Art found me, and it fit into my life. I never dreamed of becoming an artist. I resisted the idea, but I could never escape my creativity. I see art all around me. I see beauty everywhere — nature, style, and design.
I consider myself self-taught even though I took a few classes here and there. I was surrounded by art growing up. I would watch my mother, Susan Wittenberg, paint. I would go with her to art openings and art museums on our travels. In college, I took a painting class, taught by Adrian Deckbar. I have also taken a few classes at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art. However, I have never liked the structure or discipline of the classroom. I learn by doing … I am learning every single day.
My life feels the most complete while am in my studio creating. I find inspiration in various aspects of my daily culture. I am drawn to child-like, primitive, and imperfect qualities, and I want my artwork to reflect this and maintain a made-by-hand feel.
I have been creating artwork for over 30 years. I have a lot of experience behind me, developing my unique style, and I feel I have come into my own as an artist. There is a little piece of me in each and every piece of art I create. I paint and sculpt from a place of love in my heart and gut. My art is bright, colorful, playful and fun, and I want the viewer to feel that energy and spirit in it's presence! I hope to share happiness and joy with everyone through my work.
Julie Silvers is a New Orleans artist living and working in Old Metairie.
Questions & Answers
Describe your art in three words.
Happy, funky, and joyful.
Describe yourself in one word.
What do you love the most about creating art in New Orleans? What particular part of your immediate environment, in your neighborhood specifically influences your work?
New Orleans celebrates life, it has it's own special energy. Heart and soul go into everything here from the food, music, and art. It's a mix of people, each neighborhood has it's own special style, vibe, and mood.
There are many beautiful properties with giant oak trees. I love taking a break from my work and walking my adopted SPCA dog, Freya. Seeing her joy and playfulness is refreshing. Sometimes we all get so busy and work so hard we forget to play and have fun.
Describe your creative process. Are there any rituals or rites of passage you exercise before you begin a new piece?
I switch back and forth from clay and sculpture to painting. I guess my rituals would be having great music on, I love lots of light, so I turn them all up high and usually have the door open to the studio so I can bring nature in and Freya can go in and out. I always have to start with a clean studio, it helps me mentally. If I'm working on clay I dive right in and work on multiple pieces at a time because you can't build too quickly or it will collapse. It's more of a spiritual or meditative process. I guess because it comes a lot easier to me, I can take it a little slower and personally I'm a lot calmer.
When I switch to painting I have to have completed all the ceramics and put away. I clean and prepare the studio. Luckily everything is on wheels, so my studio is never the same way. I need the music, light, hopefully sunshine, and doors open. Painting is more of a challenge and I have to hype myself up more! I'm totally visual and hate the computer, so I have ripped pages of magazines taped everywhere. Beauty inspires me, especially fashion and design. I love texture, style, architecture and beautiful gardens. I'm kind of stuck in the 70's fashion wise. I'm a hippy at heart, I love fringe and beads and ethnic pieces. I get so excited about what I want to paint. I have to work on lots of paintings at once. I use lots of layers and they need time to dry. Since my studio is so small, I have a work space outside just a big board on two saw horses. I am constantly carrying paintings inside and out. I stand all day. I recently realized, I can't sit down and work, I need to be standing and moving and grooving. When I'm in the zone, the music is turned up and I'm dancing and feeling a little proud of how the work is going. It's the greatest feeling! However one bad stroke can actually ruin the entire painting. If I don't like something, it drives me nuts and I might work on the same thing for weeks straight. It's probably fine, but I'm not happy till it's what I want it to be. I also found that as soon as I am finished and satisfied I better move it out of the studio quickly or I will go back in. I like all my work to be loose, primitive, and raw as possible. I'm not into perfection and feel the freer it is, the happier I am with it.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Everywhere. I will pick up branches and flowers. I love pattern, texture, repitition, and classical design. Just walking around Jazz Fest and looking at all the style and the way everyone was dressed. Traveling to other countries is the most inspirational. Israel, Italy, Paris, Greece, China — I love the old architectural ornate iron work and details of the stone columns and windows. I love going to flea markets in other countries. I love everything handmade passed down one generation to the next. The older the better.
Who are your artistic influences or gurus?
My absolute favorite is BasQuiat. The people who influenced me the most are my mother, Susan Wittenberg, who is a wonderful artist, and Ida Kohlmeyer.
In New Orleans, art and music go hand in hand. What type of music, band or song lyric best describes your work?
I need to listen to music while I work. I'm stuck on Akon and Nelly, I love that kind of music when I paint. I also write lyrics I like on the walls of my studio. If it resonates with me at that certain time. I like music I can move and dance to. I appreciate all types, but I don't really like to just watch a band preform, I like action and I want to be dancing!
My favorite lyrics are, "Living young and wild and free."
Where can we find you when you are not creating art?
Walking my dog, Freya.
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
I love mornings. I love Mondays. I love fresh starts and new beginnings. I love summer. I was born June 21st, the summer solstice, so naturally June is my favorite!
What is something people don’t know about you? A fun fact.
My dream fantasy would be that I would love to accidentally get locked inside ABC Carpet and Home in NYC overnight. I could take my time and slowly look and touch everything. I would play dress up. I would never have to leave the first floor. It's everything I adore from all over the world under one roof. I would sneak and make a little snack from one of their restaurants, then make a giant pile of beautiful pillows and blankets and fall asleep under all the twinkling chandeliers. That would be my happy place.