Many friends and family died during the AIDS pandemic. In my work, I responded by salvaging found vintage portraits, often damaged, identities lost. Originally, the photographs encouraged a feeling of connection, but I interrupt these (now unknown) narratives—deconstructing and recycling them into works whose beauty arises out of processes that nearly destroy them.

Obsessed with photographs as objects, I work directly on the surfaces of cabinet cards and cartes de visite, many of which are over 150 years old, dating from the Civil War era. I hand alter them by painting, cutting, and layering the images with ink, dust and glue. Inspired by archives, my work explores beauty, history and the changeable nature of identity. It alludes to metamorphoses, dark histories and gothic struggles, in the context of today’s political and ecological upheaval.

–Julie Blankenship


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Julie Blankenship is an artist and curator based in San Francisco. She taught at San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Art Institute, her alma mater. While leading Visual Aid, an arts/social justice organization serving artists with AIDS, she founded and curated Visual Aid Gallery. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including solo shows at Amsterdams Centrum voor Fotografie in Amsterdam; and Joseph Chowning Gallery in San Francisco. Publications include London Reader, High Shelf Press, Punt Volat; and the cover of Of One Free Will, published by Egaeus Press.