Julie Warren Conn is a sculptor with a penchant for exposing the hidden beauty within her materials. Her sculptures in marble, alabaster, and bronze are organic and abstract: a perfect contrast to the hard minerals and metals with which she works. Although Conn often sculpts in a style self-described as “form for form’s sake,” the flowing lines and intense contours in her work can often speak to a formal aesthetic that's clearest in her more representational pieces. These sculptures, which display influence from traditional artistic traditions, allow the viewer to see how Conn views the world while also contextualizing her work as a whole.
Among the most satisfying aspects of Conn's work is the textural quality of her materials, which play to the compositional and structural parts of her sculptures. Conn brings the beautiful variations of marble and alabaster to the surface, allowing these movements in stone to communicate additional layers of artistic interest. Other notable qualities in Conn’s work are her use of negative space and the cyclical aspects, full of double meaning and an energy that seems to flow into itself.
Julie Warren Conn born January 4, 1943 at Knoxville, Tennessee. From the time I was a small girl in East Tennessee, I imagined forms in tree branches, clouds and other natural objects around me. Although I had the spirit of an artist from that early age, opportunities to study art were limited during my childhood. My formal art training began in college, where I was awarded the first Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in Sculpture from the University of Tennessee. During the first ten years of my career, I welded art objects, building solid forms from flat sheets of steel. As a diversion from welding one day, I decided to complete a sculpture of Tennessee marble, which I had roughed out using only a hammer and chisel while in college. When I began to polish the stone and the beautiful qualities of coloration, veining and composition were revealed, I never had a desire to return to welding.
Today, I continue the extremely physical, direct-carving process of working stone. I use hand, pneumatic and electric tools, removing the stone and creating various shapes -- sometimes creating organic “form for form’s sake,” and at other times, producing abstract, figurative pieces. When producing commissioned work, I respond to the wishes of the client in developing an image or shape. After roughing out the stone, I spend hours grinding, sanding and polishing the flowing open surfaces. Many hours are spent with hand sanding as I push for a highly refined, smooth finish. My inspiration comes from personal relationships, the wonders of nature, and marvelous sculptures from around the world. I admire the entire spectrum of art from the old masters to contemporary artists, as well as many fine ethnic expressions.
The sculptures I create range in size from tabletop pieces, usually placed in private homes, to monumental works for corporate offices and public facilities. Several of my stone works have been cast in bronze. They are produced by a metal foundry through a complex process of making a mold from the original stone form, pouring and refining the sculptural shape, and using a chemical technique to create the desired patina and finish. I use a variety of patinas in giving character and color to the bronzes. With their lustrous patinas, often the bronzes are mistaken for stone.
Prior to my marriage to Dr. Philip Conn in 2001, a book covering my early works entitled, Julie Warren Martin: Sculptor of Stone, was written by Carolyn Boling, the former first lady of the University of Tennessee, and published in 1993. After Philip’s retirement from the presidency of Western Oregon University, we moved to Lexington, Kentucky. Presently, I maintain a studio and showroom in the nearby town of Winchester, Kentucky.
Since the late 1990s, I frequently instruct art classes on ocean cruise ships throughout the world. Experiencing the art treasures of many lands and cultures gives me fresh ideas and renewed motivation for sculpting.