Julia Schmitt Healy: Ray Takes a (Bad) Trip

Opening: Friday, Jun 24, 2022 5 – 8 pm
Friday, Jun 24 – Aug 13, 2022

1709 W. Chicago Ave
2nd. Floor
Chicago, IL 60622

View the show on our website here

Coming out of the Chicago Imagist tradition, Julia Schmitt Healy explores images and iconography from the news, religion, mass media and personal travel. Her multimedia work — painting, drawing, textiles, collage — describes snippets of her dreams and concerns, hopefully with a bit of humor mixed in, touching on ecological disasters, human relationships, symbolic surrealism, feminism, consumerism and the natural world. Ray Takes a (Bad) Trip opens with a free public reception from 5 to 8pm on Friday, June 24 and runs through August 13, 2022. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-6pm.

In 1973, Julia Schmitt Healy, then Julia Schmitt, moved to Nova Scotia after one year in Africa and Europe, while following the love of her life (or so she thought). She developed her Imagist-inspired style before this move, while living, creating and schooling in Chicago in the late 1960s. Her tufted portraits of friends, family, lovers and automobiles had garnered a following in Chicago. At artist Ray Yoshida’s urging, she joined the Phyllis Kind Gallery but never had a solo show there. An example of Schmitt’s work from this time is currently on view in the display of Yoshida’s collection at the Art Preserve in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. As the Imagist scene exploded in Chicago in the early 1970s, Schmitt’s career all but stalled given her move abroad. Despite this, she never stopped making work, even drawing on flour bags and chamois cloth with ballpoint pen when art supplies were limited in Ethiopia. One could call her a “lost Imagist.”

When she arrived in Nova Scotia, Schmitt veered from her tufted work to make paintings and drawings that were somewhat autobiographical in their opinions, warnings and even outrage about personal and political concerns. The body of work in this show, from 1973-74, depicts her oblivious husband, weather events, animals, improbable terrains, dreamscapes, power plants, bandages and figures in strange surroundings, such as depictions of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as corgi-monsters. While continuing to evoke an unmistakable Chicago style, the themes and imagery in these paintings were influenced by her stint in Ethiopia and her new surroundings in Canada. Schmitt reflects on this period, saying “I often remember my dreams, which sometimes reflect my insecurities and are often full of objects or symbols of current events or things going on in my life.”

Ray Yoshida was Schmitt’s teacher/mentor while she was living in Chicago and is the subject of a few pieces in the show. These works were created a few years after Schmitt finished school and left Chicago, as she slowly came to realize the importance he had on her life. As she puts it: “We had a weird relationship that I didn’t understand at the time.” In Ray and the Dominatrix, Schmitt plays the domme, plunging him into an icy pool as thunder and lightning and pollution loom in the distance. He shows up again in Ray Takes a (Bad) Trip, an allegorical painting about the travails of road travel at the time … “things were not smooth sometimes.”

Julia Schmitt Healy was born in Elmhurst, Illinois and received a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied with Ray Yoshida and Whitney Halstead. After graduation, Healy moved to Africa, where she traveled and lived, then later toured Europe and moved to Nova Scotia, Canada with her first husband. Her work was represented for many years by Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York and Chicago, as well as Susan Whitney Gallery in Canada. While in school, she co-curated a mail art show with artist Ray Johnson, called “Intercourse” at the Wabash Transit Gallery. Her works has been shown recently at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City, IN and Camayuhs in Atlanta, GA. In 2019, the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY acquired two tufted works from 1972. This is her second show at Western Exhibitions. She lives and works in Port Jervis, New York.