Professor proves there are no rules in art, only freedom

Sarah Hoot, Staff Reporter

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From humble beginnings in the town of Monroe, North Carolina, Julie Brooks made her way here to Ellensburg to become an interim professor of metalsmithing while Professor Keith Lewis, the resident jewelry and metals professor, is on sabbatical.

“I actually didn’t meet Julie in person until I approached her about the possibility of replacing me this quarter. I had known and liked her work for some time, and when I was asking colleagues who in Seattle was a good teacher and might be interested in the position, Julie’s name came up several times,” Professor Lewis said. “Since meeting her I have been impressed by her seriousness, her rigor and her knowledge of the field.”

While she was growing up, Brooks spent a lot of her time exploring the woods and lake in her backyard. She also had several experiences with art from the people around her.

“My favorite experiences at school are of art with Mrs. Trudy, and my babysitter who taught my sister and I how to draw, paint and even make our own silly putty,” Brooks said.

Though she did enjoy art as a child, her dream job was to be a zoologist since she also loved animals. It was not until she began her undergraduate studies at North Carolina University that she wanted to become an artist.

“I was enrolled for several years at NC University in the zoology and veterinary program and struggled with the structure of the laboratory,” Brooks said.

These struggles led Brooks to seek out a new and more engaging community in the arts and music. The inspiration for her to become an artist came from her childhood teachers and her uncle who worked in wood.

“I felt inspired by the fact that there are no rules,” Brooks said. “This freedom allows growth in unexpected ways. You create something based on your sources and viewpoints, this becomes your story.”

After only one class of metalworking, Brooks fell in love with the medium. Her desire came from the material itself, the challenges involved with working in metal, and the professors who taught her at East Carolina University.

“[The professors] taught me artistic passion through the metals medium and are part of the reason I pursued an MFA, as well as become an educator,” Brooks said.

Now, as a working artist, Brooks draws her inspiration from everything around her.

“My sources and inspirations are cumulative, from narratives based on life experiences, to the imagery of the life sciences I used to study or hikes in nature,” Brooks said.

According to Brooks, her ideas come to her in the form of questions, and are not instantaneous. The process itself builds from dialogues and the desire for new perspectives. She also uses written words to help develop her concepts.

“I read theory for research and do a lot of investigating. I also write a lot when I think of new bodies of work. This directs what avenue and processes the work will follow,” Brooks said.

Along with teaching this quarter, Brooks is working on her own projects outside of school. Currently she is researching and experimenting with pinhole cameras.

“I’m looking forward to what this project reveals about the many meanings of home,” Brooks said.

The whole project will consist of her experiences with cameras, both building them and traveling to seven states and the 23 places that she has lived in.

Her work became an inspiration to a lot of people, including Lewis and the art department, who hosted her as a visiting artist on May 25.

“The work is extremely well-crafted, her jewelry shows good design and a great deal of restraint, while still addressing conceptual and narrative issues,” Lewis said. “While her sculptural work shows a wider range of metalsmithing skills, wider than my own in fact, as well as an exuberant and even violent quality that in an interesting contrast to her jewelry.”