Julia Haw

On the Marriage of Art and Writing

I’ve had a diary since I was in the fourth grade. My first one had cats on it and had ivory pages and wide-rules lines. I felt absolutely compelled to relay every minute detail.... “After recess I had lunch.  I had a hot dog, a salad and some chocolate milk. After lunch we went back to class and did some work. Then we went to computer and music. Then I went to Diane’s house. There’s a girl named Alice there.  She’s mean.  It was another boring day.” At times it felt like my writing was a duty. I HAD to report this - whatever happened in my life. 

As I grew, so did my writing. In my teenage years I kept not only a diary but a large book of poems I’d write, in moments of pubescent angst. I’d read at the open mic nights at Borders Books and Music, or at my beloved Beans n’ Leaves cafe in Flint, Michigan. I was asked by my high school art teacher to do a reading the opening night of the citywide Davison Art Show. My writing got me attention, but I never considered its validity with relation to my art. It was mostly a very private therapy. I now have a collection of over twenty completely filled diaries, and hundreds of poems meaning to be published. 

I really never thought to marry art and writing. I kept them separate, running parallel courses. I failed to put it together early on, when people were especially moved at my art openings, after I’d tell them what a particular painting was about. The experience of revealing at length what a piece was about, could be likened to letting someone in on a secret. It made the viewer feel special and a part of the process. I noticed some people would then pass the information on to another. 

I eased into the marriage of art and writing with a piece I created in 2010 titled “Blurred and Blurred and Blurred and Blurred.” It concerned my relationship with drinking, and I incorporated text into the actual work, then supplemented with a page of writing. It was exhibited at “This is Not the Studio” in Ukrainian village, and resulted in a lot of conversation with friends and strangers that otherwise hadn’t known this aspect of my personal life. I even received a phone call from my mother - It’s how she found out I had a problem with drinking.

The marriage has now fully “consummated.” My writings are integral to the overall works, even while I have baseline audience appreciation through the work alone. The writings fortify the work. In short, I am seeing that an audience who doesn’t understand what the artwork is about, simply moves on. Its reminds me of a study I read about people completely skipping over words they don’t understand while reading. This is partially a knee-jerk reaction to discard the foreign. My writings are helping to take the bitterness of a potentially tough painting down a bit more easily (not necessarily comfortably). I recently finished a painting titled “You Can Never Go Back,” and explained what it was about - a woman going through a similar experience wrote to me: “...reading this I cried tears of release, which I so rarely do... thank you so much for saying so eloquently, what I have been feeling these past couple of months...” 

I've realized it doesn't matter to me which medium is utilized to express how I’m feeling, so long as I’m getting through to people, and my writing seems to be making a difference. There is the one caveat of taking out the guessing game of the deep meaning of art... and this in itself can be controversial. The question is posed, well what about viewer interpretation? I'm not saying I don't like works with open-ended interpretation, rather MY work is what it’s about, is what it’s about. Whereas I used to have veils and veils of bullshit, like most young artists, covered in ten dollar words, I am learning to take those veils off for clarity’s sake. For my audience’s sake. Forget the separation of audience and the meaning of the artist’s work, at last.

With the marriage of art and writing, I’m taking out the guessing game of meaning. I’m confirming desolation and hardship and the human condition and that’s just fine. It is and has been the whole intention of my personal therapy.

Oh, and YES, writing IS as hard as painting. 

Julia Haw lives and works in Chicago, IL.  She works very intimately with subjects, delving into uncomfortable subject matters such as rejection, alcoholism and memory deterioration, while utilizing base themes of repetition and the human figure. She has shown her works in such places as the Jonathan Ferrara
Gallery in New Orleans and the Chicago Cultural Center. Her works can be
seen at www.juliahaw.com.

Currently, she is working on a chapbook of writings that will
supplement her 2013 solo show titled “Olga, or The
Importance of Being
(A Nobody),” to be held at the Chicago Cultural Center.  Many of these
writings can be read on her website.  Additionally, she has a solo showing of over 20 works at
Eyeporium Gallery from October 5 to November 14 (reception October 5th, 6-9PM).


September 2012.


Published by Aeneas Hemphill on Wed, 09/19/2012 - 3:30pm
Updated on Wed, 10/24/2012 - 2:03pm