A Conversation with Julia J. Wolfe

Julia J. Wolfe is a multidisciplinary artist based in Rochester, NY. Her work has been exhibited nationally and published in Studio Visit Magazine and New American Paintings. Through painting, drawing, printmaking, knitting, sculpture, writing, and installation, her practice reflects upon themes of childhood and times of innocence, alongside the shared human experience of growth. 

Julia has been an artist-in-residence in Printmaking & Book Arts since September 2022. We recently sat down with her in the Book Arts Studio and chatted about her life, process, and time as a resident artist at Flower City Arts Center. 

Can you talk about your artistic background and training?

Of course! I’ve loved drawing since I was a kid. Growing up, people would tell me that I was “good at drawing,” in the sense that they’d recognize whatever object or person I was trying to render realistically. It wasn’t until I took a drawing class in college (with the great Hamlett Dobbins!) that I decided to major in art. I went to Rhodes College in Memphis, TN and studied with some really wonderful faculty: Ben Butler, Hamlett Dobbins, Erin Harmon, and Laurel Sucsy. They all challenged me to think about what I was making, in ways I didn’t realize could be applied to art (before that, I just wanted to make pretty pictures). At Rhodes, I got into abstract painting, which I wasn’t expecting. From there, I did a post-baccalaureate program at Brandeis University to continue my studio practice and eventually apply to graduate school. At Brandeis, I studied under Sonia Almeida, Graham Campbell, Sean Downey, and many others, all of whom pushed my practice and paintings even further. I moved to Iowa City in the summer of 2015 to get my M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing at the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, I took a variety of classes, from printmaking to scene design to papermaking to sculpture and more. Naturally, this guided me into the world of installation, which I’ve found to be the most exciting and challenging way to exhibit my work. I gotta mention some more amazing teachers real quick: Isabel Barbuzza, Andrew Casto, Terry Conrad, T.J. Dedeaux-Norris, Susan Chrysler White. There’s a lot more people, but I should probably leave it there for now.

What brought you to Rochester?

Well, if you know anything about how a medical student becomes a resident doctor (the next step of medical training), then you know how random the “match” process can feel. Essentially, an applicant ranks the institutions where they interviewed while the institutions also rank the applicants. My husband was in medical school at Iowa, he made his rank list, I made my rank list of the cities where he interviewed, and then he matched at URMC – so we moved here!

Can you describe your creative process?

I always have a few things ongoing: a sketchbook (usually more than one at a time), drawings and prints, several paintings, sculptural pieces, various lists, and something I call my “Whisper Journal.” The Whisper Journal is a list of words and phrases that I’ve heard and have felt compelled to write down, for whatever reason. I have a pocketbook dedicated to this, as well as a digital version in the Notes app on my phone. This is often where my titles come from, as well as some written pieces. The paintings often incorporate something from each of those modes of working, and I view the installations as being spatially encompassing versions of the paintings. 

Can you talk about the role of the sketchbook in your creative process?

For me, the sketchbook is where anything and everything can be recorded. I try to carry one with me wherever I go, just in case there’s something that I need to come back to later on. (People in the medical field often find it odd when I pull out my sketchbook to draw something quickly – usually a blind contour of the bar we’re in – but then they see it and are surprised to find that the quirky artist might be onto something!) It’s for capturing a moment, something a phone camera can’t do in the same way. Everyone takes pictures constantly, including myself, and then those photos just get lost in the sea of other random photos. The physicality of the sketchbook is important to me – it’s interactive and has a real presence when I flip through pages from eight years ago.

In a residency program that gives you access to very specialized equipment (letterpress, papermaking, bookbinding, etc.) what are some ways that you have been experimenting with new techniques and tools throughout your time at Flower City Arts Center?

I hadn’t tried letterpress until starting this residency, and it was the first technique I wanted to try. I took a class with Rachel Oatridge, “Digital Ink: 21st Century Letterpress”, which was so exciting. I have a bit of experience in graphic design and have always wanted to turn something digital into the physical process of printmaking. Now that the Center is getting a laser engraver, I’m hoping to make my own typeface that I can use for future letterpress prints. During grad school, I also did some papermaking and bookbinding, and it’s been refreshing to have facilities that allow me to bring those techniques back into my practice and experiment within them.

Did your original artistic goals change or evolve throughout the residency? If so, in what ways?

Yeah, I came into the year with nothing super concrete in mind. Typically, it’s during the process of making a body of work that I figure out what it’s doing and where it’s going. One day, I hope to publish a book, and I’d like to incorporate some of the work that I’ve made during this residency: handmade paper, screenprints, poems, paintings, drawings, images of sculptural/installation work, and letterpress prints. As far as what this book is about, I’m still figuring that out!

Are there any specific projects or artworks that you created during the residency that you’re particularly proud of or excited about?

There was a day in February when I thought it would be interesting to try letterpress on canvas and then make a painting with whatever came of that. So I printed onto a few different pieces of canvas (with many helpful tips from Megan), sewed up some holes made by the Vandercook (oops), stretched it, painted a bit, screen-printed onto part of it, painted some more, and ended up with a fine painting.

After your exhibition at Flower City Arts Center in September, what’s next?

I’ve got a show at the Mercer Gallery at MCC in October, and the opening reception is Thursday 10/5 at 5pm – there’s also an artist talk at 4pm the same day. Hopefully people will come see the installation! It’s titled “We Like to Take the Long Way.”

An Interview with Josi Etter

Josi Etter is a visual artist living and working in Rochester, NY. Josi was a Printmaking & Book Arts, artist-in-residence from 2019 – 2021 and currently teaches a variety of classes at Flower City Arts Center. Her exhibition, Stars + Bars: No Country for Beginners was on display in the Sunken Room Gallery at Flower City Arts Center throughout December 2021. Below, Josi answers questions about her artwork and process.

For those that were unable to see Stars + Bars: No Country for Beginners in person, can you describe the exhibition?

Stars + Bars is a critical view of a country filled with paradox and difficulty.

It is artwork about American people and places and their internal and external struggle.

I try to explain and visualize our discord in a subtle, graphic and aesthetic tale. 

It is a view from a foreign insider’s perspective. The work consists of etchings, sculpture and some interactive parts (“Merchandise Stand”, “American News Raffle” and the conceptual artwork: “Who is for sale?”).

Can you describe your latest body of work?

I come from a painting background and this show is something very new to me. 

The work is created using a “drypoint etching technique” with a combination of acrylics, pencil drawing and gold leaf. Color is used very sparse, lines and shapes are the main focus. It is a very precise and time consuming technique and requires a lot of patience. Etching does not leave a lot of room for errors. 

Although the lines are drawn fine, the work seems bold and is certainly figurative.

In addition, I enjoyed creating different kinds of three dimensional sculpture for the show and think that they are a good supplement.

What did you learn during your time as an artist-in-residence at Flower City Arts Center?

I learned that I am a very inquisitive person. I always want to see and learn what other people work on. It is very inspiring to have other artists and people around who create high quality work.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere. I look quietly around at people, streets, landscapes, nature, pictures and there it is….

Keep in mind that the American culture is still new to me, and therefore I do see things with “fresh, curious eyes”.

What is your favorite time of day to be in the studio?

The hard work is generally done in the morning. It is the most quiet time and I have the most energy. Though I collect ideas and sketches during any time of the day or during the stillness of the night.

What motivates you to create?

That is a really hard question to answer…

It’s an inner urge. I think it just has to get out! 

It’s like a cup which overflows and when it’s full, it spills over and that’s what makes interesting art then. Maybe that’s how it works?!

What do you think makes a good artist?

The ability to observe and to feel a lot of empathy for your surroundings. You have to be a good reader of the world and be able to find things within yourself to mirror them on to some sort of canvas. 

You also need time – time is a good teacher.

One has to find the intricate balance between truth, beauty and craftsmanship. That makes good art for me.

Maddy Underwood: A Month in the Letterpress Studio

I’m Maddy, a designer and printer, originally from Nashville, TN. I was so lucky to be able to spend the month of September playing on the letterpress and making use of FCAC’s extensive wood & metal type collection.

I had recently attended a workshop at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, where we explored using a laser engraver to make printing plates for letterpress. One thing I found really exciting there was using a combination of laser cut lines and thick gel medium to create a more painterly image for printing.

Because I had been drawing so many birds in my sketchbook recently (I am a bird enthusiast on the side!) I wanted to make some posters playing with this gel medium method. I also just wanted to make some posters for fun, using some of the wackier type I could find (such as the type on this Rochester, NY poster I did).

The work I did over the month helped me explore a new, more spontaneous side of letterpress that I’m excited to dive deeper into. Thank you to Megan and everyone at the Flower City Arts Center for having me!

Visual Arts on Juneteenth 2021

What exactly is Juneteenth? You’ve probably seen it listed on your calendar as a holiday, but maybe never really knew what it was. Juneteenth honors the day June 19th, 1865 when in Galveston, Texas, all those enslaved were justly freed. Two months after the end of the Civil War, General Gordon Granger (a Sodus, New York native) delivered the news to the enslaved in Galveston. This holiday has been celebrated by Black Americans since the late 1800s, but since the recent murder of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans, there has been a renewed interest in this holiday.

Today, some celebrate in backyards with friends, family, and lots of food, but some cities hold larger events such as parades and festivals. Juneteenth has also been called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day,” and “Emancipation Day.” If you’d like to know more about the history of Juneteenth, how it’s historically been celebrated, and why it’s so important, read this article from The New York Times, or if you want to read more about former Sodus resident General Gordon Granger, read this article from WXXI News.

A 5,000-square-foot mural in Galveston, Texas, at the spot where Gen. Gordon Granger issued the orders that resulted in the freedom of more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state. Reginald C. Adams of Houston is the artist. Photo Credit: Montinique Monroe for The New York Times

Visual artists play an important role in memorializing the events of Juneteenth. At the center of where it all happened, Galveston, Texas, a mural has been commissioned this year to mark the spot where the emancipation was announced. It will be titled “Absolute Equality.”

According to Reginald C. Adams, a Houston artist who was commissioned to create the art, “the mural sprinkles the hard bitter truth with sugar. The sugar is the beauty and energy of the mural, while the bitter truth is that for two and a half years, people were held in slavery against a federal declaration,” (Alina Tugend).

If you’d like to learn more about the mural and what it represents, read this recent article from The New York Times.

In 2020, a writer for Cosmopolitan magazine reached out to six Black artists asking them to make art about what Juneteenth means to them.
One of the artists Kendra Dandy said, “This illustration is meant to be a celebration of Black beauty and joy to give us light in these hard times,” (Raydene Salinas Hansen).

Another featured artist, Khadija Horton, said “I wanted to celebrate Juneteenth in fashion the same way we do the Fourth of July. I also wanted to highlight specific fashion iconography that comes from Black culture (e.g., butterfly clips, hoops, nameplates—things that I like to wear that make me feel proud) and then I incorporated illustrated typography into those elements.” If you’d like to look at the rest of the artists who made art for this article, visit the full article on Cosmopolitan.com here.

For reference, the painting above is Kendra Dandy’s piece and the one below is Khadija Horton’s artwork.

In some communities, Black Lives Matter activists are using Juneteenth as an opportunity to combine art with fundraising for the movement. This year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, some residents are making art to celebrate Juneteenth. “Art as Liberation: Celebrating Black Art in Pittsburgh,” will include a group exhibit by 15 local Black artists.

The event was created by internationally exhibited artist Mikael Owunna and will be facilitated by groups including 1Hood Media. 1Hood’s CEO Jasiri X, who is also a rapper, said this about the art “I really feel like the key to our liberation, the key to our freedom is expressed through our art.”

Morgan Overton is one of the artists at the event. This is her painting “Emerge.”

The event will be a fundraiser for the Antwon Rose II foundation, which was created by Michelle Kenney in honor of her son who was shot and killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer three years ago this month.

If you would like to read more about this event, visit the event page on 90.5 WESA, or if you would like to see Mikael Owunna’s portfolio, click here.

This year, in 2021, Rochester, NY is ramping up their Juneteenth celebrations and remembrance events this weekend including a Juneteenth Bike Ride, an Honoring Juneteenth event at Genesee Country Village & Museum with guest interpreters including Cheyney McKnight, founder of “Not Your Momma’s History”, a Teen Poetry Slam, and more. Visit this article at Democrat & Chronicle to see details of these events and others – many of which include visual arts components. We encourage you to attend as many as you are able!

Notably, Flower City Arts Center Community Outreach Coordinator, Rashaad Parker, will be participating in the Juneteenth Celebration at The Strong Museum of Play in his role as a Commissioner for the Greater Rochester Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. After a several year hiatus, The Strong Museum of Play has returned to its summer programming, and is once again hosting the community event during open hours where admission to the museum will be free on Saturday, June 19th from 11am-2pm. Details can be found on the event page here or on the flyer image below.

Flyer via The Strong Museum of Play

Blog post contributed by Flower City Arts Center intern and RIT student Madi Watson and Flower City Arts Center staff.

VIVA: Photographing Winter Landscapes

In this 4 week online class students took time to explore the work of photographers who focus on capturing the Winter Landscape. They studied basic camera settings, and different tips and tricks used when photographing during this special season. Most importantly the class shared and discussed personal work to learn from and inspire one another .

Below is a gallery of photographs created by students Helena Brissenden, Susan Lyons, Amanda Tierson, and Timothy Wilson.

Artist-in-Residence Jessica Cheng

We sat down to chat with 2020-21 Printmaking & Book Arts Resident Jessica Cheng to discuss her journey as an artist as well as our Artist Residency program here at Flower City Arts Center.

Cheng is a native of the Rochester area and grew up in the town of Pittsford, NY. She attributes the start of her artistic journey through her love of comics, drawing, and support from tremendous teachers. After high school, she attended Alfred University where she studied courses in Chinese & German languages and Social Science, and ultimately received a BFA in Fine Arts.

Cheng describes her experience at a liberal arts college vs. an art school as being important to her personally, as she could implement her studies in culture and society simultaneously in her art studies. She also made the decision to major in Fine Arts instead of Illustration, and focused her work on printmaking.

Cheng has been featured in exhibition at Harder Gallery at Alfred University and at The Cube Gallery in Alfred, NY.

Looking at Jessica Cheng’s current artwork, it’s evident that she desires to share her perspective as someone of mixed race, and her personal struggle to piece together and amplify remnants of her Chinese identity.

“Italian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, any family of immigrant peoples, has artifactual traditions they cling to,” Cheng reflects, “I call this their gabagool. A piece of immigrant culture unifying them as a people.”

Gabagool is the Italian-American word for a variety of cold cut ham.

“I want to explore what it means to be someone of a mixed-race or multicultural origin,” she continues, “and having a dialogue around that, and preserving the gabagool.”

Cheng states that the tumultuous election at the start of her time at university greatly influenced the topics she studied, which in turn motivated her style of printmaking. The current pandemic and the political landscape we have experienced recently – specifically with race, immigration, cultural appropriation, and xenophobia – are also topics Cheng hopes to exemplify and discuss within her work.

Jessica Cheng found out about the Artist Residency program at Flower City Arts Center through two past Printmaking & Book Arts Residents, Susan Doran (2016) and Paige Moreland (2018). Doran is the mother of one of Cheng’s friends and Moreland attended Alfred with Cheng and has a similar style of printmaking.

When asking Cheng what advice she would give to an artist who might be seeking a residency, she says, “Stay organized and stay connected within the community around you. Find opportunities and achievements, no matter how small, to keep you going and uplifted.”

To keep up with Jessica Cheng and her work, be sure to follow her Instagram @jessica.cheng.og. If you are an artist or know of an artist who might be interested in our program, please visit our Residencies page here – applications for the following year are due by April 15.

Below are some examples of Jessica Cheng’s artwork, along with a paragraph for context.

“xOx,” reductive woodblock print on paper, 7″x6″, 2021

“x-x,” reductive woodcut on found paper, 11″x7″, 2020

“xAx,” reductive linocut on Masa paper, 10″x7″, 2020

My current work at The Center has been focusing on reclaiming authority over Chinese and Chinese American visual culture as a method of anti-racism. Systemic de-Asianification of Asian cultures has endured millennia, and the practice of stripping Asian ownership of art, craft, culture, history, and material for non-Asian profit is alive as ever. My work so far in “x-x,” “xAx,” and “xOx” reclaims Chinese and Chinese diaspora imagery and symbolism to identify sacred visual culture for Chinese Americans. The ability for marginalized communities to have exclusive access and authority over their history, representation, media, culture, and means of production of those things is my preferred method of justice and progress. While products of that method absolutely can and should be shared with allies outside of the community, some things must be reserved for it to be true justice.

Jessica Cheng

VIVA: Photographing Plants and Flowers

During this 4 week class students met virtually, and studied elements of photography, and techniques for photographing plants and flowers. Building on what we learned each week students went out and photographed, we shared our images, and discussed our love of nature.

Below are the photographs of talented students and photographers Helena Brissenden, and Amanda Tierson.

Helena Brissenden

Amanda Teirson

DIY Camp!


Hello All, Liz here. Coronavirus threw everyone into a world we were not expecting. Suddenly we had to socially distance, and stay home. We were not going to let that keep us from learning and exploring photography. During DIY Camp students discovered a number of different photography projects they could do at home with everyday materials. We met twice a week via zoom, once to explore science and photography topics, and once to share the results of these explorations. This class was made free to students through funding from the William & Sheila Konar Foundation.

These images are a result of the students creativity and hard work, hope you enjoy!


We studies Pepper’s Ghost Effect, and made pyramids out out transparency paper to create a hologram using cellphones or tablets!



Light Painting

Did you know photography means “writing with light”. Students learned how to take pictures that captured light trails!




Arlen & Finch

Arlen & Finch

Arlen & Finch








Miniature Faking

We looked at the artwork of photographers like Michael Wu who use different camera techniques to make small objects and toys appear large. Students then practiced what they learned.













Earth Art

We looked at the work of earth artists like Andy Goldsworthy. We discussed different ideas and techniques which students then put into practice.










Anthotype is a process that uses plants and spices to create photographs. Experimenting with how sunlight can bleach and shift the pigments in natural materials.

Arlen & Finch

Arlen & Finch

Arlen & Finch


Image Transfer

Students tested out different methods for transferring an image, including using wood and glue, and even just tape!






TRAC: Exploring Photography *Online*

“During this 8-week class students will explore digital & darkroom photography, digital art, and alternative processes like cyanotypes.”

This is the class description students had based their decision on, their decision to sign up for the spring session of TRAC: Exploring Photography. As you’ve already guessed, I’m sure, this is not how the Spring 2020 session went. So how did we explore photography? We discussed some technical decisions one may make when making a digital photograph, even with a cell phone! We talked about how different lighting informs a photograph. We looked at bodies of photographic work and discussed decisions made about composition and sequencing. Students worked towards their own cohesive body of work and wrote about their final series. 

As different as the class was from the one they signed up for, five teens showed up every Tuesday afternoon for eight weeks straight. Their active participation, despite the hardship of the past few months, inspired me deeply. They listened, they shared, they learned. I feel confident in that, based on the work they produced and shared with me and with each other. One student willing to share one of said bodies of work is Mikayla Guck. Please enjoy Mikayla’s series, “The Creative Process”


The Creative Process

It is more than what an artist makes. There is beauty, too, in the simplicity of the art supplies that create a masterpiece. I think, as artists, we often put pressure on ourselves to create a final product that blows people away. But to me, the time and thought and materials that go into what we create have just as much value as our creations.

I took these pictures with my camera because I wanted to capture as much detail as possible in order to get a look at seemingly ordinary art supplies. For me, creativity is sparked through color and contrast, and I displayed that with both the colors of the rainbow and the glow of metallics. In some of the photos I used a mirror in order to reflect my subject, in a way we might see our own reflection in our artwork.

Ultimately, understanding and appreciating our creative process will help us create art that we can connect with and use to understand our creative drive. For me, and probably many other creatives, seeing growth in my art comes not from making good pieces, but from a greater knowledge of how and why I am creating. 

– Mikayla Guck

TRAC: Exploring Photography *Online*

“During this 8-week class students will explore digital & darkroom photography, digital art, and alternative processes like cyanotypes.”

This is the class description students had based their decision on, their decision to sign up for the spring session of TRAC: Exploring Photography. As you’ve already guessed, I’m sure, this is not how the Spring 2020 session went. So how did we explore photography? We discussed some technical decisions one may make when making a digital photograph, even with a cell phone! We talked about how different lighting informs a photograph. We looked at bodies of photographic work and discussed decisions made about composition and sequencing. Students worked towards their own cohesive body of work and wrote about their final series. 

As different as the class was from the one they signed up for, five teens showed up every Tuesday afternoon for eight weeks straight. Their active participation, despite the hardship of the past few months, inspired me deeply. They listened, they shared, they learned. I feel confident in that, based on the work they produced and shared with me and with each other. One student willing to share one of said bodies of work is Carina Christman. Please enjoy Carina’s series, “Backyard Oasis”