Remembering Julie Graham

Tufts Now All Stories

Traveling anywhere in a car with painter and photographer Julie Graham meant stopping “all the time, so she could leap out and take photographs,” recalled sculptor Mags Harries, her friend and colleague from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. “She loved color, layered surfaces, scavenged juxtapositions, vernacular architecture, the collision of architectural spaces. With Julie, it was always about looking for the unseen.”Joel Janowitz, a Boston-based painter who taught at the SMFA from 1994 to 2000, observed that when working with her students, Graham was “encouraging, nurturing, thoughtful, articulate, knowledgeable, and caring—I think caring underlies it all,” he said. “She paid a lot of attention to teaching and wanted to do it well.”
These memories, among others, now contribute to a vivid legacy of the painter and photographer and long-time faculty member at the SMFA. Graham, who taught painting there for twenty-seven years, died on August 23 at age seventy-one. The cause was cancer.
Graham had described how her inspiration “often springs from ‘the other side of the tracks’—urban industrial areas, abandoned buildings, vernacular architecture, minimalist spaces, and clustered housing in foreign lands (big boxes in some cases, shanty towns, in others).”
At the SMFA, her course Material Meaning exemplified that search for new ways to give form and space meaning. She encouraged students to “see the surface of a painting as a material with many possible forms,” said Harries, a professor of the practice at the SMFA. “I think she aspired to sculpture. Her work was quite physical in nature. She could layer, she could build on.”
Patte Loper, an SMFA professor of the practice in painting, describes Graham’s work as “tactile, intuitive, generative, and preoccupied with themes of accumulation, loss, and absence. Her use of materials reflected her interest in the overlooked, finding value and meaning in what has been discarded or unremarked …

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