For external organizations requiring the professional biography, written in the third person, click here: JULIE VOLKMANN INTERDISCIPLINARY ARTIST BIO to download a PDF.
For those interested in a more extended personal narrative of my artistic path and philosophy, written in the first person, continue reading:
“. . . . A WAY OF BEING. . . A WAY OF SEEING, A WAY OF KNOWING. . .A WAY OF LOVING”
(excerpt from “Coming to Our Senses”)
In recent years my art practices have been an exploration of ways in which to expand boundaries and create in new and previously unimagined ways. This evolution can be attributed to a few major factors, which includes my growing interest in meditation and the integration of meditation in my daily routine. Gradually, through various influences, I came to realize that the mindfulness of meditation was closely linked to the mindfulness of the creative process. Indeed, that each activity, mindful meditation and mindful creative work, were actually informing another while extending my awareness both outward and inward. And so it goes. (Thanks to Kurt Vonnegut for that pithy statement)
Currently my art practices include:
- socially engaged art (which encompasses so much more than can be touched on here – this will be delved into in greater detail on another page),
- sound composition, recording and performance,
- singing (recorded and live),
- writing: lyrics, essays, scripts and more
- storytelling ( written and live)
- photographing and film making
The improvisational foundation of my work over decades as singer and actor has instilled in me a well-honed instinct to closely attend to that which is around me and to respond spontaneously and truthfully in the moment. Whether my engagement takes the passionate form of singing full out with other musicians in a live performance, or if it takes the quieter avenue of the intensely focused energy of the eye and the breath while framing a photo, I am acutely aware and present in the moment of creation and in relationship with the world around.
Thanks to my work as a jazz singer I have come to realize that my way of moving back and forth between genres is much like the jazz improvisational form of trading fours in which musicians take turns soloing, each improvising spontaneously for four measures, while the others comp behind the soloist or remain silent. Similarly, my photography will solo for a while, then my writing will solo, sometimes in response to my photograph, other times in response to something else I’ve encountered. Then, the image or the writing will be ready for sound and I will move my improvisational vocalizing to the microphone and when the vocalist has had her turn, the composer will step in to listen and create a new something that combines the previous sounds and images. Sometimes the composer starts the process and the vocalist is happy to follow. I’m thinking about a new story that has as the protagonist a split personality artist; each of her personalities is a successful artist in a completely different genre. Fun, huh?
The twists and turns of my life and the people I have met, worked and studied with have all been influential threads in my creative cloth of many colors and textures. Most notably would be the MFA IA program at Goddard College with its impressive and inspiring faculty and students, a diverse community of significant artists with myriad, breathtaking art practices, all embracing Goddard’s critical mission to facilitate art and artists making a difference in the world.
Lately, I’ve been going back and forth between two books which have been very helpful in helping me articulate the connection I’ve been experiencing between the mindfulness of meditation and the mindfulness of my art practice. They are Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Coming to Our Senses – Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness (c) 2005 Hyperion Books and Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art, edited by Jacquelynn Baas and Mary Jane Jacob (c) 2004, University of California Press.
Though she could reasonably fall under the umbrella of Goddard programs, I also need to call out visiting artist Jackie Brookner’s work and teachings. On her website, which I encourage you to visit, Jackie says “We (humans) are actually more verbs than nouns—more interrelated processes than separate individuals. This is what I call “the being of human.” It is about recognizing and experiencing how we are but dependent parts of much larger natural patterns and forces, and living accordingly. ” Jackie led us on a series of guided meditations during her days on Goddard’s campus which have had a lasting effect on me, on my art practice and the line I draw that links my creative practice to my mindful meditative practice. They are of the same cloth. One without the other results in a debilitating lack of heft and weft.
A future development on this site will include a much more extensive list of the resources I have availed myself of in my life studies and my MFA IA studies. There will be reflections on what I found helpful as well as questions that arose.
I hope that the mindful meditative aspect of my work will become evident as you browse the pages of this site and read my blog entries. Perhaps it might facilitate or inspire you into your own mindful creative state? Namaste.