Julia Norton

Last summer marked a radical change in my practice. I experimented with ancient pigments such as cochineal, an ancient red pigment derived from dried beetles harvested from cacti in Mexico, and red earth in a painting series titled “…if that’s where all my loved ones are going then I want to go there too.” The paintings all depict a lava flow running through different obstacle course-like structures. The paintings were eventually situated within an installation, made up of various lights, plants, and foam cubes for visitors to lie on. The intention was to make images and an installation that would suggest a chaotic inferno of sorts, but to charge it positively instead of negatively; “Hell” as a coming together space, or a lounge. The piece was in response to the current tumultuous political climate.

This project brought me to re-evaluate the importance of color pigment in art making, for both the significance and the history that natural pigments bring to an artwork. This past fall I sourced pigments from volcanic soil while on a residency in Iceland. I have also been collecting rare pigments such as Lapis Lazuli and Malachite and creating my own inks from saffron, using all of these rich materials to create a new series of watercolors made from natural pigments exclusively. These watercolor pieces are meant to inform meaning through their materiality. I am interested in the history of how natural pigments have been cultivated and traded, and how that reflects in the world today.

In my career as an arts educator, which works in concert with the material questions I ask within my own practice, I have begun to use natural pigments as a teaching tool to connect to the natural world and the heavy past of human civilization. Cochineal was once more valued than gold, and its export to Europe from Central America has led to many bloody battles and cultural debate. Lapis Lazuli, the origin source of Ultramarine, was once so valued only the artists with the highest paying patrons could use it, and furthermore only in religious paintings. Ochre, the by-product of iron rich volcanic soil, has been used by humans for further back than we can account. These stories have haunted me and empowered me as I have gone further down the rabbit hole investigating natural pigments. The alchemy involved in making watercolors and paints from scratch has also connected me further to my role as a painter, and given me greater agency and control in what I can create.

The imagery in my most recent series has evolved from many totems and emblems I have used in the past and presents a contrast between these materials found in nature and artificial references. Each one I see as an altar to its materials, and to all of the various transformations that have occurred to provide the rich spectrum of color.

b. 1985, New York City


MFA, Purchase College, State University of New York, Purchase, NY, 2012-2014
BA, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, 2003-2007
Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, Scotland, Spring Semester 2006


Change of State, Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY 2017
Dia Staff Show, Beacon, NY
Tik Takk. Sím Gallery, Reykjavik, Iceland
Night Vision. Overhang Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Summer Art Intensive Exhibition. Cooper Union, New York, NY
Stakes. Cloud City, Brooklyn, NY
Things That Could Go Wrong in the Holodeck. (Solo) Dread Lounge, Los Angeles, CA
Appetite for Destruction. The Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY
Dark Level. (Solo) Endless Editions, East Wall Residency, New York, NY
Sixty Minutes. Vanity Projects, Miami, FL and New York, NY
At the Jump. (Solo) Yashar Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Capitalist Architecture in a Posthumanist World. The College of William and Mary, Millington Hall, Williamsburg, VA
The 3rd Louisiana Biennial. School of Design, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA
Chronicle. Scott Charmin Gallery, Houston, TX
Whistle Stop: 2014 MFA Thesis Exhibition. The Highline Loft, Chelsea, NY
The Last Brucennial. The Bruce High Quality Foundation, New York, NY
Shuffle and Cut. 1019A Gallery, Purchase, NY
In Real Life. Richard and Dolly Maass Gallery, Purchase, NY
Insides. (Two-person) 1019A Gallery, Purchase, NY
Works on Paper II. Jeffrey Leder Gallery, Long Island City, NY
Homeward Found. The Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY
If You See Something Say Something. Katzen Arts Center, College of Arts and Sciences, American University, Washington, D.C.
Peaces on Earth. Sardine Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
DIVINING ROD. Richard and Dolly Maass Gallery, Purchase, NY
SPACE IS THE PLACE #26:PoP-uP PoP SHoP 2. Arranged by J. Morrison, Brooklyn, NY
Birdsong Benefit Show. Brooklyn Fireproof, Brooklyn, NY

Almost Nowhere. Gap Adventures, New York, NY
Hey, is that our boat? Cedar Mansion, Brooklyn, NY
Age of Consent. 303 Grand, Brooklyn, NY
New Work: Art From Workers at the New Museum. Stanton Chapter. New York, NY From Here to There. Brooklyn Artists Gym. Brooklyn, NY


The Wassaic Project (upcoming August, 2018). Wassaic, NY
Leighton Artist Studios at Banff Centre (upcoming October, 2018). Banff, Alberta, Canada 2017
Residency at the Cooper Union School of Art Summer Intensive. New York, NY
SÍM Residency. Reykjavik, Iceland
MASS MoCA, Assets for Artists Residency Program. North Adams, MA
Merit Grant, Vermont Studio Center, Artist in Residence. Johnson, VT
The Wassaic Project, Artist in Residence. Wassaic, NY
2012 – 2014
Merit Scholarship, Purchase College, SUNY. Purchase, NY


Dark Level. Published by Art Vandelay Press
New American Paintings, No. 117, MFA Annual Issue
Abe’s Peanut, Issue 1.11. Featured artist in collaboration with poet Katie Naoum


Teaching Artist, Dia:Beacon and the Beacon City School District. Beacon, NY Teaching Artist, Abrons Art Center, New York. NY
Teaching Artist, Swiss Institute. New York, NY
Teaching Artist, Dia:Beacon and the Beacon City School District. Beacon, NY Teaching Artist, Abrons Art Center. New York, NY
Program Coordinator, Teen Apprentice Program, New Museum. New York, NY
G:Class Assistant, Experimental Study Program for Teens and the Teen Apprentice Program, New Museum. New York, NY
2013 – 2014
Introduction to Drawing, Purchase College, SUNY. Purchase, NY