Featured Artist | Julia Katz


Reeves: I understand that you’ve been thinking for some time about how to depict the human body in motion. Have your subjects always inhabited beach scenes, or have you evolved through other settings?

Katz: The subjects in my paintings have not always inhabited beach scenes. After years of painting models in the studio, I began the movement theme with a series about dancers.  I moved on to runners, and then crowds.  When I started working on people at the beach I got excited about the idea that it was not only the figures that move but the environment itself that is in motion.  The paintings became more about the interaction of the figure and the space.  

My current work is no longer set specifically at the beach but has evolved directly from the beach paintings.  The environment I currently paint for the figures is abstracted from nature but is not as defined as these beach paintings are and have a deeper metaphorical meaning for me.  My work has swung back and forth between representation and abstraction and it has been a process of trying to make them work together and find a balance and meaning in it.  

Reeves: It seems that the texture of your brushstrokes is a major vehicle for indicating movement on a static surface. Could you talk about this, or other, methods that make this work substantially more dynamic than a photo snapshot of the same scene?

Katz: Yes, the brushstroke texture and direction indicate the subject’s motion as well as the movement of environmental forces.  Similarly, the brushstrokes record the vigor of my own life and movement as I paint.  Color and texture help to move the viewer’s eye around the painting, making the viewer an integral participant in the layers of action.  

Reeves: I’ve noticed that visitors who are drawn to your work tend to associate it quickly with a nostalgic memory of their own. I find it interesting that viewers don’t seem to need to know which beach in particular you’re depicting – they connect with a more universal beach scene situated in memory. Why do you think that is? Do you intend to elicit nostalgia?

Katz: I have chosen figures on the beach as subject matter because the beach is a vast natural space where people are engaged with nature and are moving freely.  The depiction of the scene may be universal in that it is more about a state of mind than the representation of a certain place.  I do not explicitly intend to elicit nostalgia, but I do choose the subjects because of an emotional connection that I feel.  

Reeves: What inspires or influences you as an artist?

Katz: On a macro level: The idea of a vital energy that flows through all things in the universe infuses all of my work.  I am trying to find my way toward paintings that encompass a sense of that energy. I am interested in human nature and how we live in a world that seems to be beyond comprehension.  

On a micro level: I am influenced by my practice of qigong and yoga and try to bring some of what I experience there to my painting practice.  I am inspired every day by the clouds moving through the sky.  

Additionally, I am excited about getting back to my figure painting roots in November when I will be taking a weekend master workshop with Alex Kanevsky in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.