While visiting the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, we saw and “open studio” sign just off the trail from Donald Judd’s concrete blocks. From the moment we walked through the door, time stood still. The studio belonged to Julie Speed and her work was captivating. Her paintings were unlike anything we have seen before; they were strangely beautiful and almost hallucinogenic with touches of the Renaissance, Surrealism, and Dadaism. On our way out of the studio a gorgeous woman with long grey braids complemented us on our shoes. Turned out to be Julie Speed and the rest is FREDA Girl history. Today you are invited into Julie’s studio to see her work and read her stories. We hope you love them and her as much as we do.
First things first, did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?
Almost always. First I wanted to be a caveman. Then a pirate. So artist was actually my #3 career choice so yes, I always knew. It was never even a question I asked myself.
Tell us about your creative process from start to finish.
It changes year to year and painting to painting. Sometimes I’ll do a detailed sketch. Sometimes I’ll do 20 or 30 rough sketches. Sometimes I’ll start with nothing at all. Mostly one thing just leads naturally to the next. The composition leads. The narrative follows. The important part is that I get to work at the same time every morning and work a full day. It helps that I never had kids.
What do you hope your paintings evoke in viewers?
When I’m working I hope I don’t think about that at all. It would be the kiss of death.
I’m trying to make visual connections that ask questions, not give answers. I like puzzles. I like working with my hands.
You work with many different mediums creating paintings, drawings, and collages. What is the medium that is the most rewarding? Why?
It’s what I learn by switching back and forth that I find rewarding. When I teach myself something new while working in one medium then I want to try and figure out how to apply it to the next, so I frequently switch back and forth. It keeps me from wearing myself into a rut. I’ve always worked that way, ever since I was a kid. It’s one of the reasons art school annoyed me. What I learn making art applies to everything. I just finished building a dry stack rock wall in front of the studio and because I’ve practiced fitting together collage pieces for my whole life, my hands and my eyes already knew where the pieces should go. The only hard part was lifting them.
Painting is a project that is never truly finished. How do you let a piece go?
My worst event. When a museum does a show with old paintings I’ve taken them home to re-varnish and it’s incredibly hard for me to not re-paint them at the same time. Once I took a painting off someone’s wall and took it home and worked on it another week and then brought it back.
Does your environment influence your works of art?
Yes, I NEED quiet and lots of hours strung together with no distractions or interruptions. It lets me connect the dots. The more dots I can connect, the better I work.
A mantra that you live by?
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
….from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
I keep it taped to the kitchen wall over the toaster.