Whitworth University 2020 Faculty Biennial

Julie Gautier-Downes Part 2

Hello again.  We continue our look at the piece presented by Julie Gautier-Downes.

I asked her to describe the content of her work in paragraph and this was her response, “I unpack my experiences with dislocation, loss, and longing in my installations, sculptures, and photographs. My studio practice explores the emotional resonance of abandoned domestic spaces. In photographs, sculptures, and installations, I lead viewers on a journey through abandoned or distressed homes, creating both the visual and emotional experiences of the places I explore. Each method offers a different angle of inquiry that feeds my pursuit of connection to absent figures. As I was feeling trapped in photography’s limitations of two-dimensional renderings of space and object, installation and sculpture offers the freedom to give viewers a more precise sense of a recreated place and the things I find there. The work shares environments that might be not easily accessible, both physically and emotionally, to my audience. I photograph and reassemble these distant, disused spaces to give them back importance. My work follows me through the exploration of themes that animate and questions that arise about the abandoned houses of others who were, for whatever reason, made to abandon them.”

Untitled Photograph, inkjet print, 2014, 30×40 inches, $1000.

I asked Julie how this particular image connects to her wider body of work, as well as how her work has continued to develop since this piece was created in 2014 and she had this to say, “This photograph is from a series called “At A Loss.” In this work as with most of my conceptual work, I think of my work as a portrait of a person through what they leave behind. This work is about absence and the missing figure. I hope the viewer will think about the person who occupied the house and the challenges living in such a location presents. Separate from the history or mystery about the occupant, I hope the viewer will enjoy catching the fleeting beauty of these structure as it decays. When I was making this series, I often returned to a location over and over, each time the house would be a little more worn down, until eventually it would completely collapse. That process of discovery/rediscovery and of returning to one seemingly forgotten place gave me a feeling of purpose. In making this work, I sought to share these forgotten spaces, that once provided shelter and comfort, to remember what they once were before they fell apart.

Since 2014, my work has changed in form, but remained the same in concept. I suppose it feels like my work has progressed on the same trajectory of inquiry. I have continued to share the same types of domestic spaces following a loss or trauma. In 2014, I was starting to recreate abandoned spaces in three-dimensions, but over the past six years I have done this more, with more success. I honed my construction skills and matured in the way objects were presented. I created whole rooms, pieces of rooms (such as one wall or corner of a room), and more recently miniature dioramas. I incorporated other media (painting) and technology (light boxes and projectors) to recontextualize the 3D houses. However, in each of these forms, I continue to offer clues to the missing figure and a moment in the domestic decay.”

Thanks for joining us as we took a closer look at the work presented by Julie Gautier-Downes.  My final question for her had to do with what she was working on at the moment (late 2020), and here is her response, “I have found the pandemic to be really hard on my creative process. During the first half of 2020, I struggled to keep the Richmond Art Collective functioning and juggle child care. In August, I started a Master’s of Social Work program; taking classes has kept me busy. 

In my creative practice this past year, I have found myself returning to the utilitarian art forms (sewing, quilting, knitting, etc.) that I loved during my adolescent years. I have found myself being more attracted to the process of making as opposed to the process of storytelling. Though not conceptual this process has offered me a needed break from the daily stress of the pandemic. 

Currently, I am working on collecting materials for a new series of dioramas. I hope to have some time over the holidays to start making some new work.”

For those interested in seeing more of Julie’s work you can find her online at 


or on Instagram @juliegautierdownes

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