Giulia Livi is uncomfortable. On a throbbingly hot late-August day, just before the start of the semester, we sit in Livi’s unairconditioned Highlandtown studio discussing our art practices. Over a blessedly cold Lemon Spindrift I seriously consider pouring down my own shirt, she asks me, about the artist’s process, “Do you think everybody gets to a place where they know what it means?” I answer immediately, “No.” She continues, thoughtfully, “You’re on your way, always. If you have it totally figured out in the studio … you lose the magic and then the work just becomes about creating an object.”
As two painters who have become multi-disciplinary artists post-grad school, Livi and I agree that discomfort is a helpful tool—we don’t actually want to feel like we fully know what we are doing all the time. “For innovation, you always have to be kind of uncomfortable,” Livi says. It’s this willingness to make work in a place of discomfort, both physically and mentally, that has allowed Livi to evolve her practice over the last five years, earning her a number of solo projects and critical acclaim.
A portrait painter in undergrad at Penn State, Livi now works in the ever-evolving area between painting and sculpture, but she laughs as she points out, “I’m obviously not a sculptor because nothing ever comes off a wall very far.” Her works are informed by painting aesthetics, and she feels very tied to the history of painting—surface and color being her twin obsessions.
Explaining the process she has invented to make her wall paintings, she posits, “material skills for me are expansions on, ‘how do you make a canvas?’ Or ‘how do you paint a surface to be even?’” She is an artist who moves between media seamlessly, always seeking out material that speaks to the domestic space and figuring out how to manipulate it after. She tiles, she sews, she paints, and most of her works are described on her website as “misc mixed media,” a classification that redirects us back to the aesthetic on offer. Although she describes herself as shy, the work is decidedly not. Taking up space, mixing neon and pastel colors, and combining hard and soft textures, her artwork loudly demands our attention.
Livi graduated from MICA’s Mount Royal MFA Program in 2017 and has since been working primarily as an adjunct professor at MICA and Pratt. She has been the associate director at Grimaldis Gallery since 2019 and has recently taken on a more active role in curating shows for the gallery. Working with students and established artists in Baltimore connects Livi to the art world here, and she is grateful for the daily dialogues she gets to partake in as both a mentor and mentee.