An e-mail interview with Julia Scher by Bruce Jenkins, Film/Video Curator, Walker Art Center.
Bruce Jenkins: Describe briefly your education, especially the studio art training you received here in the Twin Cities at the University of Minnesota.
Julia Scher: As a baby boomer, elementary school classes in my area were large compared to now (32 to 37 students per class in the San Fernando Valley in the '60s). From there, into junior high, where I began trying to become a leader. Failing that, I became involved in drama classes and boys and eventually booze, drugs, boys, and fast cars (ha ha, but true).
In high school I had high ambitions but all fell flat--dropped out in '71 but finished the testing program to enter local junior college (Valley Junior College) after stints at other state schools (finished undergrad studies in art at UCLA in '75.) Reentered the education file as an art major at the U of M in (technically) 1982 and finished in '84 (I wanted this year in particular because of Orwell).
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The studio art training at the U of M had a hands-on focus with touches of the digital domain in the wings. Jim Henkel and Gary Hall, even then, foretold that you wouldn't need to touch photos anymore, that computers would take, compose, and display all. They were exciting prophets, as their own work harkened toward a new controllable, indignant, artificial psychedelic space. Susan Lucy also was a prophet of the new direction of artmaking. Her installations and cinema landscapes (what the locals called crazy, but they were just expansive) combined time, space, and walk(?) through 3D in ways so extreme that no one could understand them at the time (except for Victor Propokov, perhaps). Sonny, her beau, and an entire community of artists hung around her and her work. A truly charismatic figure at the school. Slightly unapproachable in the eyes of some (stark, dark hair, strict white blouse, and black pants), and way ahead of her time.
My painting department included '50s-style artists who claimed the necessity of touching, feeling, of really experiencing, of "getting" a sensation in artworks. Profound at times, their possible greatness was mitigated by some of the interpersonal acts they carried out. That is, at any campus, any student has to find their own way, and for me, although I was processing mostly paintings in my work space, I was hard to give it up, to trust, to . . .er . . . let these guys in. Most art students know what I mean by this, I imagine, as the problem and process of projection is a profound one for painters., etc., and the cigar-chewing fat guys and tall big guys that always put their hands on you were hard to not want to dismiss and just hope there was something else better around another corner (sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't!)
I had great fun TA-ing for Joyce Lyons; she was a model for me, so to speak; Lynn Grey was too complicated for me to fathom. The vibes were good, all in all--to get your hands in, to hunker down and work, to make something that reaches out--these were all good goals of the place. I remember not liking the teachers that acted snooty. Years later, I love the teachers that act snooty. (Go figure!!!) I really have to recommend the art history department; I believe it has had a profound impact on my entire artistic production. Studying to the core Netherlandish painting and mannerism (as my focus), I continue to reach into the bowels of space, twist it around, layer it with light and then . . . plug it in! The light. The distortion. The breathable air. The heat. The body. Also important for me was to hang at the U of M chemistry department, where my boyfriend was a professor of chemistry. He introduced me to synthetic methodology and, basically, to make things fake can be orgasmic. Also, in 1980, trying to put together plastic and metal, for example, was still not happening. I was there in the early days of synthesis of polymer chemistry, the organic and also the inorganic beginnings of what we have today--flexi glasses!!! I was, during this period, a painter of landscape, of urban space, or so I said to the faculty during my final review in Coffmann Union (or something similar), but a landscape of trapped souls--as much Marsden Hartley as Psycho on TV with commercial breaks.
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