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Art Student's First Solo Exhibit: "Finding Wholeness in Imperfection"

“Overlapping Narratives” by Julia Bertussi 36 x 48 inch oil painting Photo by Gabrielle Topping
The human form, abstractions, line work, rich colors and deep emotions are some of the features present in Julia Bertussi’s artwork.

Through a visual exploration of what it means for art to be “finished” or “complete, ” Bertussi, a senior Art Education major at Ithaca College, explores the different ways individuals emote. In a series of 19 oil paintings, Bertussi defies the expectations and standards for completeness in art by expressing human emotions and abstractions in her oil paintings.

“Distaste” by Julia Bertussi
24 x 30 inch oil painting
Photo by Gabrielle Topping

Bertussi said she has been taking art classes since she was six years old and the idea that finished and complete art has to be photorealistic — a style of art where the artist reproduces a photograph as realistically as possible in another medium — was ingrained in her brain. 

“I appreciate that in its own sense. That’s one way of making art. But as I got to school, I realized that’s not the only way to make art and that’s not my style,” Bertussi said. “‘Finding Wholeness in Imperfection’ emerged as a way for me to explore more of what it means for art to be finished and the idea that a piece of artwork can be whole and complete even if it has unfinished aspects.”

“Perceptions” by Julia Bertussi
20 x 24 inch oil painting
Photo by Gabrielle Topping

Although Bertussi said she has studied the theme of “finding wholeness in imperfection” for years, she was able to dedicate 40 hours a week for eight weeks to exploring this theme when she was accepted into the competitive Summer Scholars Program at Ithaca College. 

“It was a lot of work,” she said. “Even off the clock, it’s not something that leaves your brain. When you’re in that art zone, it’s all you’re thinking about. I was immersed in that project. It was on my mind 24/7.”

“Uninterrupted Peace” by Julia Bertussi
16 x 20 inch oil painting
Photo by Gabrielle Topping

Bertussi explained that her process can be contradictory. She said that she has a type-A personality and likes planning but then when she creates each art piece she forgets all her planning and lets the creation happen organically.  

“For each of the individual pieces, there was this huge planning phase of finding references and doing sketches and really hyper-planning it more than it needed to be,” she said. “Then once I felt like I planned it enough, I forgot all of my planning and I just did it. The planning gets me ready for it, even if the planning itself doesn’t find its way into the artwork.”

“Incomplete Sorrow” by Julia Bertussi
14 x 20 inch oil painting
Photo by Gabrielle Topping

Her creations were displayed in her first solo art exhibition at the Community Arts Partnership gallery during the month of September. Bertussi said that she knew there would be an exhibit as part of the program but it was unexpected that it would be a solo exhibit.  

“Normally what happens is all of the art summer scholars share the space and it’s a group exhibition but I was the only art student accepted into the program so I ended up with a solo show which is crazy and an out-of-body experience,” Bertussi said. “Once it registered with me, I was like ‘oh my God, you’re getting your first solo show,’ which was cool to realize because that’s a really hard thing to achieve as an artist and it’s really amazing that this program gave me this opportunity.”

Community Arts Partnership located at 110 N. Tioga Street, Ithaca, NY
Photo by Gabrielle Topping
Photo courtesy of Julia Bertussi. (from left to right) Kristian Labrie, Melanie Sabia, Victoria Bertussi, Julia Bertussi, Lizzy Smith, Hailey Aldrich and Sara Hendi.

Lizzy Smith, a communication management and design major, said all of Bertussi’s work was unique and profoundly creative. She said her favorites are “Distaste,” “Overlapping Narratives,” “Emotional Interactions” and “Interpreted Joy.” 

“All of these pieces were deeply captivating and blew me away with their use of color, design, or subject matter,” Smith said. “If I had to pick an absolute favorite, I think I would go with ‘Emotional Interactions’ because it felt like such a unique and powerful piece.”

“Emotional Interactions” by Julia Bertussi
         48 x 60 inch oil painting  
Photo by Gabrielle Topping

Hailey Aldrich, a communication management and design major, said she was in awe of Bertussi’s artwork and the emotional stories being told through her art. Aldrich said her favorite pieces from the collection are “Emotional Interactions” and “Restless” because of the wide variety of color and whitespace utilized.     

“Her pieces do a great job of accurately capturing intangible experiences such as emotions and mental health,” Aldrich said. “As an artist, she finds ways to communicate some of the hidden aspects of the human experience in a way that the viewer can easily connect with. I felt like each of her pieces told a story and easily connected to all the other pieces in the exhibit. I was truly astounded by how one person can portray such depth and complexity in such a beautiful way.” 

“Restless” by Julia Bertussi
24 x 30 inch oil painting
Photo by Gabrielle Topping

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