Julia Barrett: Local Artist from Rye, NH

Short description of who you are and your passion behind your art.

I am a local artist based in Rye, NH. I would say I am mostly known for large scale paintings using acrylics on some unusual mediums.  I am inspired by nature a lot and love creating art using pieces of flowers and ferns from my garden to create images made of nature. 

Although I definitely love coming back to New England, I have drawn great inspiration from various places around the world where I have traveled and studied. I have been fortunate enough to call Australia my second home and enjoy any opportunity for further adventure. 

I also love to share art through teaching. I have worked in different capacities as a teacher and always try to design my classes to encourage creativity and enable others to discover a world of imagination through art. 

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Have you always had a passion for the arts?

I have always had a passion for art and love all kinds of artwork. My mom is an artist, teacher and gardener and from a very early age I was so lucky to be encouraged to express myself through different mediums.  It doesn’t matter what it is - ceramics, printmaking, painting… it is all so much fun and like an experiment each time; never perfecting but finding beauty in the mistakes and figuring out what works. I used to explore my backyard with a notebook and try to see things from a different view and draw the strange angles of things in nature, and it is still one of my favorite things to do! 


Being one of four sisters, can you tell us how your family has played a role in your art?

I grew up in a house of five vibrant, strong-willed women who always have something to say.  Silence is unheard of at the Barrett dinner table.  I knew that a couple seconds of silence would be all it took for my three older sisters to resume their animated storytelling over the clamor of barking dogs, our screeching parrot, and Bob Dylan crooning from the stereo. Barrett family dinners were truly a night at the arts. Our nightly ritual was filled with performance, music, and color, which created a multilayered collage for my observant eyes.  

With so many strong personalities, the way each person expressed themselves reflected their particular gifts and perspective on the world.  While my sisters jousted for a chance to grab center stage, as the baby of the family, I was often pushed there. I often stayed quiet during our nightly theater, preferring instead to watch and take everything in. 

The family dynamic helped me find my own means of expression. Those quiet moments of observation were full and interactive. I used to get lost studying the lines on my family’s faces and imagining how I would capture their expressions and emotions on paper.

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You recently painted a mural of activists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman-Hughes at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth. Can you tell us about the mural?

The mural portrays the ongoing fight for civil liberties using influential figures Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes as inspiration. The mural stands 20 feet tall and was one of my favorite pieces to do. The mural was inspired by the political atmosphere in the U.S. in light of the inauguration of President Trump and the subsequent Women's March on Washington. It meant a lot to me to be able to combine forces with Patrick Peterson and highlight the ongoing fight for equality. In the mural, it shows the 1971 image on the bottom and the most recent image above, with the women in the same position, arms raised. I really wanted to celebrate how far we have come but also that we still have a long way to go. We must stay committed!

Many of your pieces feature women and the female body. What inspires you about the female form?

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Being from a family of five women, I have always found myself naturally drawn to the female form and how women are represented in art. I’m often inspired by the light and shapes that seem to be at play with the human form.  In my work I try to depict the uniqueness and beauty of every body type. I like exploring the shadows and light in the expression of movement-- how heads can hang, a back can twist and a wrinkle can create a shadow. So much of my work uses the female body as a vehicle for exploring and creating new narrative for how the body is expressed, represented and understood.

What has been your favorite piece you've made?

Although not the most permanent of pieces, my favorite pieces I ever make are those made up of organic matter. “A Girl of Pedals” is my favorite and is composed of flower pedals of different shades to create a nude woman. These types of pieces; finding elements in nature to create a piece of art gives me such satisfaction.  Its more about the process; finding and picking flowers, pressing them, then creating an image. Being an art teacher I have to create class plans and ideas using all sorts of ordinary materials such as stones, leaves, macaroni etc. My favorite pieces come from playing around and making things out of unconventional materials.

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Where do you see yourself and your business going in the future?

In the future I see myself doing landscape art where I combine my love of nature with my love of sculpting to create creative decor. I also see myself continuing murals and exploring nature in art.

Joshua Frappier