Julie A Nagle
Professor • Department of
After receiving her BFA at The Cooper Union School of Art she completed her MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media at Virginia Commonwealth University. This winter Nagle had a solo exhibition, “At Daybreak,” at McLanahan Gallery in the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts, Penn State University, Altoona, PA. She has exhibited in group exhibitions at Abrons Art Center, New York, NY; Franconia Sculpture Park, Franconia, MN; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the RISD Museum, Providence, RI; A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; BRIC ArtsMedia, Brooklyn, NY; and Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY; among others. Additionally, she has been awarded over a dozen grants including a Jerome Foundation Fellowship and a National Academies Keck Futures Initiatives (NAKFI) grant subaward for her collaborative work with scientists. The many residencies she has participated in include the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Core Program, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Seven Below, Sculpture Space, Gallery Aferro, Abrons Art Center, and the International Studio and Curatorial Program. Nagle is currently an Artist in Residence at Swale House on Governor’s Island, from June 1, 2019 through Fall 2020.
I think of myself as an “unarcheologist” in many of my projects. While an archeologist unearths physical layers of history in order to reveal clues and truths, as an “unarcheologist” I create and accumulate layers of narrative for my viewers to unpack and mentally disassemble through sculptures, installations and performances. I design my work for viewers to explore through interaction—they must play the role of investigator, archeologist and/or experimenter when approaching my projects, to fully engage.
While the concept of history is very prevalent in my work, my work is not historical. Whether the projects are about marginalized histories in my series “Bookends,” hypothetical histories in “Orrery,” personal histories unearthed in “Bella Dama” or alternative histories in “Variable Precision,” I often challenge the viewer to reimagine the linear, patriarchal and monolithic narratives we have inherited in order to better understand our current condition. In “Bella Dama”, I used ground-penetrating radar to uncover a historic burial ground on family property, and exhumed the corpse of a prized horse, “Dama”, to make castings of the remains. The resulting sculpture is a result of an actual forensic process as applied to family history, and includes an immensely intricate mourning shroud made of tens of thousands of glass beads.
My process typically has two parts: a) Field Work and b) Poetic Output. When I am initiating a project, I adopt a researcher’s approach, throwing myself into the field, learning skills from other disciplines, following oddly unanswerable questions of inquiry. I may spend months investigating rabbit-holes (or specifically, groundhog holes), before I even conceive of fabrication. During this discovery phase, I will invent tools to solve imagined problems, go on field trips to visit local rodents, or collect soil samples from my local environment. Field Work is a category of my practice where discovery takes precedence over understanding and production. Once I have engaged with enough field work, I take all the data, info, narratives and materials back into my studio and construct installations and sculptures for the viewer towards a type of poetic output. Hopefully when a viewer encounters my work, they feel prompted to engage with my installations as if the experience itself was “field work” for them in the gallery. I want viewers actively engaged and exploring when they encounter my ideas, not passively receiving and consuming.
One of the great joys of being an artist is working collaboratively in a dream team of creatives and researchers. Working this way constantly challenges my preconceptions of possibility. I am an active member of 2 collaborative collectives, and use creative thinkers from outside my field to expand my work into other disciplines. In “Slumber Underground: An Interspecies Burrow”, I collaborated across species with both Dr. Rachel Field, a biomedical engineer (Columbia University), and “Chewy” a groundhog whose tunnels surround my home and nearby train tracks. In the work I studied the architecture of burrows and used those techniques to create a human-scale burrow as a safe space in the gallery. The piece includes fiber optic video of Chewy in his burrow and following the logic of burrows is made of repurposed, biodegradable materials taken from my immediate environment.
I am obsessive in my work and treat each project as an opportunity to learn a new skill. I make sure that there is always some area in my projects where I can function as an amateur and learn a process or material from the very beginning. Often in my work, I will adopt a character or role within the conceptual framework and make fabrication decisions according to that role in a performative action. I call this “method making”, not unlike the Stanislavski method in the world of theater. This enables me to balance the plethora of fabrication methods available to me with earnestness and fresh eyes. The enemy of my process is thinking on default. I try to eliminate all default settings in my brain when I start a new project. Challenging myself to operate under new fabrication parameters and conceptual structures each time is an attempt from me as an artist to keep on my creative toes. Looking to the future, I can foresee that my work will continue expanding as my access to other creative resources and minds increases. I am at a point in my practice where I have the best of both worlds: working alone enables me to examine issues in great depth, while collaboration enables me to stretch the breadth of my parameters further than I had anticipated. In my “unarcheological” art practice, collaboration stems from curiosity, insight stems from inquiry, and fabrication stems from the fantastical. My work engages with history the way a time-traveler engages with paradox. My projects probe the viewer similar to the way an archeologist probes the past. My practice defies singularity the same way a wormhole defies gravity, and if it were possible to create a burrow somewhere in the space-time continuum, that is exactly where my projects would live.
Sculpture, Installation, and Extended Media
Notable Courses Taught
Sculpture II: Conceptual Propositions, Brown University, 2016
Site Unseen: Installation, Rhode Island School of Design, 2015
Graduate Sculpture Studio, Rhode Island School of Design 2014