Unconventional Materials Take Center Stage In The Works By This Boulder Artist


wall installation of circular objects

closeup shot of yellow and brain objects

closeup of blue and white objects

After years of painting, stone-carving and textile design, Boulder-based artist Julie Maren decided to take her work directly onto the wall. “Biophilia,” her latest body of work, features sculptural “paintings” that play with shape, color theory, microscopic and macroscopic perspectives—and unconventional materials. juliemaren.com

What prompted your shift from canvas to walls? When I realized that what I was most interested in was the patterns of dots that appeared throughout my paintings, I began thinking of ways to extract them. I use many layers in my paintings to create the illusion of depth, and I was also thinking about how I could create actual depth. 

“Biophilia” achieves those goals with an unusual material. The sculptures are composed of acorn caps filled with paint and other materials, including mica, rubber, glass and crystals. In my quest to take my paintings off the canvas, I applied for and was awarded a month-long residency at Weir Farm in Wilton, Connecticut, through the National Park Service’s artist-in-residence program. There, I took long walks in the woods, looking at the millions of tiny acorn tops carpeting the path. They were little canvases, discarded by nature! 

You describe these sculptures as a sort of 3D pointillism. Each piece is like an individual painting, and the Biophilia appear as bouncing dots of color. Projected at different depths on the wall, they play with visual perception and cast shadows, which shift throughout the day, making the Biophilia feel almost alive. I find satisfaction in recycling and reanimating discarded natural material into new, seductive organisms.