So, with this kind of thing on my mind, I suppose it won’t surprise you that the art that attracted my attention—for better or for worse but usually for the better—was the stuff that kinda bleeds. If if bleeds it leads, as they say, like your morning smartphone news feed.
So when I checked out the Raymond James Stutz Art Gallery during the Stutz Holiday Open House and saw a painting by Julia Zollman Wickes entitled “Moving Forward,” I knew I had to pay a visit to her gallery. The man in the foreground of the composition, in a yellow suit and Panama hat, had his suitcase at his feet. All desert earth tones in the backdrop and the sky was a pastel light blue. He looked like he might have been waiting at some border crossing in the Sonora Desert. Or maybe it wasn’t a crossing but he was waiting on his coyote to bring him (and the people depicted behind him) into the U.S.
Well, there wasn't any blood in this particular painting, but there were certainly life and death issues at stake. Maybe these people depicted will make it across the border, maybe they won't. In any case, I wanted to visit the artist's studio to learn more.
So I went up to Wickes' 3rd story studio (which she shares with her husband Jack, a photographer). There I spotted a painting, still on its easel, spoke to me even more than “Moving Forward.” This painting is entitled “Welcoming Committee,” and portrays two men kneeling, one of them looking through a pair of binoculars. Her style, in both these paintings, champions expressive brushwork over pinpoint figurative detail.
Welcome Committee by Julia Zollman Wickes
When Wickes put the painting on Instagram she got positive feedback by refugee advocacy groups, “a little before the influx into Europe” she told me.
But when I told her that wasn’t the kind of welcoming committee I’d want to see at the gateway to a new land, or something to that effect, she told me that, for her, there was real ambiguity in the painting.
“I like to have people make up their own stories,” she said.
When I mentioned her toned down palette, apparent in “Welcoming Committee” as well as “Moving Forward.” She told me that travel in Mexico and the Southwest had informed her color choices.
“My palette went from bright to more neutrals,” she said.
I was thinking about checking out some other studios at the Stutz, but I didn’t want to be stuck in neutral as there were many more galleries to see and it was already 5:30 p.m.