This exhibition will be the gallery's first presentation of work by these artists and will explore their use of portraiture to create imagined environments that blur boundaries between the experience of personal and collective traumas. Both artists firmly believe in the power of art-making to alter one's relationship to the physical world and to initiate a process of healing and self-preservation. Their vulnerable manifestations assert presence in a re-imagined space that negates the erasure of self-expression among marginalized communities.
Lewis's sculptural practice considers memory, recovery, and personal agency. She collects discarded materials from her surroundings including wire, rebar, furs, and even clothes off her own back, which she cares for as extensions of her own body. These energetically charged markers of time serve as individual time capsules forever connected to the hands or lives through which they previously passed. Lewis repurposes these found objects to create doll-like assemblages, which she imbues with personal identity by means of her own ritual practices. Solid concrete bases and industrial armatures tether her work to the ground while providing strength to her otherwise delicate, soft forms. Despite their identifiable vulnerability, her fictive beings appear "bulletproof", imbued with the power to protect the memories that they embody.
Julien's work explores alternative realities, both a coping mechanism and response to the structures of environmental racism that, from an early age, imbued the artists with a strict sense of either belonging or not belonging. Teetering on the edge of Surrealism, her arresting, boldly colored oil paintings depict satirical figures with faces contorted in hyperbolic, emotionally wrought expressions. Her simultaneously tragic and humorous characters appear frozen, caught either mid-action or in a moment of response. Within tightly cropped compositions that provide few contextual clues, the viewer must intuit a narrative within Julien's dream-like world.
Both Julien and Lewis conceive portraits inspired by the people, places, and things that make up their environments. Although figurative, their work evades naturalistic representation and thereby occupies an untouchable, imaginary space. The artists' insightful articulations elicit wonder amid their shared dysphoria.