The Drawers - Julie Oakes  Condensed forward written by Susan Brandoli

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Quercia Stories - Renaissance, Sensuality and Feminism

Beauty, obsession, passion. All these describe the work of artist Julie Oakes.

Quercia Stories intentionally references the techniques and concerns of Renaissance art. Over the past three years Oakes has drawn from the Metropolitan Museum collection in New York City as a ground for her writing. She derives from the collection, yet moves away from mimicking a style, and brings the works into a contemporary framework. The materials used are the traditional media of past generations. Specific references are made to techniques of the Renaissance period: parchment paper with sepia, indigo or black pencil, canvasses prepared with rabbit-skin glue, Bologna gesso, and natural pigments. In the paintings, meticulous renderings from Renaissance works are overlaid with strange and romantic imagery, at once obfuscating and revealing. In the drawings, excerpts from Quercia Stories, appear lightly on the page. They are difficult to read and follow. The writing is overlaid on the Met drawings with yet another layer of drawings obscuring the cursive writing. Within the universal symbols of love and eroticism the artist develops a personal, visual vocabulary.

The bed is an image clearly charged with sexual, political and sociological symbolism. Quercia Stories are tales of beddings. On first reading, the overall images are layered, yet they are also often broken down into fragments, reconstituted, and scaled toward the intimate. Erotic references from historical works, Victorian illustration, East Indian Tantric paintings, or Japanese erotica offer titillation, with contemporary images such as the provocative stiletto, lacy underwear, lipstick or the feathery fronds of an artist's brush balancing the collection with a less specific representation of sensuality. The freedom of literary expression, the strong, graphic presentation and the artist's confidence in handling her materials works well with the duplicity of the imagery: romance and threat, life and death, love and its absence.

At once feminine and masculine, hard-edged and soft, Quercia Stories, as a whole, text and visuals, captures the enigma that is the often tenuous and volatile relationship between human beings.

Copyright Susan Brandoli