27 Jan

Making Art and Making Possible

Julie Vesely: An Interview with an Artist

by Saundra Shanti, University of Florida

Julie is a woman who not only makes art, but also lives creatively and artistically, excavating what is possible. She explores spirituality on a personal level in her individual body of art. Drawing from that inner cultivation of compassion, she then moves out into our community through her arts practices. She adheres to a personal discipline of paying attention to what is trying to form in her own life, and then actively engaging with that creative nudge. Her stance of surrender to a Creative Source larger than herself allows for a dynamic process of making art and making a life.

Julie comes to art naturally, having been raised by a mother who was a professional artist who exhibited and taught. “Whenever I was bored, she stuck a paintbrush in my hand,” Julie laughs. “Or she would send me to a corner to cut a linoleum block!” Four years of fine arts education also honed her skills. A couple of decades after college were consumed by marriage, kids, and turbulent life challenges that kept her from making art. Thankfully, she has spiraled back around to the studio, which also doubles as a sanctuary of sorts for the people she gathers.

My introduction to Julie’s art was made in a hospital chapel. Many faith traditions decorate their altars. Julie creates them. Bringing her knowledge of depth psychology rooted in Carl Jung to bear, she assembles altars that are symbolically rich and visually stunning. Her altars are inspired by a theme. They are dimensional, not flat. She incorporates texture through fabrics, chosen objects from all kinds of sources, and elements such as fire or water. One altar was called, “God is a River.” She used various hues of blue drapery that created an effect of flow. She might include stones or a tree branch from nature, along with a ceramic bowl of water for a motif like this. Sometimes Julie uses statues from various faith traditions, such as St. Francis or a Hindu deity. She might include small paintings. Often she incorporates candles. This kind of altar art invites viewers to engage with the Holy as they settle into silence or worship.

Julie’s personal work at this time explores her own interior questions or allows her to wrestle with what is happening in the world. She paints unorthodox combinations of figures or objects that she interprets metaphorically. One recent painting included Joan of Arc, and elephant, and some Arabic lettering. She also engages in SoulCollage®, a trademarked art process developed by a psychoanalyst. Julie was so taken by the significance of this process, that she became a certified facilitator and began making it available in Salt Lake City.

Out of her studio, Julie has begun to offer SoulCollage® workshops where she guides people though the art-making and sharing that follows. Her clinical training in chaplaincy allows her to listen with precision and then deepen the participants’ experience through careful questioning. She finds that her own life experience and presence often attract participants from the recovery community. “It’s not what I set out to do,” she explains, “it is just unfolding this way.” Julie also teaches at Valley Behavioral Health, creating a new arts workshop every week. Her arts practice, appropriately named Altar Ego, includes guided labyrinth walks and group spiritual direction, providing compassionate healing for many people.

Like concentric circles that expand, Julie has taken her own personal practice and opened it to the wider community. I find compassion to be embodied in Julie herself, and expressed through her many groups and sessions with individuals. She integrates spirituality and art in her own person, and then imagines how she might share what is so meaningful to her. Her artistic medium is not limited to paint and paper, but extends to human consciousness. Indeed, art-making and meaning-making go hand in hand for Julie.

River altar 2 copy