Julie Silvers (www.juliesilvers.com) is a painter, sculptor, mother and wife — and a self-proclaimed hermit when inspiration strikes. Cluttered with stacks of half-finished paintings and a hodgepodge of brightly colored fashion spreads, advertisements and photographs, Silvers' studio is a monument to her artistic process. "I never leave home when I'm working," she says. "It helps to be surrounded by things that inspire me."
Silvers is the daughter of artist Susan Wittenberg, and many elements of her paintings reflect her mother's earlier work. Despite a childhood spent in close proximity to the art world, Silvers didn't consider pursuing the same career until later in life. "I became a mom," she says. "And that's what I did for many years."
After Silvers was asked to help coordinate a mother-daughter art show fundraiser at her daughter's school, she began to consider devoting more time to her own work. When Hurricane Katrina displaced her family to Houston, art supplies were the first thing she laid hands on. Without access to her kiln, Silvers explored painting as a creative outlet. Another stroke of luck came her way when she struck up a serendipitous conversation with a stranger outside Houston's Kuhl-Linscomb gallery. "I had some paintings in my car, and (the stranger) turned out to be the owner's husband," she says. And just like that, "they started carrying my stuff."
After being featured in well-known galleries and garnering the support of Jamie Meeks and other women in the art community, Silvers had the confidence to "pound the pavement" and explore showing her work to a larger audience. Her diligence paid off: She currently is helping curate a show of her own at Ezair Gallery in New York City. Slated to open May 9, 2012 and run for one month, the show will feature Silvers' totems, paintings and clay sculptures. She's also invested energy in the New Orleans art community and operates an artist's co-op called Atelier Magasin(3954 Magazine St., www.amcollective.homestead.com) with five other local artists, including George Marks and Fifi McLaughlin. "People can just come in, look around and buy if they want to, and one of us is always working in the back," Silvers says.
An undercurrent of powerful femininity pervades Silvers' work, which she credits in part to her relationships with her mother and daughter Taylor. The clay sculptures she makes and keeps in her private collection feature abstract, full-figured women in proud and celebratory poses. "The shape and function of the vessel standing on its own obviously carries some symbolism," Silvers says. "And I love a voluptuous body — curves, chunkiness. ... Everything in life, I like large." Her paintings are wide expanses of canvas teeming with color, texture, patterns and not-so-carefully placed geometric shapes. "As soon as it starts to feel too structured or stiff, I scoop my hand in some paint and start throwing it around," she says, smiling. Silvers shies away from providing explanation for the finished product, leaving it open to interpretation. "It doesn't always have to be about anything," she says. "It's just happy and bright."
When her New York show concludes, Silvers plans to return to her clay figures, a "labor of love," and to pursue wider audiences for her work. "So much of what's out there looks the same to me," she says. "My work is about joy and happiness, and I know in my heart that what I'm doing is not safe."