Sculptures with dynamism
In Julia Shepley's eloquent sculptures at Boston Sculptors Gallery, the shadows hold equal weight with the art itself. She builds layered, translucent mobiles with fiber sheets and boning; she draws and stitches over them; she cuts into them. The “Tethering Home” and “Locus” series conjure memory's glimpses of a house left behind long ago. Windows, stairways, and bits of furniture appear; then the mobile catches a breeze and they move away. What looks like a bench on one panel casts a shadow that morphs into a piano or a bed. Shepley's many layers, in drawings and in sculptures, depict the beautiful murk of our imaginations, casting gems to the surface and pulling them back into the deep. Read More
Julia Shepley…uses the very ephemeral element of shadows in her work. Interested in the layers of space and time, Shepley uses thread as a medium to draw in three dimensions. “Shadows are evocative, capturing the spirit of the object and adding an abstract quality that the physical thing doesn't have,” says Shepley. “The shadow elements in my work suggest the inner life of the concept. I work with phrases, poems, ideas, and translate them into thread, rope, wood, wire, and Plexiglas, connecting them together to create a configuration that changes as I work on it. In Sky Habitation, shown at the Boston Sculptors Gallery, elements were added on, changed, and then suggested new connections and configurations.” Shepley's work, perhaps the most immaterial of the sculptures considered, combines positive and negative space, art and science, and concept and realization in elegant and evocative ways.
The mesmerizing movements of Sky Habitation created an environment of ethereal beauty and visual excitement… Read More
Julia Shepley Out/In: New Works: She has added a new dimension to her work, a monumental installation suspended from the ceiling, slowly revolving and interacting with viewers. The title, Sky Habitation, suggests… Read More
Julia Shepley's drawings in thread, shadow, and ink sandwiched between arcs of glass and mylar pull you in with delicate intimacy.
Look at Shepley's whispery “Nightshade Series,” in which she layers translucent vellum in lightboxes…Shepley interleaves shadow and light, cutting and painting over the vellum and making staticky sutures across the surface. Yet both artists -Shepley and Samour- deploy that translucence; their work seems to capture light and hold it, fluttering, like a moth. Shepley's nearby tumultuous “Mining the Storm” series, which sports etched glass over gouged, painted plaster. The plaster makes a topography, the glass the weather system through which we view it. Like Weisberg, Shepley works in black and white; her gestures are lush and expressionistic beside Weisberg's staccato splatter.
Julia Shepley's series Fluid States and Lost and Found feature layers of glass, etched and stitched, sometimes against a plaster ground; they metaphorically depict the brain. With rippling glass, textured shadows, and varying translucence, these pieces are enigmatic and captivating.
Julia Shepley is a poet of motion. Her sculptures, though stationary, imply thrust through space and atmosphere. Using wood, cast glass, laminate, bronze, fabric, and stitching she creates a world of abstract configurations backed by the shadows of their presence…Shepley's sculpture uses positive and negative space in contrapuntal rhythms - mass verses void, shapes against shadows - as part of the whole configuration. It is this play between substance and its echo that makes her work compelling, original and daring: Her use of glass refracts light and creates a play of the elements; the silhouettes of her forms converse with their reflections in the shadows and suggest infinite possibilities. This is a relief sculpture in a new mode and vision.
Flying like the wind or stolidly rooted, the work by two artists in solo shows at Boston Sculptors Gallery, make an evocative complimentary pair…In her “Fasten” series,[Julia Shepley] stitches buttons into plastic sheets, leaving stray threads, then draws over the sheets with ink lines that look like flying horse tails. It all casts shadows through the plastic, exaggerating the rush. A series of wall sculptures blows the elements of “Fasten” up to a larger scale. In upstart, the buttons are glass disks, threaded to bronze hooks in the wall and attached to fluid lines of black vinyl, which ripple over the wall in feathery arcs. These wittily trade in themes of tethering and escape.
Shepley's modus operandi acknowledges few bounds. Drawing and sculpture are interchangeable for her; she may begin with a drawing and then extend both her linear and sculptural gesture by means of wire or thread, moving far beyond the edges of her paper…Many of her structures, such as Window and Rainspan, are balanced in space with carefully engineered threads; they possess a tension, a fragility of balance that implies change, transition waiting to happen.
Shepley engages the complexities and possibilities of…sights and sounds [along tidal rivers and other large bodies of water] in her mixed-media sculpture, artfully using reflective light and shadow as additional drawing and sculpting tools. Shepley also manages to connect these ethereal pieces to the body and the experience of being human. On multiple levels, Shepley produces art that exercises the viewer's senses, encouraging their fuller use and celebrating their sometimes mystical abilities.
The largest installation is a series of circles that look like the life rings thrown to someone who's drowning. Shepley's rings come in both two and three dimensions, some delicately drawn onto the wall, others padded, protruding white forms, all of them connected with loops of turquoise cord as active as a rolling sea. Inside the 3-D rings are amorphous cast glass forms, bubbly and effervescent, in a watery palette. They're glistening and alluring, but the message is that beauty can be treacherous.…the objects in this show are pale and clean as if purified by water…these are lovely, lyrical and sometimes eccentric pieces…The arches [in the Daydream- Imprint Series] are stitched in places that are not seams, creating scarification patterns and a sense of activity reiterated in the glass that fills them. Flowing and bulging, the glass is to be looked at as much as through. But don't miss what's behind it: shadows as interesting as the tangible forms that cast them.
Rather than isolating one environment from another and one medium from another, Shepley draws inspiration from overlapping worlds. Land and sea merge in works made from undulating cast blue glass and delicate threads- some as wispy as hairs, others stiffly knotted like surgical sutures. Rippling light dances off surfaces that look etched by the ebb and flow of the ocean. Despite fixed positions on — or jutting out from — the wall, these works have a sense of motion. Slender black strings pull the ingredients of 'Window' into taut harmony…two glass circles are held slightly apart as if in the process of opening…shadowy ghosts of the strings mingle with swooping gestures drawn in black crayon. Foreground and background, solid form and ephemeral shadow shift with the viewer's movement and the changing light of the gallery.
Reviews (selected excerpts), 1999-2001
Shepley is an artist of the poetic and insubstantial. We seem to be looking at embodiments of memory, traces in time, and delicate dreams, opening up countless possibilities of allusion, illusion, and fantasy.
Julia Shepley's new works are as much drawing as sculpture. Their elusive effects- shadows, transparency, illusion- are made possible by odd materials…She draws beautifully. The 3-D pieces seem more fragile, their references richer.
Shepley's disparate imagery, dramatic, playful, and graphic, is drawn together by keeping it simple, focusing as clearly on the shadows cast as on the objects themselves.
An artist who conflates flesh and spirit.