Julie Speed: Undertoad

Essay by Lyle Williams
2016
Soft cover

Publisher: Jointly published by Flatbed Press, Austin and Ruiz-Healy Art, San Antonio

ISBN: 978-0-692-52112-0

Dimensions: 12 x 12"

Pages: 87
$20.00

The question that arises time and time again with Speed’s work is what does it all mean? There is a physical presence to the work that draws people in; these are not works meant to be seen from across the room but rather up close, not glanced at but stared at intently. The artist wants us to look and to think about meaning, about storytelling, but there are no hard and fast answers to be had. In the post-modern tradition, the audience is not told what to think or how to interpret. The audience determines meaning; and the meaning can be different for different viewers at different times. Speed has written that when it comes to the question of how we are to interpret her works, “my thoughts, even my really, really deep thoughts, about them carry no more weight than anyone else’s.” Does that mean we are cast adrift like the people on the sinking boats Speed so often includes in the backgrounds of her compositions? No, not at all. We must rely on our own experiences, knowledge, and prejudices. In other words, we must rely upon what we have packed away in the cultural baggage we bring with us when we travel to Speed’s world.