Underwater with Julie Ross

By Chadwick Hagan

I recently stopped by the Emerging Art Scene Gallery in Castleberry Hill. Gallery owner Denise Leitch Jackson represents the artist Julie Ross, and here some of her newest paintings adorned the wall. Struck with surprise and wonder at the large pieces depicting artful terrains and whimsical semblance, I took a deeper look into her work.

Julie Ross, "Party of One," 2010. Acrylic on canvas.
Julie Ross, "Party of One," 2010. Acrylic on canvas.

In a statement, Ross said: “The delivery of a message through humor is very important to me. As a shockingly brutal and chaotic world unfolds before us, I find humor necessary to temper the sometimes-overwhelming sensations of dejection and helplessness we all tend to experience, especially as the seemingly unstoppable machinations of violence continue to win their ongoing battles for our attention.” Her current theme “Visualize World Peas,” borrowing from the bumper sticker “Visualize World Peace” – revels in the harmless and curious, making for a sort of amused dream world. Undoubtedly, amusement can be an important tool for an artist to have, but inside those mediums they choose to embrace and explore, the outcome must captivate the viewer with an emotional energy.

Interestingly, Ross has incorporated this pea message into her work by making them part of her paintings. Though subtle, they are noticeable, and she uses the symbols to “trigger thoughts of peace to all people on all levels.” For Ross, there seems to be an intended peaceful and inviting message to her work, softly laden with mystery.

“Party of One” is colorful and direct, with crisp lines and defined shapes that engulf and morph into one another; an ocean current, meandering through the rocks and corals of an underwater reef. The heroine in the center, though attached to her senses, is expressionless as she hovers above her body, or soul, centered below, closer to the elements and closer to nature. With colors abound, these elements could be an actual organic garden – her head a flower in the breeze. Whatever busy-ness you see is offset by her continued direction toward the presence and illusion of fish throughout the piece, helped only by assumptions and hints of direction. Looking at this piece is like peering into a small amphibious menagerie, an underwater garden.

Julie Ross, "Peace of Me," 2008. Acrylic on canvas.
Julie Ross, "Peace of Me," 2008. Acrylic on canvas.

“Peace of Me” evokes charmed loneliness and mystery, even power; bubble wrap was used to make the rarefied, mechanical pattern in the background. This is a very large painting. It depicts on a grand scale a woman holding a flower, with her shoulders exposed, black hair blowing to one side. Here her body is the flower, and the petals of the tulip, which engulf her torso midway, are merely creating the nuance of a ball gown.

The elegance continues to her hands, which are in black evening gloves, holding the stem of the tulip, before being lost to visceral shades of pink and green, yellow and red. There is a moody but joyful manner to this piece; the colors evoke an emotional sensation, a cryptic freedom.

Upstairs was mainly devoted to Ross’ “Joy Series”. There was a strong sense of Tim Burton and his art with the tall, thin, black and white drawings of women trotting along. A few of the pieces in this series used broken automotive glass to add texture and depth, stuck in motion and lacquered within a shiny resin on the canvas, in-between colors.

There was a floating, aquatic feeling to the pieces; they were all free, and the absence of color made for a dramatic view into a starkly simplified reality. An enjoyable set of work, throughout.

Julie Ross, "Joy 5," 2010. Mixed media using ink and resin on canvas.
Julie Ross, "Joy 5," 2010. Mixed media using ink and resin on canvas.

Julie Ross is represented by Denise Lietch Jackson at the Emerging Art Scene Gallery. Her next show, “Tres Chic: Art Couture,” opens February 10th, 2011 at Emerging Art Scene.

Chadwick Hagan is a writer living in Atlanta.

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