JULIE SPEED: Excerpts from the Undertoad

August 4 - September 30, 2017

Helen DeVitt Jones Studio Gallery


Artist Statement
Representational art is most often understood as a straightforward pitch/catch action.  The artist has an idea. She paints a picture of the idea. The viewer looks at the work and receives the idea.

With my work it’s mostly the other around:  the composition drives the narrative, not vice-versa.  Like anyone else I read, listen to the news and things happen to me ….so of course all that gets woven in, but the main thing I’m thinking about while I’m working is how to solve what I experience as a visual math puzzle.  My ideas, thoughts, theories and stories are in there….. but it’s how the shapes, lines, weights and colors get arranged and balanced that drives me.  Also, if something strikes me a as funny I almost always leave it in even when I probably shouldn’t.

That means that there’s no right or wrong way to see these paintings. I don’t want the viewer to receive a pre-chewed narrative from me.  If I’ve made a good piece of art then it ought to be loudly asking, “When you look at this painting, what does it make you think of?”

If your answer happens to lead you to writing a poem, song, story or making your own picture in response, then I’d love to read it, hear it or see it and would appreciate it if you’d send it along to me at juliespeed@gmail.com.

(If it’s a song and you send a video file please use wetransfer instead of google docs.  Or mail me a jump drive : PO Box 1526, Marfa Texas 79843. Thanks )


“What does this Mean?” This is one of the most common questions posed to artists about their work. For some, their art delivers a definitive statement based on the narrative built into the art piece. However, the work of Julie Speed offers the viewer an alternative experience with the story being left open to the interpretation of the individual. Speed creates an arena of activity for the viewer to develop his or her own interplay amongst the pieces. This method of creating art only works when the artist is able to give the viewer enough of an interesting composition. Speed accomplishes this goal by creating art that interweaves diverse material into a single unified vision.

In collecting the material for her pieces, Speed frequents sources that seem familiar to the viewer because of the historic aspects of their origin. The collage material that Speed has been collecting since she was eighteen all come from sources that recall the past through their date and damaged condition. As she states, “The rules to my game are that I’m not allowed to take apart any good books, use any internet-sourced material or my scanner and printer to blow anything up or down, so I buy what I can find at flea markets, eBay, and junk stores. Sometimes I find things while I’m out walking.”  Speed’s source material also includes aspects of previous ownership that damages the paper used. In this way, she resurrects books and prints that are no longer usable because of their damage and instead reallocates them into her work. By creating in this fashion, she takes advantage of the excesses caused by modern society while also reminding us of our past through the images shown.

In her series “Undertoad,” Speed continues her unique art of storytelling through images that range in culture from vintage copies of Gray’s Anatomy to nineteenth-century Japanese woodblock prints on Mulberry wood paper. She then continues to work the images using gouache, an opaque watercolor paint, to add new elements and also repair the collaged images that might be damaged. Speed’s mastery of the materials makes the pieces of work effortlessly fit together, with the distinction between the two materials used being almost unrecognizable.  
Christian Conrad