By Rowena Lindsay, Deputy Inside Editor
Julia Hechtman, an art lecturer for the College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern, is being featured in a newly curated exhibit called “Transcendent Landscapes” at Drive By Projects in Watertown, Mass. from Sept. 18 – Nov. 1. Specializing in photography, film and video, Hechtman’s work ranges from animated shorts to black and white landscape shots.
The exhibition, featuring pieces by artists Matthew Fisher, Sue McNally and Ernest Jolicoeur, in addition to Hechtman, is inspired by two different groups of painters from the 1930s, the Canadian Group of Seven and the Transcendental Painting Group.
“‘Transcendent Landscapes’ and the transcendentalist Canadian artists are about carrying painting beyond the physical world, and there is an element of that in the art of all the artists included in the show,” Kathleen O’Hare, co-director of Drive By Projects, said.
Hechtman’s contribution to the show is a video called “Untitled (Rorschach)” that consists of four identical video clips put together on a single screen and arranged to reflect mirror images of each other. The piece emulates Rorschach, or inkblot, tests, which are a type of psychological procedure that use abstract black and white images created by spilling ink on a piece of paper and then folding the paper in half. Hechtman’s video seeks to show a landscape using this technique.
“Julia’s video is great; it is this abstract image of water flowing and we thought that it was a great addition to the show,” O’Hare said.
Hechtman became interested in art when she was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University. There she took her first photography class, which motivated her to change her major from religious studies to photography.
“I took a video class after that and at the time it didn’t impress me as much as photography, but by the time I went back to graduate school it seemed to make a lot of sense with the kind of things I was interested in,” Hechtman said.
Drive By Projects, co-directed by Beth Kantrowitz along with O’Hare, is a storefront gallery that puts on a new exhibit every couple of months. It is open Thursdays from 12 – 4 p.m. and by appointment, but even when the gallery is closed the public can still experience the art through the window as they drive by, hence the name.
“[Drive By Projects is] trying to expose the community to contemporary art in the context of a neighborhood space,” Hechtman said. “It is in Watertown, which is a little outside of the normal gallery arena.”
The theme of manipulated landscapes at the Drive By Projects exhibit appears throughout Hechtman’s other work as well.
“The main focus of my practice is oftentimes landscape-based but it is not a traditional landscape image that I am dealing with,” Hechtman said. “I like to think that I make subtle changes in order to have the viewers have a different kind of experience than they typically would when looking at a landscape image or object.”
In addition to her work in photography and video, Hechtman recently started making sculptures, adding something to her body of work that could not be achieved by her previous pieces alone.
“With sculpture you get to move around a piece, with video you get to have sound with the piece and the photographs you get to scale an image and represent it with a plane,” Hechtman said. “When I work with all of them together I feel like it becomes a space that is a place instead of just being a gallery. It sets up this set of experiences for visitors who come into the space.”
After going to grad school at the Art Institute of Chicago in Ill., Hechtman moved to Boston and opened her own art gallery in South Boston. However, she soon closed her gallery and dedicated all her time to her artwork and teaching.
“The best thing that has come from being a teacher as well as being an artist is that it really reinforces for me all the things that I care about,” Hechtman said. “Having to explain why things are important all the time really just solidifies how I feel about what I do.”
Her students themselves, as well as the act of teaching, have been an encouraging factor in her artwork.
“That is a real benefit of being in a community of people who are always trying to learn new things and explore new ideas,” Hechtman said. “You get to feed off of their energy and feed them energy and it is a really wonderful exchange that happens.”
This semester Hechtman is teaching a video-making class called 4D Foundations.
“Art becomes a really efficient language for communication, even more efficient in some ways than trying to verbalize and write down things that you’re thinking about,” Hechtman said. “I think that is what keeps me active in the arts, it has a way of transmitting a really potent message without really having to say what it is you are asking someone to learn from the experience so it can affect people differently.”
Photo courtesy Julia Hechtman.