Cape Town and Cockroaches: An Interview with Julia Briggs

Julia Briggs
Julia Briggs

We sat down with senior art major Julia Briggs to talk about her studies at DePauw and her internship in Cape Town, South Africa last spring.

The DePauw: What got you interested in art?

Julia Briggs: That is an interesting question because I never really did a lot of art in high school. I came here and applied to the Media Fellows program, I was going to be a Communications major, but then I took an art class with John Berry, and he kind of convinced me of what I already knew: that I love art, it’s my passion, and I should follow it. So I became an art major sophomore year.

TDP: Did you take any art history classes beforehand to get you started on that track?

JB: My dad is pretty into the arts so we would do a lot of that when I was younger. I didn’t really think much of it until my senior year of high school and until I was here.

TDP: We want to talk about your experience in Cape Town. How did that get started for you?

JB: That was my internship that I had to do for Media Fellows. I say “internship” because I applied to one program that was a video production company, was accepted, ready to go, and three months before I was to leave for South Africa, I emailed them back and turned it down. This was after I had all my housing and flights and everything, so I knew I was going. I turned it down because I realized I’m not that great at video production--it’s not really what I like to do. I ended up finding a pretty well-known photographer, Jenny Altschuler, who I could shadow. So I learned a lot of photography from her--I shot weddings, birthday parties, I helped her with some of her own art pieces with photography. And then my residency was completely my own thing: it was a series of miniature sculptures with cockroaches and resin. My first cockroach was actually Corduroy. Corduroy died because I accidentally froze him. So he died, and I missed him and all of his wonderful quirks, so I resined him in a shell, which made him into a necklace. So began my series of miniature cockroach sculptures.

TDP: So your exhibits in Capetown were all based on cockroaches?

JB: Yes. So there were watercolor paintings--I had a slew of watercolor paintings--but the main attraction in my exhibitions were the miniature cockroach sculptures. I had one solo exhibition in the Observatory, which is in a suburb of Cape Town. Then I had another group exhibition that was shown in City Center along with some other awesome artists during one of the peak art days of the month.

TDP: You helped plan the gallery at ArtFest here. How did you get involved in that?

JB: I have been involved in past years, and they reached out to me again and asked if I would participate. I said I absolutely would. The theme this year was “origins,” so you had to enter a piece of art or art pieces going with the vibe. So I put in one my sculptures, entitled “Codependency.”

TDP: Are there any past art-related experiences at DePauw that you look back on with fondness?

JB: My sophomore year I won first place in the student show at Peeler, and that show happens every spring. They bring in an outside critic to come and judge accepted pieces of artwork within the show. So I had two artworks in that show, and one of them placed first for 2-D. So that was a really huge success of mine--really cool because it was a huge lift-me-up and it happens at the end of the year so it feels great when you pull through like that.

TDP: When you’re making projects, what drives you? How do you go about completing projects?

JB: So my project stamina I congratulate myself on--I have great project stamina--it’s beginning a project that is the hard part. Choosing what to paint, what to build, it’s been hard throughout the four years I’ve been here. But now as a senior I’ve developed a style and know what I like to paint, so now I can look at a canvas and just let go, instead of thinking so much about it. I think a lot of it comes from myself. Art is a very individualistic lifestyle. You have to put your experiences and yourself into your artwork. Whether it is about yourself or not, it is always kind of a reflection.