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Julie Rotblatt-Amrany (born July 23, 1958) is an American sculptor and painter identified[by whom?] with the resurgence of the figure in modern art. Rebelling against the academic bias against figurative art in the 1970s and 1980s, she has brought new vitality to the subject of the human form by integrating into her work recent discoveries in astronomy, physics, and medicine. Her pieces often juxtapose polar opposites such as serenity and tension, and are underpinned philosophically by a view of the universe as a process of endless transformation, with no true beginnings or ends. She has produced a wide array of public art, honoring figures from veterans to sports and film icons to astronauts, while simultaneously creating more experimental paintings and sculptures that explore her personal vision. She is co-founder of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, a studio that brings to the United States the aims and traditions of the ateliers of Europe, as well as The Julia Foundation, a not-for-profit arts organization.
- The Spirit: Michael Jordan, heroic sculpture
- Healing Energy (painting); Petroushka I and II, sculpture
- Quest for Exploration: James A. Lovell, installation
- Veterans Memorial Park in Munster, Indiana, 9-acre site
- George Halas Memorial, epic bas-relief
- Chicago White Sox 2005 World Champions, epic bas-relief
- Preservation of the Union, epic bas-relief
Early life and training
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Julie Rotblatt grew up in the northern suburb of Highland Park. Passionate about the arts and dance, she completed a B.A. in art at the University of Colorado, Boulder, spending her junior year abroad at the University of Bordeaux, France. Enchanted by the works of Michelangelo, she found her own fascination for the human figure at odds with the prevailing mood in academia, where her professors considered figurative art passé. Swimming against the flow, Rotblatt took training at the Art Institute of Chicago in the figure—drawing, painting, and sculpting from life. After moving to the San Francisco Bay area in 1982, she focused on figurative studies at the College of Marin and dissected cadavers at Indian Valley College in Novato in a program intended for medical students. She also studied from the model under the direction of sculptor Manuel Neri at the University of California, Davis.
Rotblatt participated in various art projects in the Bay area, including assisting on a mural for the Oakland Art Museum. Under Manuel Neri she developed an interest in carving marble, and after two years she traveled to Italy. In Perugia in 1985 she took part in a program offered by Boston University, drawing from life and experimenting with stone.
Afterward she moved north to Pietrasanta—to the region where Michelangelo had opened new marble quarries and created many of his masterpieces. She began work at Studio Sem, which executed commissions for major sculptors such as Henry Moore. There she created Transference in Time, which reflected her growing fascination with the stream-like quality of space and time and the eternal nature of consciousness. Switching to Santoli’s Studio, she devoted several months to the creation of a large bas-relief on a one-ton block of rose-colored slate from Assisi. Titled “Holding the Source,” the work was later lost to history after being shipped to the United States—destroyed in a northern California earthquake.
While in Pietrasanta, Rotblatt met her future husband, Israeli artist Omri Amrany. After marrying in 1987 and living for two years at the Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov Meuchad in Israel’s Jordan Valley, Julie and Omri returned to the United States.
Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany
Settling in the Chicago area, they endured the financial hardships that came with the choice of art as a profession, teaching and taking odd jobs to survive. Julie took on the added responsibilities of motherhood, as their son Itamar had been born in Israel in 1989.
In 1992 Julie and Omri jointly founded the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany, a bold attempt to establish in the United States the type of facility they had encountered in Italy. Conceived as both an educational center and a workplace, the studio also took on commissions. As they struggled to make the new endeavor a success, they won what was to be one of the defining projects of their career—the heroic bronze of Michael Jordan at Chicago’s United Center. For the work they received an Award of Excellence from the Chicago Bar Association.
Only days away from completing the clay of the sculpture, Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer. The experience altered her life and her art. The healing process inspired several works, including Healing Energy for the Kellogg Cancer Care Center in Evanston, Illinois, and Dancing Electrons for the Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University in Springfield. The brush with death also deepened her interest in consciousness and how it integrates with matter, on how matter and energy transform, and on the evolution of human intelligence.
2000 and beyond
Following her recovery from chemotherapy, Julie took part in major shows such as the Beaux Arts Invitational Exhibition in Paris and the Shanghai Art Fair 2000. In 2001 she was invited to mount a one-woman exhibition at the historic Chateau d’Amboise, the royal residence of the French king where Leonardo da Vinci worked in his last years and near his final resting place. Her “Theatre of the Soul” exhibition featured 30 sculptures and paintings and attracted great media and public attention.
The first decade of the 2000s proved the most productive of her career. The largest single project was Veterans Memorial Park (2002), a 9-acre site in Munster, Indiana comprising six vignettes that included bronze sculptures, bas reliefs, laser-engraved images, and found art. Other notable works were: Quest for Exploration: James A. Lovell (2005), an installation at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium; Preservation of the Union (2006), an epic bas-relief for the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois; Chicago White Sox 2005 Championship Piece (2007), an epic bas-relief of bronze and granite outside U. S. Cellular Field; Chick Hearn (2010), a bronze figure at Staples Center in Los Angeles; and Jackie Chan Tribute (2010), a heroic bronze for the JC Group in Shanghai. She was also instrumental in the creation of The Julia Foundation, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of establishing a sculpture garden in historic Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
As the second decade of the new century began, Julie continued to focus on figurative art, creating Jerry West (2011) for Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Scottie Pippen (2011) for Chicago’s United Center. Regarding her figurative public art, she explained, “I believe we are giving something hopeful and energizing back, as we explore the lives of heroic figures and hold up parts of their human and soulful experience that can inspire others.”
Style and methods
Rotblatt-Amrany considers her difficult-to-define style as “evolutionary symbolism.” Its roots are conventional—realism, surrealism, and often fantasy—but these provide merely a point of departure. Her approach is to start with a broad concept but then give free rein to creativity—to let the work become itself. In her Petroushka sculptures, for example, she began with the subject matter of the folkloric tale of the puppet who becomes a man. However, the pieces evolved as metaphors of her own inner vision—humans as independent, but mortal, with only limited control over their fate, endlessly evolving and transforming. She is fascinated by the mind-body connection—that is, consciousness and how it affects and integrates with matter. Throughout her works, there is a tendency to incorporate polar opposites—both serenity and tension, both contortion and repose.
Predisposed to stretch as an artist, she has plans for installations that integrate sculpture, projection, and light to simulate transformations in the cosmos—the warping of space and time, the collapse of matter into black holes, its reemergence in unseen dimensions, and how our awareness of these transformations will impact us as a species.
- The Spirit: Michael Jordan, Chicago: A Pictorial Celebration, Dennis H. Cremin, Elan Penn, 2006, p. 144
- Veteran's Memorial in Munster, Indiana, A Native's Guide to Northwest Indiana, Mark Skertic, 2003, p. 137
- Fort Sheridan's Website, Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany Archived March 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- Orange County News, Jerry West Statue
- name="Chicago Sports News", Chicago White Sox 2005 Championship Season Archived September 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- Amrany,Omri, Rotblatt,Julie, Cascading Melody, Oakton Sculpture Park: Skokie
- The Artist's Main Website – The Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany