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Julia Bottoms

Julia Bottoms

b. 1988

Julia Bottoms is a Buffalo based visual artist, painting primarily in oils and acrylics. Her portraiture work seeks to explore themes of race, identity and representation among people of color in relation to the mainstream cultural narrative.

Bottoms studied at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, receiving her Bachelor’s in Art in 2012 and her Master’s in Multidisciplinary Fine Arts Studies in 2017. Her work originally focused on Black male representation in an effort to break through stereotypical perceptions that exist, particularly within the Black community. Often, mainstream depictions promoting stereotypes enable distorted gender and race perceptions like lawlessness, hypersexuality, aggression and a lack of sensitivity.[1] Her portraits, however, capture the traits that are often disregarded in these mainstream representations, reimagining portrayals of Black men to emphasize characteristics like vulnerability, sensitivity and complex emotional expressions.[2] She incorporates implied nudity and objects like flowers and shattered china in crowns to signify her subjects reclaiming these qualities and redefining masculinity within Black culture.

Over the last year, Bottoms’ work has evolved, moving from gender specific reflections to character studies of her subjects as individuals. While still working with the idea of vulnerability and innocence, she now explores the nuances of individual character, giving a glimpse into how dynamic each of her subjects truly is. She explains in her artist statement:

“The goal now is more along the lines of shining a spotlight on people of color and telling the truth about who we are. My work utilizes portraiture to give a glimpse of us as sensitive, sincere and multi-faceted; an image which is often missing in mainstream media portrayals. I especially enjoy playing with the idea of vulnerability and innocence through the choice of models who possess realistic body types.”[3]

For Bottoms, mainstream portrayals too often reduce the Black identity to simplified ideas of who they are. These identities, however, are multi-faceted, and showcasing those complexities in her portraiture work provides an opportunity to reclaim the dominant narrative.

“People of color have been trapped in someone else’s narrative for too long, and when we have tried to write our own, we have often been erased from the mainstream history book. I believe it is time for us to use the talents we possess to speak our truth. Our lives are worthy of dialogue.”[4]

Her portraits have exhibited regionally, featured in group exhibitions at the Roz Steiner Art Gallery in Batavia, NY, the Buffalo Arts Studio and Project 308 Gallery in Tonawanda.[5] Bottoms was also selected as the inaugural artist for the Open Buffalo Emerging Artist Series.

She has participated in public arts projects, most recently working as the solo mural artist for the East Delavan Library Project and completing the ArtWorks Cincinnati Mural Project in 2018. In collaboration with the Albright Knox Gallery and NFTA Metro, Bottoms, along with artists Edreys Wajed, Chuck Tingley and John Baker completed the Freedom Wall at the corner of Michigan Ave. and East Ferry St. in 2017.

Her work has been featured in local publications including The Public, Buffalo Spree and The Challenger. She has also had her artwork and accompanying articles featured with AFROPUNK.

In 2018, her piece Jaimie (2017) was featured in the HBO show Insecure.  

[1] “Julia Bottoms Artist Statement,” Burchfield Penney Artist File.

[2] “Julia Bottoms Artist Statement,” Burchfield Penney Artist File.

[3] “Julia Bottoms Artist Statement,” Burchfield Penney Artist File.

[4] “Julia Bottoms Artist Statement,” Burchfield Penney Artist File.

[5] “Julia Bottoms Artist Resume,” Burchfield Penney Artist File.