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all photos: Jeff Martin

Work and life co-exist in an extraordinarily beautiful symbiosis in Julie Wolfe’s Capitol Hill home and studio. A painter, installation artist and jewelry designer, Wolfe bridges that gap between fine art and tactile, wearable, interactive art in a way that clearly is rooted in her day to day life. While the official studio space is on the second floor, the whole building is filled with projects past and future, little nudges and nods towards the recurring themes in art. Much like her work, the space is a celebration of interconnectedness.

Julie Wolfe first came onto our radar with her Green Room water installation on 1700 L Street NW and has seemingly been unstoppable since: the Language of Birds at Hemphill was one of our favorite gallery shows 2016, and 2017 has seen her she has spread her Julie Wolfe: Quest for A Third Paradise is on view at the Katzen Museum through March 12th, with a book coming out this week and her gorgeous, delicate jewelry available at Barneys and more.

But as with most of these “all of a sudden, they are everywhere we look” art stories, there is a lifetime of work behind it. Wolfe grew up with a biologist for a Father, and can’t remember an age when she wasn’t spending time arranging things, looking at how they come and connect together. Later, after art school, she worked in book design (and her love of printed page as a canvas starting point to express more on has never left her), exhibited from and early age, found herself studying metalsmithing and then, slowly but surely landed in the arms of Hemphill Fine Arts, which serves as her gallery now. With her first museum show under her belt, she smiles:  “These things take years. And that seems like such a long time, but in reality, you do need that time to do the work you need to do.”

Her Quest for a Third Paradise is, in ambition, as big as the world it tries to make sense of.

It asks the viewer the following questions:

  • What if we could better understand our own human social systems—the means by which we communicate with each other, the patterns that govern our interdependence, and the minutiae that form those larger structures?
  • And what if we could appreciate the infinitely more complex systems that thrive in our natural world?

Would we be happier then, able to coexist more peacefully, almost symbiotically in this Third Paradise?

Inspired by the artist and art theorist Michelangelo Pistoletto’s concepts, the topic is never timilier than now, as the human species seem to be at odds with everything around us, including ourselves more so than ever. Wolfe explores it systematically, creating visual data clusters through paintings, large scale compositions of her bookpage work and next reiterations of her water based installations, creating a map of sorts for the visitor to find their own way there. In this world, nature benefits but humanity succeeds as a result as well.

This love & desire to understand nature extends into her jewelry work as well, with organic and manmade forms coexisting together in her work space. Shark teeth, cameos, delicate stones and rough metals, even in wearable art it is obvious that Wolfe’s visual vocabulary connects with the topics that she explores in her fine art mediums.

For someone who is seemingly interested in an infinite amount of things, Wolfe keeps a refreshingly regular schedule. “I work during day hours,” she says. “My most creative times are probably in the mornings.”

And while Wolfe keeps obviously busy she is also not in a bubble. A naturally curious, absorbing human, she is open about her admiration and finding inspiration all around her, as well as in the work of other artists (there are nods to Jasper Johns and Joan Miro’s compositions throughout her painting), and the whole home is sprinkled with YES works, a salute to YES YOKO ONO, and a positive reinforcement Wolfe feels is necessary here and now.

We couldn’t agree more.

Julie Wolfe: Quest for A Third Paradise is on view at the Katzen Museum through March 12th, with the book available starting this week at the museum bookstore and in her studio. Her next artist talk there is on February 28th. She will also be  be showing some of the work from “Quest….”, along with new works in New York during a residency at “Two Coats of Paint” by Sharon Butler with an open studio on April 21, 6:00-8:00 at 55 Washington #321 Brooklyn (Dumbo). You can purchase her jewelry at Barneys.

Install image via Artsy