Homegrown | Diving Deep 7

abstract painter juliana forbes makes her mark on canvas and the world.

Born and raised in Aspen, Colorado, artist Juliana Forbes has held a pencil or paintbrush in her hand ever since she can remember claiming, “Art has been a bright thread weaving through every experience in my life.” In the ’90s, she moved to Boulder, where she raised her children and currently paints and teaches classes to young students out of her studio.

The creative use of color — variants of red in particular — immediately draws you in. Her work is layered and textured and deliciously deep. And there’s often a sense of history or some type of story woven in, buried underneath. With patterns that organically appear, often in shadows, sidewalks or weathered walls, Forbes explains, “There is clearly something more mysterious and potent going on in the world than I can fully comprehend or describe from my vantage point —  a dynamic conversation between all life.” This is the intangible element that gives you pause while taking in one of her pieces.

“I want my paintings to resonate in our innermost core, not our intellect. I trust organic line, shape and color to repeat and repeat — like Morse code — what is primal and essential to us; reminding us who we are,” says Forbes.

Having done mostly representational work until the age of 30, Forbes attended an art expo in Madrid that changed everything after finding three pieces that viscerally affected her, so much so that she returned home and began producing abstract work.
“Since then I have weaned myself from depending on images to conceptually represent something and tried to directly, emotionally communicate, circumventing intellectual analysis, which can be confining,” says Forbes.

She says her pieces now begin with un-self-conscience marks — creating spots on a different surface and then transferring them by rubbing them onto her canvas.

“This jump-starts a conversation that I can follow, without steering the painting with a heavy hand,” Forbes says. “My recent paintings are abstracts in saturated, energetic color, sometimes vaguely evocative of branches. And they are getting bigger and bigger! I love layers of information — transparent layers of marks and color — that deepen the ‘conversation’ of a painting.”

She goes on to describe how the past few years have been an enlightening time for her as an artist:

“All sorts of things fell apart, and I began tripping over assumptions that I’ve carried all my life: you can’t do that, proper paintings are like this, to get X you have to do Y. Rules. Followed by a reluctant admission that the marks I find most beautiful are made by accident: loose, organic shapes free from my efforts to sculpt them. This was humbling and frightening. If I wasn’t going to sculpt my marks, shapes and colors, what was I doing? Which led to appreciating that whatever moves me is my artistic gift, not my technique. Which, in turn, led to discerning the difference between the voice of inspiration and the voice of habitual patterns and conventions.”

“Our world feels chaotic with fear, but I believe underneath our fear and cynicism, is awe,” Forbes says. “I want my work to affirm that awe.”