Julie Anderson ’00 explores climate change, genetic modification, and the excessive use of natural resources in her stunning and unusual sculptures. Her artwork is influenced by her mountain environment in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where she co-owns and operates a small studio art space with husband, Gregory Grasso, and even more so by her undergraduate studies in biology, as well as botany, hydrology, chemistry, and ecology. What makes her sculptures so unusual are the manmade touches like buttons, zippers, and screws within organic forms, “alluding to man’s manipulation of nature.”
Q. As a biology major, how did you get introduced to ceramics?
A. I had a minor in art and was required to take ceramics for my minor, which I dreaded at first. I was always into drawing and painting, but never thought I would like sculpture or 3-D work. Stan Samuels was my instructor at Northland and he taught me how to throw on the potter’s wheel, which immediately got me hooked. I loved it. Since then, I have not stopped working with clay. I mostly hand-build now, but I really enjoy teaching others how to use the wheel.
Q. At what point, did you decide you would take this direction?
A. I came here to do an internship in ceramics. Initially, I was just planning to take a break from biology and then take the GRE to apply to grad schools for plant ecology. I ended up working at a production studio, Ceramic Design Group, and teaching ceramics at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat. I began to realize how complex and fascinating this medium was and that I could easily study it for the rest of my life.
Q. Was there any moment or particular influence on your current work that you can connect back to Northland?
A. Absolutely. Dr. Jim Meeker was one of my favorite professors at Northland and he gave me some great experiential learning opportunities working in the forests and identifying plants. I learned to pay attention to the tiniest details of plants and notice subtle changes in the forest ecosystems. Many of these changes were based on the availability of water. Plants, ecology, cells, chemistry, and water are regularly the subject of my current work. Without my biology background, my work would not be what it is today.