Interconnections of art and biology

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Julia Bannerot works mostly with ceramics. Photo courtesy of Angel Archuleta.

At the University of Northern Colorado, Julia Bannerot is one in one thousand. Truthfully. UNC takes in about 1,200 undergraduate students pursuing majors in performing and visual arts. However,  her stance on art is exclusive to her. She creates pieces to represent the interconnectedness of nature and human anatomy, desiring people to have a personal connection with the work she creates. 

On a Wednesday morning, in the Arts Annex at UNC, Bannerot immerses herself in the noise of a table saw, diligently working on a project. Centered in on what she is working on, she is unaware of the people coming in and out of the building. A professor glances at her, proclaiming her a student with much integrity, just the girl you want to speak to about art. 

From the time she was in elementary school, art has been her forte. Bannerot mother reminds her of her early childhood accomplishments: winning the coloring contest at the local aquarium and making clay elephants at a friend’s birthday party.

She had a recognizable talent from the start. She recalls people looking at her projects as a child and being stunned. 

The arts started as an extracurricular for her. Inspired by her elementary art teacher, she became eager to learn more than the basics. It was fun, but she always wanted more.

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“I always took projects more serious than everyone else, even in kindergarten,” Bannerot said, describing what she remembers of her artistic beginnings. 

Bannerot developed a bond with her artistic ability but by the time she got to college, she had already been told art was only a hobby and she needed a “real” career. So, she aimed to pursue a double major in biology and art. 

“Biology was my serious side, whereas art was my fun, creative, inspired side,” Bannerot said. 

Yet, she quickly understood she chose biology out of fear. Before she began her studies at UNC, Bannerot decided she was not going to major or minor in biology at all. However, biology, influences much of her art. 

For Bannerot, there is truth and authenticity to biology, a pure interconnection of molecules, mechanisms and chemical processes, which she said she admires. The example of interconnection in biology is something she yearns for in her relationships, in her work and in everything else.

Connection is her driving force, not just the theme of her art. It is a desire of her heart, which overflows and takes its own form. Art rests as an invitation for Julia to communicate deeper within herself and the world around her. Bannerot said art insists on her vulnerability; it is intimidating to put a piece out there, unsure of who is going to receive it. 

Bannerot is an intern at The Clay Center of Northern Colorado in Greeley, a place ceramicists can call home. Clay projects congest the shelves and tables, overflowing from kilns, as Bannerot shuffles through the space; there is a shelf of her own projects and she reveals a series of tiles she is currently working on. 

The clay depicts the form of a succulent, but there is a deeper message beyond what meets the eye. A human’s growth from a traumatic experience varies, and the clay represents the growth one endures from their trauma. Sometimes it is good growth, sometimes it is broken growth. The clay takes the form. The clay tells the story. 

“If one has yet to process a traumatic experience, they will look at this piece of art and only see a cool-looking flower,” Bannerot said. “However, if one has dealt with a traumatic experience, they will sit with the piece of art and contemplate it longer.”

 She puts marveling thought into all of her artwork. Per Bannerot’s artist statement: “The way I join the two media both physically and figuratively demonstrates my investigation of connection within my work. There are infinite repeated patterns of form and texture within nature that make our universe appear unfathomably complex. This is similar to how we view human connection and relationships and my work responds to this interconnection with exposed forms and processes that require close, introspective examination.”

 She participated in an art show in September, curated by her peers Kamri Flores and Michaela Denton. The exhibit’s theme was “Contemporary Blues,” for which Julia entered several pieces. One observer in attendance explained that Bannerot’s  use of colors was welcoming, earthy, calming, grounding. Ambiguous.

 Although she puts enough of her own thoughts, values and beliefs into a piece, she never reveals to the observer what the piece actually is. She says once people put a label on what something is, there is a tendency to stop investigating it. She wants people to sit with her art, ask themselves tough questions and live in discomfort. Not because her art is abstract and aggressive, but because her art is designed to satisfy the need for connection. 

 Art is an exceptional part of  her life because it is her way of communicating with the world and with herself. Art is an open door for dialogue, and an avenue for connection in Bannerot’s life. 

“I don’t know if this is true, but I don’t think I could do anything else that makes me this happy,” Bannerot said. “Art made me figure out who I am and allowed me the opportunity to examine myself.”

Bannerot graduated in December and said she simply wants to be an artist. According to her, she imagines herself facilitating workshops, selling her own work and who knows, teaching yoga or something. 

Yoga happens to be an essential practice for her to release creative blocks. She jokes around about yoga leading her to having epiphanies. As she stresses over projects and deadlines, she attends yoga and suddenly receives clarity.  

Still, during times when Bannerot approaches creative blocks, it’s others who help her overcome. Much like how her elementary art teacher inspired her, talking to a friend who is enduring the same difficulties helps facilitate that process. Bannerot is encouraged after meeting with close friends, energized and filled with fuel to create again. It rings true, connection is merely an overflow of heart, expressed through her art.

Bannerot and The Clay Center of Northern Colorado can be contacted at their respective websites.

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