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THE FINE PRINT: Another strong artistic influence of this series was Japanese ukiyo-e (“floating world”) woodblock prints of the Edo period. Beyond the obvious link between ukiyo-e and the Japanese female protagonist of “Madama Butterfly”, what drew you to the aesthetic qualities of ukiyo-e?
JULIA SIMONIELLO: I am drawn to the simplification of form, bold linework, and planes of unrendered color. Textiles and pattern work are also things I incorporate into my artwork. My mother is an interior designer; I grew up in a house with a lot of vivid colors, unique wallpaper, and contrasting fabrics. I took patterns from around my home and now they are Cio Cio-san’s kimonos. A lot of my work is influenced by ukiyo-e prints beyond this series. Ukiyo-e is often explicitly violent or erotic—sometimes both—and generally more in tune with the absurdity of the human condition.
THE FINE PRINT: In this series you use multiple mediums including gouache, watercolor, ink, and pen. The mix of bright, opaque colours and watered-down black ink is striking; as an illustrator and painter, what draws you to these mediums?
JULIA SIMONIELLO: I find myself split a million different ways when choosing which medium to work with. I try not to limit myself to one medium. I knew for my Madama Butterfly series I wanted to use a very bold palette, so acrylic gouache was the most practical. I usually rely on tones and shading, but for these paintings I focused more on patterns and shapes. In the course of this series, I re-ignited my love for neon Gelly-Roll pens… it was very nostalgic, I used to love them in grammar school.
THE FINE PRINT: You are a singer as well as an artist; how do these two different media influence each other in your work?
JULIA SIMONIELLO: Yes, I am a guitarist and vocalist. I am, like every other creative person, still in the process of discovering what I want my work to feel like. The more I create, the more I realize that my music and art are intrinsically connected. Both are my brain’s excretions as it digests the beauty and horror of existence. I have moments of “seeing” my music and “hearing” my art.
THE FINE PRINT: In the past you have identified yourself as a “radical queer”, what does this identity mean to you?
JULIA SIMONIELLO: I spent a lot of my life thinking I was one way, and tried to do what I was “supposed to,” wondering why it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t really relate to binary gender roles, so that’s what makes me queer, I suppose. All other terms are too specific. My identity is fluid. I think marriage is silly. I think all hierarchy is dangerous. I believe in autonomy. I think people are all the same inside in that we are all too different to be grouped into categories.