Fusing fantasy and reality: Award-winning photographer Julie Blackmon, featured in ‘Improvising,’ joins Visiting Artist Lecture Series Sunday


From left, Julie Blackmon’s “Fixer Upper,” “New Neighbors” and “Treehouse” are displayed in “Improvising: New Photographs by Julie Blackmon” in Strohl Art Center. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

The CVA Visiting Artist Lecture Series is set to feature celebrated photographer Julie Blackmon at 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6 in the School of Art Drawing Room. 

Hailing from Springfield, Missouri, Blackmon is heavily inspired by her personal upbringing. As the oldest of nine children, she uses elements of family life to inspire her award-winning photography. In doing so, Blackmon uses her works of art to explore her current role as both a photographer and mother of three, the timelessness of family dynamics and everyday life.

“I believe there are moments that can be found throughout any given day that bring sanctuary,” Blackmon said in her artist statement. “It is in finding these moments amidst the stress of the everyday that my life as a mother parallels my work as an artist, and where the dynamics of family life throughout time seem remarkably unchanged.”  

Blackmon is currently featured in the exhibition “Improvising: New Photographs by Julie Blackmon” at the Strohl Art Center in the Bellowe Family Gallery until Aug. 26. Through her art work, Blackmon utilizes her own family members and household to “move beyond the documentary and to explore the fantastic elements of our everyday lives.”

In this exhibition, Blackmon’s photography works to embrace the aspects of everyday life. Her pieces are titled in coordination with these familiar themes, featuring names such as “Treehouse,” “New Neighbors,” “Waiting Room” and “Fixer Upper.”

From left, “Spray Paint,” “Ezra” and “Talent Show” are displayed in “Improvising: New Photographs by Julie Blackmon.” DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

In one of Blackmon’s 10 premiere pieces featured in the exhibition, “Ezra,” she impulsively decided to photograph her young neighbor. The photograph spotlights the young, Black girl in a unique, yellow striped dress, surrounded by the likes of a parrot, spilled peanuts and a crystal chandelier, making for a very chaotic, yet familiar, scene. 

Blackmon explains her inspiration behind this kind of photography within her artist statement, referencing the Dutch proverb “a Jan Steen household.” Originating in the 17th century, this proverb alludes to a home in disarray, full of rowdy, boisterous children. “Ezra” works to completely encapsulate this idea, drawing the audience in with relatability, captivating details and a contrasting yet eye-catching color scheme.

Although Blackmon lives and works in Springfield, Missouri, her photography has been displayed all across the globe. She has been featured in highly praised museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Robert Mann Gallery, Catherine Edelman Gallery and The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

In her lecture, Blackmon will overview the beginnings of her artistic journey, detailing how her experiences and methods have led her to where she is today.

Blackmon’s “Waiting Rooms” is displayed in “Improvising.” DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

“It definitely started out very documentary; I wanted to record daily stuff unfolding right in front of me — sacred things I felt like I needed to capture,” Blackmon said. “As I got into it, I became more fascinated (with) the influences of photography, rather than the influences of painting, becoming more of a creator than a documentarian.”

Blackmon expressed her gratitude and excitement ahead of the lecture, looking forward to audience members connecting with not only her lecture, but her new works of art, as well. 

“The expectations of family life have never been more at odds with each other,” Blackmon said. “As an artist and as a mother, I believe life’s most poignant moments come from the ability to fuse fantasy and reality: To see the mythic amidst the chaos.”

Chautauqua Visual Arts’ “Improvising: New Photographs by Julie Blackmon” is made possible thanks to the support of Bonnie and Jim Gwin.

Tags : Fixer UpperImprovisingJulie BlackmonNew NeighborsPhotographyTreehouseVisiting Artist Lecture Series
Jordyn Russell

The author Jordyn Russell

Jordyn Russell is a senior at Penn State University where she studies broadcast journalism and theater. Jordyn’s interest in reporting began during her freshman year when she was able to take her first journalism class, leading to her dream of becoming a news anchor within the entertainment industry. When she is not busy writing, Jordyn enjoys singing with her a cappella group, Shades of Blue, and performing in musicals.