Photographed & written by Bridget Schaefer
This issue of No Boundaries focuses on humanity – giving a face to the challenges and triumphs of multiple communities. Julia Bottoms artwork is heavily influenced by human thought, purpose and interaction – reflecting the theme of this issue. “It’s kind of like reading books,” said Julia. “I look at people and parallel it to reading their story. I strive to think about people on an individual level but also how those individuals works collectively.”
I walk into a teal colored studio on Delaware Avenue and am greeted by dozens of brightly painted canvases stacked on top of each other. Julia owns Buffalo Brush Paint & Sip, a local studio offering evening paint classes. She graduated from SUNY Buffalo State with a degree in Fine Arts and Art Education – so facilitating and teaching paints nights, along with producing personal work for art exhibits and commission is an ideal mix.
Julia carefully sets a large canvas featuring her own work-in-progress on a wood easel. The painting towers over her small frame as she examines the portrait’s skin color and fine detail. “I worked on my last solo show for several years, it was about people of color,” said Julia. “I was exploring concepts of media representation of colored people. The Albright-Knox then contacted me then to work on the Freedom Wall.” She smiles wide – “You wait forever to get a call like that…it was amazing, great timing and tied in really well with my work.” Commissioned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art Initiative in partnership with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, The Freedom Wall (pictured to the right) showcases 28 portraits of Civil Rights Leaders along Michigan and East Ferry. Julia was one of the artists on this project in 2017.
A repetitive (and, in my opinion, increasingly offensive) question of Buffalo artists who have not deserted their hometown is, “Why did you stay in Buffalo?”
“I think Buffalo is a great place for the arts,” Julia answers with full confidence in her decision to grow her career in Western New York vs. a larger city. “Maybe it’s not the same opportunities as somewhere like New York City or L.A., but when you go to big cities, the arts community is a lot larger, while here there are more connections and people that support you a little bit more. You’re not out for yourself as much.” The conversation of community comes back into play. An idea that continues to influence Julia’s work, how groups of people find common ground and connect based on their individual beings. The magazine cover created by Julia represents individual stories creating a diverse, collective whole. Utilizing symbolism from her past work, Julia added loose writing in the background to represent these individuals stories. The galaxy background echoes the theme of community – individual stars forming a much larger, brighter constellation.