Julia Suzanne: Advice on Invitation and Identity
Julia Suzanne is an artist and sculptor from St. Louis, Missouri. Her work explores how spaces are transformed by the value of a person within them. She uses a diversity of materials, including ceramic, shaped wood, poured concrete, and fiberglass, to construct sculptures inspired by the human form.
"CAPIO", 2017, wood, ceramic, fiberglass, concrete, epoxy, acrylic, rope. Read more: artprize.org/64796
How did you fall in love with art, and when did you take up ceramics?
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri in a home where creativity was strongly encouraged. Glitter, chalk, and play dough were just a few of my beloved childhood friends. When I was a little girl, I watched my father flip a house, which then became our home. I remember seeing him and my uncles work with noisy power tools in admiration, hoping one day that I would know how to use the same tools. My mother, too, was very good with her hands. She always had projects for us. We would make mosaic picture frames and paint with her. She often requested that our driveway be covered with large beautiful chalk drawings. My parents wove creative practices into our everyday routines and I really don’t remember a time where I was not an artist.
I began seriously pursuing ceramics when I was in high school. I had an amazing teacher, Mr. Sachs, who encouraged me to explore and experiment with clay. I was also very fortunate to go to a school that had amazing equipment and access to resources specifically for ceramics. The ceramics program there rivaled many university programs.
You recently earned your Bachelor of Fine Arts. Has a formal arts education been beneficial for you?
Studying art every day for four years has certainly benefited me as an artist. My education gifted me time and space to work. Without these two things, I would not have the skills that I do today. Any artistic practice takes a lot of time and commitment and being able to put all of my attention towards art while I was in school was a huge gift. I also found mentors in my professors. Discussing work, asking questions about materials or processes, and finding encouragement from them were all things that really shaped me as an artist. Also, learning from these working and professional artists gave me a greater glimpse into the art world outside of the studio. I’m not sure how I would have navigated that had I not received a formal arts education.
Pulling off a senior show is a big deal! What did you learn from the experience, and how did you grow as an artist?
Ask for help! There is no way that I would have been able to pull off my senior exhibition without the help and encouragement from friends, family, and my professors. Prior to the show, I had a lot of anxiety surrounding the amount of work that I had to do. I had decided to work with certain materials that I had no previous experience with. I learned how to weld, pour concrete, and work with fiberglass. These processes took me twice as long as they needed to and I was worried that I would not finish in time for the opening. After exhausting myself and realizing that I could not do everything alone, I started to ask professors, my family, and my friends for help and prayer. This changed the entire experience for me. Inviting other people into my creative work really extended my understanding of art making; it became spiritual. I recognized that the physical work in front of me was actually the spiritual work and prayers of so many other people. The work was no longer mine; it belonged to everyone, the viewers too.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists and creatives?
I would tell aspiring artists and creatives that they are already artists and creative. When you switch from thinking “I am an aspiring artist” to “I am an artist,” you remove the pressure of making work to be someone else. Instead, you free yourself to simply make work that is true to you.
Once this switch happens, I would tell people to make a lot of work. Play. Experiment. Find people to critique your work. Look for other artists that you admire. Write about the things that you make. And lastly, throw your work away and make new work. Always leave room for new work.