

In my overall body of work, I push materials to the limits of their utility and place myself in precarious circumstances that are metaphor for emotional vulnerability and pure intentional disarray. I create work and performances where there are several outcomes of what may happen, but I am unsure of what the final result will be. I leave room for the material to have initiative and thwart my intention. I create complex situations that are planned for upheaval.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I think the professors I’ve had throughout my education is how I’ve gotten lucky. I think the one-on-one conversations I’ve had with them have been important for the progression of my work. After a studio visit, I feel either motivated, confused, clarified, challenged, or bolstered. All of these states of being are ultimately helpful.

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