The fall season has started and art buying is making a comeback! Here is an artist you won't want to miss. Julia Barello's work is unique in that her primary material is discarded medical imaging films, otherwise known as X-rays.


The material contains a range of photographic information, such as subtle details of the interior of the human body. Barello organizes and cuts the films into various patterns, shaping the film into leaves, birds and flowers which are then pinned to the wall in huge installations. The end result is a visual complexity of layered transparent color.


The artist attaches each element directly to the wall, with the pins varying in length to produce shadows of different intensity and size. The shadows that are created once the piece is finally installed are an important part of the finished product.


Barello has been using X-ray and unusable MRI film as a material since she was a graduate student in the early 1990s. The idea came to her when one area hospital agreed to provide her with the medical images that were destined for the trash due to errors in processing. But there was one condition: she was required to delete the patient's name from the top of the sheet of film to comply with the HIPPA laws protecting patient privacy. Hence, her act of dissecting and cutting was born.


Barello has a system to prep the medical imaging film for art making. When she retrieves the purged files from local hospitals, she divides the films according to hue. MRIs are reasonably consistent in color, while X-rays range from black to blue. Additionally, X-ray film can be dyed but MRI film is resistant to extra pigment.


Julia's pieces have varying dimensions and meanings. In her floral works, the forms become more opaque because they are stacked shapes held together with a pin. Once the film is dyed, the artist slices them either by hand with a surgical scalpel (ironic) or, more recently, with an industrial laser cutter. In Genome III (above), Barello is suggesting that the optical effect of shadows upon shadows, combined with X-rayed information layered on top of each other, references memories' complexities and opacity.


In a piece such as Swoop, a special installation at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Texas, El Paso, Barello encourages the 21st century viewer to reflect on present-day tendencies to over-examine our physical bodies. In various venues such as night clubs, health clubs and even medical facilities, we are observed, investigated and probed. This triggers classic associations with medical experiences because the specimens used are of a limited palette of black and grey, highlighting the information from the original MRI film.


What is most admirable about Julia Barello's work is that she connects us to the physical and personal experience as well as transports us away from it.


Julia Barello has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad and is currently a professor of art at New Mexico State Univeristy in Las Cruces, NM. She was recently awarded Best in Show at the 2008 Southwest Biennial at the Albuquerque Art Museum.


availability of work

There are approximately twelve pieces by Julia Barello that are available. They vary in size, subject matter and shape. The smallest work Poke measures approximately 32" x 32" x 5" deep. One of her round pieces Eddy measures 5.5 feet in diameter. One of her larger works Wild Onion measures approximately 75" x 192" x 6" deep. Commissions are possible as well.


Prices for Julia's work range between $3,500 and $6,500, depending on the size of the piece.

Categories: artist profiles