Portraiture is a strong thread in my creative practice over many decades. I experience an ontological exchange, qua artist/sitter; an intensity of the gaze, a reminder that the eyes are windows to the soul; as I am consistently inspired to paint and draw my fellow human beings. Portraiture addresses an ongoing inner dialogue – who am I? Why am I? The totality of such a question moves beyond time and space, beyond thinking – to the single act of knowing and not knowing. The shared space occupancy in portraiture creates a virtual realm: whether portraits from my photos, portraits of people sitting in front of me, portraits of portraits; the embodied subject reveals another level of the invisible. It’s in painting and drawing portraits that I feel boundaries blur. It allows me to investigate the dynamics and beauty of intuitive, underlying kinships and explore the who/why of embodiment. The thin veil of separated realities becomes the transparent connector to our shared experiences of being and how we inhere in the world.

Julia Olson spent most of her adult life in San Francisco where she had a successful career as an internationally published illustrator under the name Julie Johnson. After moving to Saudi Arabia to teach fashion design at an all-women university, she began pursuing an MFA to expand her creative practice and process her experiences living abroad. Her current body of work has been inspired by time spent in Saudi Arabia, Greece, Morocco, and Oman.