Artist Spotlight: Juliana Xie

Meet Julianna Xie ’19, this issue’s Artist Spotlight! She’s from Nanjing, China. Her hobbies include snorkeling, traveling and reading. She also enjoys running track and field, but she is especially known for her art. Julianna has worked with many different art forms here at Western Reserve Academy, but she is especially proud of her work with virtual reality.

Xie started drawing around sophomore year and found that drawing 3D things on a 2D surface wasn’t really for her. Around the same time, she was introduced to the Wang Innovation Center’s VR headsets. She enjoyed the idea of being “inside” the artwork, as it was easier to see and picture everything. She explains, “The Wang Innovation Center’s VR headset was an eye-opening experience. Painting becomes 3D.” She has created different works in the medium such as The Old Man and the Sea and The Catcher in the Mountains (inspired by the Catcher in the Rye). Xie also created virtual versions of famous artwork, such as Monet’s Water Lilies and Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. With all these past accomplishments, she has gained inspiration for new ones, such as a piece she is starting, which was inspired by The White Teeth by Zadie Smith, as well as painting England from the view of a Native American and an Englishman to show how both people may perceive the world differently.

But pieces don’t make themselves. On average, a piece takes around 6 hours a week for two weeks. This time period runs from the brainstorming process to polishing the final. What makes her proud of her work, though, is that it is unique and one-of-a-kind and not many people are using technology to create works on this scale.

Xie gains inspiration from literary works. She loves to read and has loved literature since she was a child. She takes messages from literature and other paintings to heart and loves to make art based on them. She also gets ideas from the impressionists of this era.

As for the message of her works, she says it depends on the piece and how she feels creating it and what her motivation was. The power of art is one thing she stresses, saying that it is the one thing that connects all different cultures because art shares the same common messages.

The advice she has for other artists? Xie believes, much like the famous quote by Picasso, that everyone is born as an artist and that they just have to find the time to bring it out in themselves. She also says that putting yourself out there isn’t exactly a bad thing. No one will judge you when you show them who you really are. Artist’s Block is another common problem and her solution is to just paint whatever you see in front of you! Whether it’s a book, phone or computer, just draw it! And for more experienced students, draw so that you can demonstrate the skills that you already know to kick-start your thinking.

As far as Xie’s future goals, since she is someone who enjoys coding, she wants to combine her programming and art skills to create 3D animations. She also hopes that in the future, the cost of VR headsets will be lowered so that headsets can become common tools for art in classrooms around the country. Instead of seeing art as just something on a 3D surface, kids could put themselves into the painting and experience it on a whole other level. Like any field, Xie admits that there are challenges, such as the fact that there aren’t many guides on how to create with VR, in turn meaning that there are fewer resources for aspiring VR artists. However, there are more people joining the community of virtual art, and she hopes that this beautiful art form will become more mainstream as time goes on.

– Angela Benzinger ‘22

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