On the Couch with Julia deVille

Julia_DeVille AAR On the CouchWho is Julia deVille?
I am a jeweller, taxidermist, artist and aspiring holographer. I combine these techniques together to make sculptural assemblages – my work mainly consists of taxidermy animals adorned with jewellery. I exhibit these works in full immersive environments decorated with furnishings, wallpaper, curtains, light, sound and scent. Recently, I have begun to make holograms of my taxidermy works, which debuted in my current exhibition Wholeness and the Implicit Order at Linden New Art, St Kilda. Wholeness also includes a taxidermy baby giraffe, adolescent zebra and a handful of lion cubs as part of my ‘sleeping’ menagerie.

My other full-time job is as a jeweller, making bespoke wedding and engagement rings. I have a workshop and by appointment showroom in Collingwood.

Subtract the above list and I am not sure who I am, I have been lost in my work for such a long time, I don’t remember who I was before it or what I am without it. In a way we are inseparable – but I know there is a ‘me’ in there irrespective of my work. As an introvert I have used my work as a social buffer. Its function is to show people who I am because my other lines of communication are more stagnated. I have a lot of fear when it comes to speaking my mind verbally, standing up for myself or behaving in public without inhibition. Strangely I have no fear when it comes to making and exhibiting things. I feel free and confident in expressing myself in this way so I guess that’s why I bury myself in it.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
To be completely honest, Wholeness and the Implicit Order (my current exhibition) took the life force out of me. I have never put so much of myself into anything before. The project spanned over 7 years, culminating in working seven days a week for all of this year until the opening on the 25th of August. I never want to put my body through something like that again. I’ve lost weight, hair and my period. My hands are swollen and arthritic. Was creating the most beautiful piece of my life worth sacrificing my health for? I’m undecided. I am in New Zealand for a month with my family to recover and when I return I am changing the way I work to make space for life. Something I have not allowed myself time for over the last few years. Next time I exhibit, I will not set a date until all of the work is complete. This means it could be quite some time before the next installment. I want to take time to make my work without the pressure of a deadline – I have spent the last 18 years in a perpetual exhibition rotation.

Who inspires you and why?
I could reel off people like Nick Cave, whose words are more beautiful than anything I have ever seen or The Smashing Pumpkins – an influence since I was a teenager and a big inspiration for my current exhibition but simply my mum is my greatest muse. She is selfless, generous and compassionate but also strong and independent. She recently had a horrific bike accident in Hungary and is just starting to walk again after being in a wheelchair and completely dependent on her partner and carers for several months. I am staying with her at the moment and the thing I’ve noticed most – despite her limited mobility – is how much she laughs. A real joyful laugh. This is the thing that inspires me most. I closed off that part of myself five years ago after a traumatic experience and buried myself in work. I’m realising that cutting off from people is not a solution; in fact, it is my greatest problem. Now I need to find some of her courage to enter the world again and not hide myself in making work to avoid feeling pain.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
My work is about shifting perceptions – I want to break down societal conditioning and paradigms. My intention is to help my audience make decisions that are aligned with their own personal moral code. An example would be factory framing. Most people these days opt for free range eggs however there are many products such as ice cream, wine and mayonnaise that contain eggs that are more often than not factory farmed. Most people are not aware of this. Companies are not obliged to label whether the eggs used were free range or not. To highlight this issue, I made a work called Neapolitan – it was three taxidermy chicks sitting in an antique ice cream scoop. One chick was dyed pink, another brown and the third was natural yellow colour like Neapolitan ice cream. I prefer to use lightness to broach these topics because I find people are more engaged by humour.

Angry vegans are not doing much for the world right now and I would even argue they create so much resistance that people are turned off the movement for fear of being part of something that has such a negative stigma attached. I get a lot of hate mail from vegans – even though all animals I used died of natural causes and I used to identify as vegan myself. I don’t believe in such labels now. It is restrictive and creates dogmatic thinking. I believe in honesty and transparency. Ultimately my goal is to help people make decisions they would otherwise make if corporations were not hiding information from us.

A simpler goal of mine is to bring beauty to the world. I am an aesthetically driven being and I love making beautiful things. Getting emails from someone saying that my exhibition brought tears to their eyes is incredibly fulfilling. To evoke this type of emotion in another is what life is all about really.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I love New York for a city holiday. Great food and amazing antiques and flea markets. I know this city well and feel at home here. I also like heading off to Cairns in the middle of the Melbourne winter. It’s easy to get to, has beautiful fresh produce and sits at about 24 degrees during wintertime.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
The Collingwood Children’s Farm. It’s a 15-minute walk from my Collingwood workshop and showroom. A country getaway in the middle of the city. I am particularly fond of the farmer’s markets that are on twice a month (and the delightful goats).

What are you currently reading?
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. An interesting exploration into why sleep is so important and how modern life has taken us from the optimal sleep patterns that evolved over millennia. I am practicing here in NZ by not setting an alarm and sleeping as much as I need (which is about 9 – 12 hours a night right now)!

What are you currently listening to?
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins. On repeat. All year.

Happiness is?
Being somewhere tropical with good friends/family and the impossible but delicious hypothesis of no email!

What does the future hold for you?
I actually don’t know right now. Things are more open for me than they have been in my entire adult life. The next year or so will be focusing on working less and living more. I will definitely continue to make wedding and engagement rings. I get a lot of joy from making them and there is very little stress involved. It’s actually quite meditative for me.

When I feel like getting back into holograms I’ll set up a lab with my mentor Dr. Martina Mrongovius (director for the Center for the Holographic Arts, NYC) and start making some large-scale holograms. Then I’ll finish off the works that didn’t get finished in time for Wholeness and the Implicit Order and eventually book in the last installment to this show.

I have 3D scanned Wholeness and the Implicit Order so part two will be a virtual reality experience of the exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery alongside new holograms of the works plus the works that didn’t get finished. Who knows when that will be though?


Julia’s exhibition, Wholeness and the Implicit Order, is currently on display at Linden New Art, St Kilda until 4 November 2018. For more information, visit: www.lindenarts.org for details

Image: Julia deVille (supplied)

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