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Chopping Block: Ursula X Young

This week we chatted it up with painter and designer Ursula X Young, whose works have been featured in several magazines, countless album covers of dance music labels including Om records and Safe In Sound Music, and murals in Miami, Richmond and San Francisco. She gave us some insight on her world travels, inspiration, and love for electronic music.

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POW: One thing I immediately noticed about your art was the use of the different colors that make up all of your subjects skin tones. Its never just an olive or nude color, which I found to be quite interesting! Is there a reason you paint your girls this way?

Ursula: I like that most of the characters in my paintings can be from anywhere; I find women from all backgrounds (from South America to Eastern Europe to Asia and India) relate to the women in my paintings so they become almost multi-racial. I also really enjoy putting the paint down in textures - it becomes my meditation in the painting - where the line work and details need a lot of my attention, the mottled palette is something I can be really loose with and build up in an almost 3 dimensional way.

uxy 1Dream within a Dream by Ursula X Young

POW: I read that you are originally from Northern England and have both traveled and lived in many places, including San Francisco.  How has your world travels altered your art, if at all?

Ursula: Yes, travel has definitely affected my work. People often ask me if the women in my paintings are people I know, and some of them are based on women I know... but so many of them are a melding of faces and people I have met along my travels to Asia, India, South and Central America. Also the backgrounds I use, whilst sometimes imaginary - and very often San Francisco inspired from my 10 years living there - are often dreamlike interpretations of distant places I have visited. 

POW: Of all the different mediums available I notice that you seem to favor painting on wood, is there something about wood that you prefer over the other mediums?

Ursula: I do like to paint on wood, although I am comfortable painting on other surfaces, I like that I can sometimes use wood as a background in itself. Recently I have been enjoying working with stains and other mediums on wood creating different backgrounds as a starting point for my paintings. My last solo show 'Against the Grain' at Luna Rienne Gallery in San Francisco was an entire show dedicated to finding new ways of working on wood in different mediums. It allowed me to explore much further than working on canvas or other surfaces.

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Madame Butterfly by Ursula X Young

POW: My favorite piece of yours in our POW collection would definitely have to be “Madame Butterfly”. Can you tell me more about your inspiration for this piece?

Ursula: In 2007 I did an opera series as a solo show, the 5x5' Madame Butterfly painting was the star of the show, it now hangs in a home in Marin and the signed limited run giclee prints I made of it sold out pretty fast. Its nice to bring it back as one of the Prints on Wood options.

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Dancing Like There is No Tomorrow by Ursula X Young

POW: I read somewhere that you’ve been an avid electronic music fan since the early 90’s. What are some of your favorite artists? Has your love for this particular kind of music shaped your art in any way?

Ursula: Yes for sure, house music and the scene surrounding it has been part of my life since I was 15 and going to raves in Northern England. I fully immersed myself in the culture whilst living in New York City and San Francisco in the 90's. The colorful, joyous, celebratory lifestyle has certainly become absorbed in the narrative of my paintings to this day. My husband is also a music producer/DJ and although our life has changed significantly since moving to the woods and having a child, we still try to keep one toe in that world and get out and dance once in awhile...

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.56.12 PMThe Celestial Gardner by Ursula X Young

POW: I’m originally from Miami and was recently watching the video that was put together during the Few and Far art mural collaboration. What was it like working with other female artists on such a huge project? Did you take any inspiration from the city with you?

Ursula: My work with Few and Far has been really inspiring, it's really great to be a part of an all-female art collective, there is definitely power in that. As artists, I think so much of our time is spent alone working in our studios, so I've loved being a part of the mural projects I have done with Few and Far, especially the social, collaborative side to it, that brings it outside and lets folks watch us work. It’s a very different way of working than how I work in my studio - but I have loved the new challenges that it brings up. The Miami wall was epic (and I don't use the term lightly!) we had just a few days working for hours in the blazing sun and late into the night to create that huge wall in Wynwood, and the end result was amazing - all the women on that wall are so talented, I loved the buzz of the Art Basel crowds surrounding us and all that amazing art in one place. It felt powerful being an all-female wall too. It was my first visit to Miami and I loved it so much more than I expected I would. We're already planning for this years Few and Far wall there this December.

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For more information about Ursula X. Young, please visit: http://ursulayoung.com/