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JULIA
NELSON-GAL

San Francisco, USA
website

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My work explores concepts around time, deterioration and human complexity while observing our changing understanding of the world. A fascination with photographs, books, tools and utilitarian objects from a young age along with the study of art history and photography, directed me to an art making process that is materially focused. I am attracted to what I call “old data,” information contained in objects and formats no longer relevant. The many ways these materials show their age — in how they have been constructed, used or discarded — reveals a story that connects me with the lives of ordinary people.

My art practice involves three activities: photography, mixed media studio work and large-scale builds. I have loved photography since I had a darkroom as a child. I still love to take photographs, but I also use found photographs and photo-reproductions by others in my mixed media work. Incorporating and reinterpreting these images is how I acknowledge that I am part of a continuum—everything I create comes from something that existed before me, whether a landscape, an historical event or an idea.

I seek out images and objects that are worn and used, rather than untouched, for they tell a deeper story. Interacting with and deconstructing objects — a kind of respectful autopsy — exposes hidden information and helps me embrace ephemerality and life. Layering and combining them obfuscates their origins and allows me to reassess the past and gain a new perspective on current events.

In the past ten years I have taken some of these sensibilities to a larger scale, becoming involved in the art of Burning Man. Working in such large scale brings community and new problem solving to art making. In 2019, my partner Dave and I began what would become a three-year project to create and bring a neoclassical structure to Burning Man. Unbound: A Library in Transition was created as a large collage covered in some 3000 deconstructed books that were rescued from recycling. Unbound celebrates the beauty of these vintage materials while reminding us of the dramatic change in information transfer in our lifetimes. The walls contain layers of human creations—beautiful, now often irrelevant, illustrations and writings that culminated in a colorful, immersive palimpsest experience.

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