Julie K. Gray is a Maine-based interdisciplinary artist who primarily works in photography, sculpture and needlepoint. She earned her BFA in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design in 2005 and has since earned her MFA in Studio Art from Maine College of Art (2012). She has exhibited widely in New England as well as NYC, IL, TX, NJ, FL and Canada. She is also currently a student of mediumship, working with mentors based in Lily Dale, NY.
“Ten years ago, I had a near-death experience after falling down some stairs and receiving a severe concussion. I could hear my parents and brother describe what was happening to me in frantic screams, their voices became fainter and fainter as I seemingly traveled down a dark tunnel. There was no light at the end of this tunnel, though, and when I eventually came to after minutes without breath, this vast emptiness I experienced shook me to the core. It took me a few years to be able to process and speak about this experience openly, then it took a few more years to be able to address it within my art.
I visited Lily Dale, NY (the largest Spiritualist community in the country) five years ago and have never been the same, continuing to visit each year during the summer seasons when they open their gates to tourists and those who wish to receive messages from their dead loved ones. I’ve always been sensitive to seeing/hearing spirits growing up, but have always explained these experiences away-maybe there was a carbon monoxide leak in that Providence apartment? And maybe when I was a child I just had an overactive imagination? However, after spending time in Lily Dale, I no longer explain these experiences away, but embrace them. And honestly, after my near-death experience, I need to believe that there’s something more after we die.
My artwork addresses mortality, mourning culture and the psychological space of “limbo,” thematically. In order to speak about the intangible subject of mortality through my work, I have come to use more symbolic means of addressing the subject. Humor and kitsch in my photography, as well as the use of naïve, childhood craft materials help such weighty subject matter become accessible to the audience.
In these past years, I have taken photographs (both digital and medium format film) around the grounds of Lily Dale (my visits only lasting a few days here and there), and it’s been a great source of inspiration in general. This year, I booked a two-week trip to visit during the off-season in October/November with the support of the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation. This body of work is the result of these two weeks spent on the grounds.”