Julie K. Gray (b. 1982, Saco, ME) is a Biddeford, Maine-based interdisciplinary artist working primarily in sculpture, photography 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 in 2012. Gray has exhibited widely in New England as well as NYC, FL, TX, IL, OH, AZ, NC, and Canada.
After experiencing a near-death incident in 2009, much of her artwork engages motifs of mortality, mourning culture, and the psychological space of “limbo” thematically. In order to address these intangible subjects, she uses symbolic means, humor, cultural signposts and varied media (primarily papier-mâché, beading, photography, needlepoint and childhood craft) to become more accessible to the audience, and to perhaps open up dialog about mortality and spiritual inquiry—subjects typically deemed “taboo” in contemporary North American society. Whether a person believes that we return to the dust from which we came, we go on a journey to Heaven or Hell, or our souls continue in a similar trajectory (simply leaving our bodies behind), Gray believes it’s important to talk about death openly in order to de-stigmatize the subject.
“As a photographer, Spiritualist medium, and history buff, I find it interesting when certain phenomena take place during the same time period. In the Victorian era, it was popular practice to wallpaper one’s home, but unfortunately, many of these wallpapers contained toxic hues created by the addition of arsenic! Poisoning and hallucinations were just a couple of the side effects created by long-term exposure. During the Victorian era, the advent of Modern Spiritualism (and the practices of seances, mediumship and spirit communication) also became prevalent. I have painted sixty works in this series (utilizing antique photographic carte-de-visites and cabinet cards) and have begun creating an Oracle Deck, connecting this era’s toxic decor, the hallucinations which resulted, paranormal phenomena, and the coinciding boom of the Spiritualist religion and spirit communication.”