Julia Betts was born in 1991 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and is currently based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2014, Betts graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA and, in 2017, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design MFA Sculpture program. At the University of Pittsburgh, Betts was recognized with six awards and two undergraduate research grants. After earning her BA in 2014, Betts has exhibited in numerous solo shows at venues including Second Sight Studio (Columbus, Ohio), and Unsmoke Systems (Pittsburgh). In addition, she completed an artist-in-residence programs at Second Sight Studio and Bunker Projects. In 2015, she began at the Rhode Island School of Design Sculpture department. There, she focused on the performative aspect of her practice through performance centered coursework at both RISD and Brown University. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in spring 2017 leaving with awards including the SLH Young Fellowship.
In her practice, she creates situations that hold onto spaces or things. The energy of the performance is either experienced live or through performative traces. The output is unmonumental sculpture at the intersection of performance, sculpture, installation, and, most recently, writing.
Time is her material. An immensity of time accumulates materially leaving traces such as giant black stains in Screens or a million tiny rips in a wall in Picking, Bleeding. She engages the viewer through overwhelm to create bodily tension. Time is written on her materials through repetitive making that is between obsessive and meditative. In this boundary, she wonders:
Is art is healing? Can it be?
In her performances, ritualistic repetition, categorization, and control struggle against an overwhelming situation or uncontrollable material. Minimalism challenges maximalism. Too much meets too little. Material initiative challenges artistic authorship.
As part of her recent practice, she engages in creating environments felt as both nest and tenuous— comfortable and uncomfortable, calming and anxiety producing. The motivating question at the heart of this:
How does a body relate to the space around it?
From her engagement with spaces, she began to take inventory of her studio remnants (including stained coffee cups, emptied mango bags, trampled light bulbs) that she hoarded over the past two years and embedding them in plaster-- thus, using materials that hold a performative trace over years of living in a space. This work, entitled Dermis, is charged with the unedited everyday life of the artist; thus, inviting the question:
What is the boundary between art and life?