Rowan University Art Gallery

Julie Speed - Bible Studies

Opening Reception: Opening Reception: Wednesday, March 7th 5:00-7:00pm

Artist Statement

Often collage paper comes to me because it's been through a flood or a fire. I find it at flea markets and junk stores. Sometimes I pick it up on the street or friends bring it to me. I don't choose a particular image for a particular project, just what looks interesting at the time. It's common for something to spend a decade or more in the trunk or drawer before I find out what it's for.

Most of the images that I used to make the collage part of the etchings in the Bible Studies series came from an1877 Gustav Dore Swedish bible with hundreds of illustrations that was destroyed in the 1993 Galveston, Texas flood. I bought it as scrap paper about 10 years ago and have been using it for collage ever since. Now, because of new technology I've been able to incorporate collage into my intaglio work and the first project using these new techniques has become Bible Studies. What makes me particularly happy about the new developments is that the illustrations were originally executed as engravings but were printed in the bible with a regular 19th century commercial press which of course meant they lost the quality of the original engraving. Turning them back into intaglio and hand pulling each one restores the original tones and textures. Not all of the pieces used to construct Bible Studies were from the Dore bible. I also used illustrations and text from other bibles, medical books, patent catalogs, etc.

When I could, I tried to pick images from bible stories which not only fit the composition but also the subject. You can see images in Women's Studies from the numerous bible stories where women get stoned, set on fire, stabbed or eaten by dogs. In Ad Referendum I combined atrocity and book burning images form several different biblical sources. In many of the Variations I started out using the text just as a design, but ended up cutting out stories or directives that seemed appropriate to the subject. I used several different bibles mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries and it was very interesting to read how differently they were translated from text to text.

I began each etching by sketching the figure and deciding which parts should be collage and which parts I wanted to paint and/or draw. In this series I used black, gray and white gouache with little brushes and also ink and pencil to do the faces. Then I drew the shapes of the sections that I wanted to be collage. The garment in Ad Referendum is assembled of images from at least a dozen different illustrations which I cut out with an exacto knife, painted gray around the edges and then glued together. All along I used small brushes and sepia gouache to add, subtract and alter the images.

When the drawing/painting/collages were finished I took them to Flatbed Press where Katherine Brimberry (the master printer there) had them scanned at an extremely high resolution onto a transparent film and then used the transparency to burn the image onto a solar plate. For the second color plate she made an outline of what I wanted to be color and burned that plate too. When the plates were done we started proofing- trying different combinations of colors, papers and inks until we found a combination we wanted to edition. All of the Bible Studies were printed on chine colle so at one point when we wanted additional colors we tried mixing acrylic inks into the water misting bottle used in the colle process and sprayed the colle paper with colors. It was so much fun I ended up making lots of those, sometimes using two bottles and two colors and sometimes using somewhat broken spray bottles and old brushes to make different size drips and blotches. After that, the actual difficult and precise work of inking and pulling each individual etching was done by Fran Christina and Tracy Mayrello. After drying for a week or so the prints then came back to me and I painted in the additional details, adding a little white to the eyes or the teeth or a little red where maybe the registration of the two plates might have been a little off. On Smoker I used pastel to pink up his cheeks and ears and charcoal to draw the smoke of his cigar. On Ad Referendum II (the pink one) I used gouache to paint the explosions in the sky. Of course none of the explosions are painted the same as the others and none of the backgrounds are sprayed the same as the others but we figured they were close enough to call an edition. If one got a just a little further out than seemed like it should be in the edition then we marked it CP or color proof or started another small edition using those colors.

Most of the "Variations" came into being because at one part of the process or another I was just having too much fun to stop so I kept adding collage or paint or something until the image became so different from the rest of the edition that it needed to have another designation altogether and neither "monotype" or "collage" seemed to apply so we simply called it a "variation". Some of the Variations I merely altered the faces and/or painted and/or drew or collaged new backgrounds for and some I completely changed by cutting out the figures and re-glued them in new positions on board and then altering them some more. Every time I think I'm done, I find there is just one more I want to do.

Some of the gouache and collage pieces that I've used the Gustav Dore bible pages in are The Flood, The Organ Donor, Apple Pie and Motherhood, The Edict, The Naturalist and Military Science.

Julie Speed is represented by Gerald Peters Gallery in Dallas, TX, as well as New York. She has exhibited widely throughout Texas and the United States, most recently at the George Billis Gallery, LA. For more information on the artist, please visit