"When I go to an art gallery and stand in front of a painting, I don't want someone telling me what I should be seeing or thinking; I want to feel whatever I feel, see whatever I see, and figure out what I figure out."
Artist Statement by Juliette O’Brill
Botanical Narratives - February 2022
When times are dark - artists have the privilege to make light. In the spirit of manifestation, these recent works of art started with conscious efforts to display bright joyful scenes of the natural world. Wild Ones and Families in Bloom by Juliette O'Brill embody spiritual metaphors, artistic journeys and many therapeutic hours building these magnificent landscape views.
Both compositions set the viewer directly into the rocky mountain landscape with dense floral plant life in the foreground and colorful skies above. As the layers were built up, each of the flowers became characters with their own nuanced personalities. The inspiration came in the last month of my mother’s life, she suggested painting large flowers. While still in Illinois, I began sketching the corky cone head flowers; echinacea growing in the backyard with plans to develop a large-scale painting. The entire process this past summer was cathartic as I moved through the grieving process.
Families in Bloom was next up. When I developed the foreground with washes of paint, I was looking for any images resembling faces, figures, or plant life, allowing the paint to speak to me. Because in moments being awestruck by the natural world, my thoughts turn to wonder who was there before me, imagine how they traveled through the landscape and the stories they might tell. I rendered any images showing up, believing my paintbrush was being channeled by my inner guides to honor the presence of history. Most faces got painted over, not seen anymore, like real life… but there are a few still peeking through.
The Castilleja flower, commonly known as Indian Paintbrush or Prairie Fire flower, revealed itself in the paint as well! I did research, to find out they are hemi-parasitic, meaning they partially live off other plant life, often found paired with blue lupine. The fiery flowers can survive on their own, but they do better connecting their root system to another plant- not dissimilar to the human experience. Largely a personal metaphor as I titrate between spiritual awakening, introversion and building meaningful relationships.
Botanical fun facts:
is used by herbalists to help fight infections.
The fiery botanicals have been used by Native tribes in baths for shiny hair, feminine health and to treat rheumatism.
The soft Stachys Byzantine, aka lamb's ear is related to the mint family, is nature's toilet paper.
Juliette O’Brill works with fine art materials in recreating aspects of the natural world through imperfect images. A large part of making art, for Juliette, is for the mental health benefits; the goal is finding ‘flow’ or being in a state of relaxed attention. By inviting experimental processes into the studio, she feels less rigidity, or resistance in her approach which in turn encourages production of brain waves known as theta, typically occurs during meditation. This is when she is best able to react confidently and intuitively based on many years of experience baked into the formula. Most of her efforts are using paints, the artist reflecting on moments seen, imagined, or revealed serendipitously and her interest in painting natural sensations is largely influenced by the Impressionist movement. Being inspired to capture colors, natural light, atmosphere, and the play of shadows across space informs her desire to teach about the region and to evoke human experiences in the process.
From an early age, as the youngest in a family of six children growing up in suburban Chicago, Juliette developed a deep relationship with art making. Following graduation from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota she trained in the culinary arts which led to her current employment at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver where she inspires youth in pursuing their artistic endeavors through high school presentations and artist workshops. She enjoys also maintaining a small business as a fine artist with private commissions and some public art projects.