As Julia Vodrey Hendrickson gets ready for her first solo show in Chicago entitled FANTASTIC STANZAS, we chatted about comics, collecting, printmaking and adhesives.
Chad Kouri: What is your background? Where ya from? Where'd ya study? What's your Sunday past time?
Julia Vodrey Hendrickson: I grew up in the woods of eastern Ohio, which is very rural, peaceful, and beautiful. I'm very much indebted to the history and presence of that place. I went to college at a small liberal arts school called the College of Wooster, in central Ohio, with a brief study abroad in Rome. I moved to Chicago in the fall of 2008.
I'm in a great feminist book club that meets every other Sunday. Other than that, my Sunday habit is just to stay busy! I am always working on something new: writing, art-making, applications, curating, organizing, you name it.
CK: What was it like focusing in school on studio practices? I can't even imagine picking that when I had the option going into school but now I kinda wish I would have.
JVH: It was tough! It's something I danced around for a long time. I started off as an English major, tried to double major in English and Studio Art, and because of how Wooster's senior thesis program was set up, it ultimately didn't make sense to double major. I was more excited about the thesis I had picked in art, so I went with that, but I still consider my education to be very much writing and literature-focused.
I think studying art in central Ohio, in a very small school, was especially hard because of how isolated you are from the art world(s) of big cities. I'm glad I had the kind of unique education that I did, and my professors were so incredibly engaging, challenging, and supportive, but it was a huge shock when I moved to Chicago. Trying to navigate an art scene in Chicago that is dominated by the constant ebb and flow of major art schools has made me feel very isolated at times.
CK: You said something about only using Wonder Woman comics in your collage work. Any specific reason for limiting your materials like that?
JVH: Yes, for right now it's a conscious choice to limit the collage source material to early Wonder Woman comics. On a very basic, organizational level, it's just good to have some sort of guideline like that to keep the collages related and visually cohesive. Using Wonder Woman comics, specifically, relates to work I was doing in college. My thesis focused on gender in comic art, and how comic art relates to (or is divided from) the fine art world. Wonder Woman is unique in that she is the first female super hero(ine), created in the 1940s by this awful quack psychologist, William Marston. He created her to sell comics, with images of beautiful, powerful women, but he also very purposefully made this powerful, sexual woman submissive in every issue. Inspired by, and in reaction to, some of the work of Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander
, I painted over parts of old Wonder Woman comics, leaving behind the often bizarre, sexist, racist, and utterly weird aspects of the comic image and text.
CK: You studied over sea for a bit, correct? How did studying abroad change your work process, materials, inspirations, or even your final pieces?
JVH: Yes, I studied and lived in Rome for a summer, through a RISD art & art history program. It was really important for me to be exposed to an art school experience, to learn from my peers, to see art students and be able to decide, "this is how I want/ don't want to proceed in my life as an artist". It was also hugely inspiring to be immersed in a city and a country that is saturated with so much history. When I was there I was obsessed with making connections between comic art and ancient Italian art, so that was a fun little project to work on. Looking back, I've realized that studying in Italy was what helped me realize how important it is to be a well-rounded creative person: to be a maker, a writer, AND a thinker. As a result, I strongly believe that there always needs to be a fluid motion between art making and historical contextualization.
CK: Want to talk a little bit about your collecting obsession that you mention in your artist statement?
JVH: I don't know that I would call it an obsession, but I am conscious of being a collector of objects. I think it's hard for artists not to collect, to be drawn to visually appealing, tangible things. I collect art and books, as many creative people do, too. Much of what I collect, though, is related to pottery, and it has to do with my family history. My ancestors were potters in East Liverpool, on the banks of the Ohio River, and generations later, my mother is the director of a great little historical museum (called the Museum of Ceramics
) in my hometown. Collections are very interesting and strange to me, because they are often so quietly personal, so indicative of personality, yet they are rarely ever shared with others.
CK: How do you organize all your clippings? Do you cut a bunch of stuff out and have a library of pieces to pull from when composing clippings over prints or do you only cut as you go?
JVH: I tend to have a library to pull from. I'll go through spurts where I'll cut out every weird thing I see, and then as I'm laying out the collage, I'll go back into the comics and cut out shapes or colors as I need them.
CK: Were you doing collage and printmaking separately before merging the two?
JVH: Yes, they were separate practices. I was really into cartooning and drawing when I was in college, and tried my hand at printmaking only at the very end of my senior year. I really liked it, and over the last three years I have tried to be very involved with the print world and teach myself about new kinds of printmaking whenever I can. Focusing on photo-based printmaking though, has made me lose some of my drive for making lines and drawings.
Doing collage was not ever something I thought about a few years ago, but now I see it as a natural, logical movement from the kinds of abstract erasure paintings (over Wonder Woman comics) I was doing in college. Now I think about collage as a good way to paint and draw with paper (appropriating color and line), and it's freeing. Combining collage with prints allows me to release lots of independent visual problems I'm working out in my head. As a writer, I also connect the process of making a collage very closely with writing, particularly poetry. I've been writing poetry over the last year or so, and I formulate these small groupings of images in a similar way that I create phrases and words in a poem.
CK: Where is your studio located? Do you prefer it this way or would you like to try something different?
JVH: My studio is currently set up in the basement of my apartment building. Although sometimes it’s hard to muster the energy to get to work in a somewhat cold, dark space, it’s incredibly convenient to be able to have access to my studio whenever I like. Plus, since printmaking often requires many stages of tinkering, it’s nice to be able to dash in, do a couple of things, and then go about my day.
CK: What is keeping you busy now-a-days other than your art?
JVH: A little bit of everything! Like many young people these days, I juggle three jobs (Corbett vs. Dempsey, Ork Posters, and Marwen, all of which are amazing and uniquely rewarding. I try to always have writing projects to work on, whether it’s art reviews for Newcity, interviews and essays for my blog, or my own creative projects. I’m really excited about a group show I’m curating at Marwen, called “Territories,” which will open in April.
CK: What is your favorite adhesive? I for one prefer those purple glue sticks lately. good stuff.
JVH: Since the papers I use for collage are often very old and acidic, I like using an adhesive that is gentle on the paper but is also a strong binding agent. I really love using “Yes!” Paste, which is an acid-free, water-based, slow-drying paste. It’s less functional than a glue stick because you can’t hold it, but I think it’s one of the simplest glues out there (other than a homemade wheat paste). It’s nice to be able to put a little water down and rearrange things, too, if needed. It’s probably not technically archival, though.
CK: What is the weirdest adhesive you have ever tried? For example, I’ve used veneer glue. Very messy… I don’t recommend it. But damn does it stick.
JVH: Rubber cement is pretty gross and weird, and strangely not very sticky.
Thanks for the thoughtful questions and conversation, Chad, I appreciate it!