|Julie Elkins, Lily Can't Sleep. Porcelain and porcelain stains. Author photo.|
Note tiny bed in midst of rubble at top of the sculpture.
If at first the visitor is surprised to see work that resembles set designs or storyboards for animations, they wouldn't be far off. Elkins is a story-teller who doesn't write, but who compresses her imaginings, which spring from the world observed around her, into one artifact at a time. Not an artist to work in the tradition of her material, Elkins brings her materials to her own narrative purposes. But if you insist on on the functional soul of ceramics and serve canapés off Lily Can't Sleep, then you've probably found a kindred soul in this artist.
|Lily Can't Sleep, detail of room construction.|
|Lily Can't Sleep, detail of rubble.|
Elkins brings to her work in ceramics a willingness to tell stories in any medium available to her: "I'm good at telling stories; I want to pull them from life wherever I see people interacting." As a child, she liked to draw people. This interest was continued when, as a teen, her father presented her with sections of a felled cherry tree and she learned how to use wood-burning equipment to draw portraits into the wood slabs. She is also a puppeteer, used to putting on silent plays that she and her husband devise—they write the scripts and make the puppets.
|Julie Elkins, Yolandi the Sea Witch. Stoneware and stains.|
|Yolandi, detail. Author photo.|
Most of the work in Elkins' show is black and white. It is not glazed because the weight of glazes would overpower and fill in the extreme delicacy of her manipulations. The stain she uses is pure pigment mixed with clay body, rubbed into the clay. Black is the color she has chosen, not a default.
|Julie Elkins, The Factory. Porcelain and porcelain stain, acrylic|
paint. Author photo.
Note the two mouths, left and right, beneath the surface.
|Mouth and bones in the earth beneath The Factory. |
Detail photo by the author.
Elkins is working in Key West, Florida, where she and her husband moved via a masted sixty-foot canoe when things went south for them in Richmond, Virginia. Their two-and-a-half month trip on the Intercoastal Waterway provided considerable grist for her imaginative mill, one that was already convinced about the reality of ghosts and metaphysical realities.
|Julie Elkins, Strong Wind, Earth, and Sky. Porcelain and|
porcelain stain. Author detail photo.
Even with the suggestion that humans do not move alone on the planet—that trees have arms and the earth itself can speak—Elkins' fanciful world strikes me as a place of comfort. Even through bleak scenes, spirits stir to suggest that wherever humans have been, heat and heart remain. It's certain that whatever Elkins puts her dedicated hand to is animated by just those qualities.
|Julie Elkins, detail from Beasties. Porcelain and porcelain stain. Author photo.|