By Jim Ruland
A layman's dictionary of art criticism lacks the lingo to describe Julie Rauer's work. It would take a book about botany. Maybe some abstracts on astrophysics. And possibly a study of Chinese calligraphy.
Rauer draws parallels between multiple systems and makes use of them in playfully unexpected ways. Her paintings are riddled with secret meaning and hidden structures that invite investigation. Each piece comprises worlds within worlds. In some cases, it's hard to know what kind of paintings they are. Are they portraits of composites? Landscapes of dreams? Still lifes that couldn't exist in the real world?
"I don't do wall decorations," Rauer says. "These are pieces to be studied. These are pieces to be contemplated. They don't match people's couches."
Her work may be difficult to classify, but it's fascinating to look at. Consider a butterfly enfolded into an ear, or an umbrella made out of mushrooms."I like to draw parallels between many different types of structures."
Rauer's credentials demonstrate how art and science are entwined in her work: solo exhibitions at Manhattan galleries, awards from the Natural Science Foundation, fine art shows throughout the East Coast and abroad, and publication in prestigious science magazines and journals. Ultimately, it was her fascination with nature that drove her to leave New York, where she was born and lived her entire life. "In terms of the spectrum of the art world, it was incredibly narrow. Whenever I talked about my work, which is science-based, people just didn't want to hear it." She chose San Diego because of its vast ecological diversity, something that was sorely lacking in New York. "There was not a connection to the natural world in Manhattan," she says. "There were rats. There were roaches and pigeons. And that's it."
Exploring the natural world is vital to Rauer's art-making process. Where others see a beautiful beach, Rauer sees an ecosystem teeming with life. Seashells, sand dollars and tufts of seaweed she collects on the beach in Coronado make their way into her work. Although Rauer hasn't shown her work locally, she's encouraged by the enthusiastic response she's received from friends in the art and science communities. "I find people in San Diego are more open-minded." New York's loss is a Finest City gain.