Mar 1, 2021

Q&A With Julia Gonnello

Visual arts senior and Dreyfoos’ National Art Honor Society President Julia Gonnello––whose fierce and striking artwork is one of ninety-three selected from over a thousand entries––has been honored among a select group of artists in the National Art Honor Society Juried Exhibition. Her art, which has been greatly influenced by both Dreyfoos academic and art classes, is also featured on her Instagram art page. The following interview has been edited for both brevity and clarity.

Q: How were you originally introduced to Dreyfoos’ National Art Honor Society chapter?
A: I properly got into [National Art Honor Society] in eleventh grade. I did the community service requirements and it was fun. I was already doing a lot of art related community service––so why not? In twelfth grade, I put in my application to be president, and I had a few ideas but obviously a lot of them have not been able to happen due to Covid. I was honored to get the position. It has been great with what we have been able to do, though!

Q: Tell me about the National Art Honor Society Juried Selection application and award process.
A: Every visual [arts] senior has to make a lot of work for YoungArts––it’s your senior year and a culmination of your personal work and work you really enjoy––so of course I put my name in the hat. I didn’t think that much about [submitting], to be honest. It was about wanting to support the artist community that I am a part of.

I was probably at home––on lunch break––making cookies, as one does. That’s probably when the Google Classroom notification came out, and then Mr. Armetta talked to me personally. It was just really exciting that my work had been recognized. It’s funny because it’s that piece specifically––I hated that piece while I was making it, I was going to cut it off the canvas. I didn’t and it’s been very well received by everyone who has seen it. I’m glad I didn’t cut it up, cool!

Q: Do you find yourself having themes within your art?
A: For me, it took a while to figure out. I really always wanted my work to have a deep message and be very personal and resonate with a lot of people. But what I didn’t understand, especially when I was younger, is that you can’t make work that resonates with a lot of people and has a really deep message without being honest in your work about who you are and what you are interested in, what really motivates you.

My work has changed so much and that’s why I have a hard time answering this question. I’ve always done a lot of self-portraits, love the human figure and how it interacts with environments and space, works with lots of lines or halos, religious allusions, allusions to things like iconic symbols like the Tree of Life that we’ve seen in Art History and repurposing them. I don’t want to be vulnerable in my art! This year I’ve been exploring biology––I’ve been centering a lot on the layers of life and complexity, and how we tend to view through this dichotomy. The visual culture and technology can be so influenced by science and vice versa, and it makes it easier to understand. Just how you synthesize these different channels and pathways to make something that’s interactive and possibly educational, a kind of openness.

My family is ethnically Catholic––I went to Church, I was always surrounded by the big stained glass windows and the symbols of Jesus and Mary. I think some of those halos still pop up into my work––a lot of the art history stuff. I like to take influences from everything that comes at me.

Q: How has Dreyfoos helped you get to where you are today?
A: Wow! For one, the amazing support network of teachers and people and students––our teachers deserve so much credit, and artists in residence. There’s also this huge influence, I think we Dreyfoos students in particular and in the art department, of other peoples’ work. I think it’s incredible to be able to see what your peers are doing and be able to talk about it as they are in their making process, and to bounce ideas off of other artists, to be in such close contact with so many artists. Some of my friends are my biggest inspirations.

Q: So, with NAHS and beyond, what’s next?
A: With NAHS, we are really focused on creating opportunities and showing student artists and getting their names up there. With the honor society as a whole, I think it’s going to continue finding opportunities for students to submit their art, publish their art, showcase their art, and really just bring as much of the art community together as we possibly can. And that’s exciting––I enjoy doing that. I want to go into biology/genetics/physiology but keep art as a study minor, or a dual degree. My top choice school is Tufts for the dual degree program, but I’m still waiting to hear back!

Written By: Kaja Andric