Meeting artist Julie Speed at her Marfa studio Leave a comment

August 10, 2023

Marfa is an oasis for minimalist art in West Texas, despite the town’s tiny size (population 1,750) and remoteness from, well, just about anywhere. A friend and I road-tripped there two weeks ago, and instead of pilgrimaging to see Donald Judd’s minimalist concrete boxes (maybe next time), I wanted to meet Julie Speed and see her fascinating, surrealist work in person.

I reached out to arrange a studio visit, and Julie met us at the door of her Marfa home/studio, which abuts the Chinati Foundation and overlooks Judd’s boxes. After a few warm pleasantries, she invited us to poke around and turned back to a painting she was working on. I was thrilled to be able to watch her work.

Her enigmatic works in oil, gouache, and collage hang on easels and walls throughout the rambling studio.

I’ve been interested in Julie’s work since first seeing it in a magazine spread about a local singer-songwriter’s Austin home. Julie lived in Austin for many years before moving to Marfa in 2006 for a quieter pace of life.

An interesting side note: Julie’s Austin home in the Tarrytown neighborhood was purchased by landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck, who retained a walled courtyard but turned the big front lawn into a largely native-plant garden.

Julie collects paper scraps from falling-apart books for her collages. It’s intriguing to see how the process of some of her work begins.

I walked around and gazed eye-to-eye with her unsettling subjects.

Her framed works are beautifully and thoughtfully framed.

In the last room, limited-edition signed prints are displayed on a table. A bar cart holds a couple bottles of tequila, which Julie invited us to sample.

Starboard is a signed and numbered print, one of 30 Julie made to benefit “Big Bend Conservation Alliance’s Serious Starlight Program, which assists homeowners and municipalities in the far West Texas region who opt-in to night-sky-friendly lighting with fixtures that point light down at the ground rather than up into the sky.”

Meeting Julie was a treat. My thanks to her for the studio tour! If you’re intrigued by Julie’s work and want to see more, follow her engaging Instagram.

We exited through a courtyard, where a nail-studded bust of a classical figure caught my eye.

Also a gorgeous prickly pear in a hollowed-out boulder

In another courtyard, a wellhead with a hummingbird spigot is constructed of half-bricks proclaiming sin, sin, sin. A pebble mosaic and triangles of stone make it even more of an artistic focal point.

Sunflower with chair

More sunflowers reach for the blue sky against a round-rock wall.

Tithonia blazes away under the bright Marfa sun.

Up next: Author and designer Michael Eason’s laid-back garden in Alpine. For a look back at the healing garden of Susan and Mike Wallens in Alpine, click here.

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All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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