Exploring biodiversity and natural ‘muck’

Julia Woldmo, a second-year fine arts student at Concordia, in her studio space. Photo Courtesy of Julia Woldmo

Get to know Julia Woldmo, a painting and drawing student and salmon enthusiast

Julia Woldmo grew up in Vancouver and spent a year studying psychology and women’s studies at Capilano University before deciding to move to Montreal and pursue art. Now a second-year fine arts student at Concordia, Woldmo is completing a major in painting and drawing with a minor film studies.

Woldmo has always been involved in the art community. She was in an advanced art placement program in high school, while simultaneously enrolled at an art academy. She is most comfortable with portraiture, and often distorts facial features. “I’m not really concerned with proportion,” the artist said. “It’s definitely a helpful tool, but I’d rather embrace distortion […] and as soon as I notice that I’m falling into a pattern, I try to do something radical to switch it up.” In some portrait pieces, Woldmo transforms a regular eye into a squint, puffing the edges and increasing the size of the lids.

Self as Summer. Graphite and gouache on arches paper. 15″ x 22″ Photo courtesy of Julia Woldmo.

Her distorted portrait style began a few years ago when her friend’s baby cousin was stung by a bee on the corner of the eye. Initially drawing from a photograph, Woldmo translated the image of the baby beautifully, capturing a still discomfort and the baby’s rosey complexion.

More recently, her style has evolved significantly. Woldmo has begun exploring her inner-self, reflecting on the beauty and the grotesque of the natural world around her. She said she considers herself to be in a transient learning stage, absorbing the techniques and suggestions her professors and their teaching assistants have to offer, and is slowly growing more comfortable with abstraction.

Her final assignment this semester is to explore something in-depth. The assignment was vague, but Woldmo decided to focus on mold, decay and human “muck.” Coincidentally, Woldmo came home last week to find a container of the most wonderfully disgusting mold at the back of her fridge. The yellow ochre, navy blue and hints of coral in this particular container of mold pair beautifully with her recent work. Fleshy, seeping goo is not uncommon in the artist’s paintings, so the shift of focus on “muck and gunk” seemed like a natural transition to her.

Fish are also a recurring motif in Woldmo’s recent work. Between her West Coast roots, her mother’s work in salmon conservation and her father’s job as a tugboat captain, Woldmo’s family has always been one of salmon enthusiasts.

Acrylic on raw canvas. 4.5 x 45 ft. The backside of Produco, symbolic of death and decay. Photo courtesy of Julia Woldmo

Woldmo spent this past summer in Vancouver assisting Ron den Daas in painting a salmon conservation mural with a group of local students. Some of her first drawings of this school year, Self as Summer and Fish People, document this experience while continuing to play with biodiversity and salmon conservation.

“My obsession with salmon [is rooted in] my family, personal concern, a beauty and appreciation for these majestic, prehistoric creatures,” Woldmo said. “It’s amazing […] salmon are born in one spot and swim around the ocean for four years, only to return to the exact spot they were born to lay their eggs and die.”

The artist said she sees the salmon as a metaphor for her life, having left the spot she was born, knowing she will return when her four years in university are through.

See more of Julia Woldmo’s work on her website www.juliawoldmo.com and her Instagram (@juliawoldmoart).   

Photos Courtesy of Julia Woldmo

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