The word "welding" brings up images of brute force. And Julie Lake can definitely go there.As a welder she recently collaborated with blacksmith Jim Stoner to complete a bronze …
The word "welding" brings up images of brute force. And Julie Lake can definitely go there.
As a welder she recently collaborated with blacksmith Jim Stoner to complete a bronze handrail and lightning rod for the Lama Foundation near Questa. But Lake also has a delicate artistic touch with metal, and these beautiful objects are durable with curiosity.
Her exhibit titled "Compendium" opened with a reception Friday (Sept. 7) at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St. Lake is this month's selected artist for the museum's Studio 238, which is the rotating one-month exhibition space that shows new works from local artists. Lake's show hangs through September. Regular admission fees apply.
Lake's three-dimensional works encompass a wide range of diverse expression. "Some of the smallest pieces are just a couple of inches, others spread out a couple of feet," she said. Her works don't conform to usual time and size parameters. Some pieces took 10 minutes to create; others took weeks.
Without putting labels on her work, a video preview shows a collection of pieces (the show is titled "Compendium") that are reminiscent of objects found in nature and the imagination.
In the past, Lake has sold her jewelry at the Harwood Museum store. But she is quick to point out that for this exhibit, these pieces are not jewelry or wearable art. "They are individual experiments in process. The work revolves around limited material and is process-oriented," she said.
The material Lake uses is a small-diameter stainless steel wire, sometimes as fine as a strand of hair.
With tungsten insert gas welding, she runs an electrical current to a torch tip but not with a flame. "Instead a 'lightning bolt' comes out. That current is what fuses the metal," Lake said.
That electrical current is contained with argon. That gas surrounds the current and stabilizes it, allowing it to not oxidize the metal. "It's a really clean welding process," said Lake.
From a young age, Lake was influenced by metal work. Her father is a machinist, a folding knife maker. She attended the Oregon College of Art and Craft and the University of Oregon's School of Architecture and Allied Arts. Aside from Taos, she has worked at fabrication shops in Oregon and California.
"When I was in art school, I was experimental and worked with all kinds of material like spray foam, steel wool, vacuum-packed rings. As I've gotten older I come back to, if I limit the place in the making, I can ground myself in that and expand out," she explained.
Lake arrived in Taos about 16 years ago. With the exception of a couple of earlier years spent wandering, Taos is her home. From the land, she draws inspiration although maybe in a different way than painters and photographers. Rather than looking toward the lushness of our surroundings, Lake appreciates the sparseness of the land.
"I've been somewhat isolated with my work. With this show at the Harwood, I've been trying to make an effort to be more public with the work. I'm also going to do the Pecha Kucha Night (Volume 28 on Sept. 16), and my show at the Harwood will still be up. These are big leaps for me," Lake said.
Matt Thomas is the collections manager and curator of collections at the Harwood Museum of Art. He was the one who asked Lake to exhibit. "It's really exciting to see how an artist can transform," he said.
Thomas is also the co-organizer of Pecha Kucha Night. "We are living in a small town, and it's important in knowing our community and having the opportunity to hear from different artists. Her presentation is an exciting addition. It's a chance to get to know Julie through her work on exhibit at the Harwood," he said.
For more information, call (575) 758-9826 or visit harwoodmuseum.org.