By Jack Berthiaume
For Open Space for Arts & Community
From aerial dance festivals and burlesque shows to fundraisers, educational opportunities and drive-in movies, Open Space for Arts & Community is known for taking opportunities to try something new.
To kick off 2022, the arts center will continue this tradition with the launch of a new artist in residency program, presenting inaugural artist-in-residence Julia Wilkins’s installation, “Solitudet_The Exhibition.” The installation will open on Thursday, Feb. 3, running through Feb. 6. For a listing of specific installation hours and times when Julia Wilkins will be on-site, visit openspacevashon.com.
A New York City-based multimedia artist, Wilkins grew up in Edmonds, Washington. As the daughter of Olympic Ballet founders John and Helen Wilkins, Julia has practiced and experimented with performance art for as long as she can remember.
Informed by her background in dance, dance theater, and aerial harness, Julia began her career after graduating from Tisch School of the Arts. Along with performing arts, Wilkins works as a designer, knitter, and sculptor, and interweaves these diverse disciplines throughout her installations as her way of relating to the world. Her work is described as “an invitation for intimacy and beauty” which she hopes will “open the way for an inclusive world, based on the physical connection between humanity and its environment.”
In August of 2019, Wilkins worked with a team of artists to create the interdisciplinary event, “Solitude_Live” at the Catskill Art Society, in New York. The work featured sculptures, fabric, light, music, film and the movement of four dancers — embodying the sensations of “journeying toward oneness with others, the struggle for unity, and an expression of sensuality seen through the veil of solitude.”
While visiting her aunt and uncle and longtime islanders Bonnie and Tom Wilkins on Vashon, Wilkins visited Open Space for Arts & Community. Striking up a conversation with Open Space programming director David Godsey last summer, they realized Open Space could offer the vast physical space and broader support she needed to reimagine “Solitude_Live” and present it to islanders.
According to Godsey, the collaboration was obvious from the start.
“The way Julia spoke of her work and of this piece, in particular, struck me as profoundly relevant to our current cultural concerns,” he said. “Her work is an exciting mix of diverse artistic mediums — it is deeply impactful.”
Godsey added that he believed Wilkins’ residency at Open Space would be a beautiful start to the new program launched by Open Space.
“We are creating a program that welcomes artists not just from Vashon and the Northwest but from around the world,” he said.
Work on the installation — which includes a maze of sculptures and filmed footage of the original presentation in New York — began in January and will continue until the opening.
Wilkins described the installation as an enchanting invitation.
“The exhibition will invite you to walk through an intimate landscape of sculpted bodies, with film of dance and the music of Qasim Naqvi, together meant to awaken a sense of connection in isolation,” she said.
Islanders can experience “Solitude_Live” in person from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 3, and from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 4, during Vashon’s Vashon’s First Friday art walk. The installation will also be open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 5 and 6.
Admission is free and donations are accepted to assist the artist to cover costs. Masks are required for all visitors. Doors will be open to allow for improved airflow. Please stay home if you are experiencing COVID symptoms or if you have been exposed to someone who is.
Learn more about how to see the installation and artist at OpenSpaceVashon.com and JuliaWilkins.com.