With art in three simultaneous exhibitions and a major commission in the works, Julie Baldyga is on a major run of good fortune. This is one of those rare moments in the life of an artist when talent, hard work, and luck intersect. However, if the art is to catch the public’s eye, it also needs to be expressive, personable, and most of all possess presence. In Julie’s case, these are qualities we can ascribe to the artist and her work. Once met, you won’t soon forget Julie and her remarkable art.
Julie Baldyga is a gifted and talented individual. The 56-year-old native of Louisville has not let any perceptions of personal limitations intrude on her creativity. Julie is essentially a self-taught artist who was blessed to be born into an artistic and creative family. Growing up, Julie saw art making as being a natural, perhaps ordinary, extension of being alive. She remembers making art as far back as she can recall.
Julie has a genuine curiosity to understand how things work and function. She remembers watching her father repairing the family automobile and this has left a lasting impression on her. Julie likes researching her interests on the internet and she studies books borrowed from the public library. Online she has travelled the world over watching industrial videos on how to fix and maintain all manner of equipment. In her art, Julie often makes connections between the disciplines of the physical world such as mechanics, electricity, and biology and weaves them into a personal vision that also encompasses the spiritual world. The integration of these parallel realms is her genius.
The artist has an effective knowledge on the inner workings of mechanical and electrical devices like motors, engines and transformers. One key work in the exhibition is a lawn mower engine that Julie reconstructed from memory and fabricated using cardboard, duct tape, and wire. Internally, her lawn mower engine has all the working parts of an actual engine, for example pistons, rings, etc…that are not normally seen, but are nevertheless crucial to the proper functioning of the machine. For Julie, knowing that her sculpture has all the right parts in place is important to her.
Many of Julie’s outstanding oil pastels on paper feature people she knows who are in the process of fixing an engine or some other troublesome machine. To be able to repair machinery is to have some control over one’s life since machines are a necessary part of our everyday world. In Julie’s view, women in particular can remain independent and benefit from being able to maintain machinery themselves. In Julie’s art women are the most frequently depicted mechanics.
Julie’s drawing style is representational. Her renderings of machines have an accuracy and precision not present in her figures which creates an interesting formal tension within the artwork. An outstanding characteristic of her figures are their long, thin arms and wonderfully expressive hands that remind us that they are in fact our first tools. She depicts hands in various gestural positions often holding hand tools. In Julie’s larger figurative works, the fingernails are sometimes colored with actual fingernail polish that comes from the artist’s large personal collection of various colors.
StudioWorks by Zoom Group represents Julie’s art and she works in the studio five days a week. To Julie, being an artist is her job which she takes seriously. It is in the spacious studio/gallery, open to the public, that Julie makes most of her artworks and offers it for sale. In addition to her work with oil pastels, Julie also enjoys making ceramic sculpture, occasionally an acrylic on canvas painting, and lately soft sculptures from painted cheese cloth, batting, and wire. Proceeds from the sale of her gallery items are used by the artist to finance a private installation in the basement of her family home provider. Upon leaving the StudioWorks space… Julie goes home to make more art.
At home, Julie has been dutifully creating life-size, soft sculpture portraits of individuals important to her. Many of her subjects have passed on. Julie calls her multiple figure installation “The Heavenly Family”. These portraits are also made from the inside out and usually have a skeletal armature, organs, nerves, veins, and are wrapped with painted cheese cloth. The figures are completed with wigs and clothing purchased from goodwill stores, novelty shops, or donations. The basic premise behind “The Heavenly Family” is that in heaven, all wrongs will be righted. However, one has been shortchanged in life…in heaven, all things will be made whole again and all problems will be resolved. This ever-growing installation is a highly personal project that the artist interacts with and is not for public exhibition. It is Julie’s belief that once her time is up, “The Heavenly Family” will join her in the afterlife. In our exhibition, a large mouse-like figure Julie has made from the inside out represents this method of her art making.
Returning to Julie’s oil pastels, the concept of heaven is in many of them as well. These works are often identified by the colorful floral gardens that occupy the backgrounds. It is natural to expect that there will be great beauty in heaven and this takes the form of lovely flowers of all kinds in a range of colors. Julie’s figures are happy in heaven and engaged in the satisfying and mundane pursuit of repairing machinery or just holding or stroking an engine as though it was the beloved family dog. The most poignant of her pastels set in heaven depicts her late brother Paul with his back turned to the viewer watching the righted HMS Titanic cruising by as though nothing had ever happened.
Other series that Julie has worked on include bowling scenes which is her favorite sport and one that she participates in through the Special Olympics. Of late, Julie has been concentraing on large earrings which have generated a series of oil pastel renderings of women’s heads wearing large fanciful earrings. Although Julie likes working with particular themes and subjects, it is fascinating to see what new ideas will spring up next. It is a continuing pleasure to witness her evolution as an artist and to applaud her success as she receives due recognition for her artistic achievements.
~Al Gorman, StudioWorks Manager
“The Expessive Art of Julie Baldyga” Exhibition Opening Reception: Friday, September 20th, 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Exhibition Runs through October 20th
Studioworks Gallery Hours: Monday – Wednesday, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Thursday & Friday, 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday, 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm
StudioWorks by Zoom Group is located at 2008 Eastern Parkway (at the corner of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway)