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Art in the Outdoors: Julia Matejcek creates her artwork by capturing moments outdoors that escape the touch of humans

February 28, 2023

Art in the Outdoors: Julia Matejcek creates her artwork by capturing moments outdoors that escape the touch of humans

Julia in a photo with her camera and a deer

Julia Matejcek is one of the artists from this year’s Ohio State Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Thesis Cohort featured in Big Cloud at Urban Arts Space from February 14–March 18, 2023.

  1. Where does your love for the outdoors stem from? What do you like to do outdoors?

My work is a response to the more-than-human world—the greater community of landscape and animals that includes yet decenters the human. I grew up in the Czech Republic and came to the US about ten years ago. Through my practice, I’m building a relationship with the land here, which still feels unfamiliar to me.  

For me, spending time in the landscape usually looks like taking a lot of walks. I like to walk in the city’s ravine parks. In Old North Columbus and Clintonville, there is a large urban deer population, and I see them quite often. I also make trips to the national forest in southern Ohio from time to time.  

  1. Do you have any special memories related to the outdoors?  

Yes, many of them! A childhood memory that stands out is collecting chestnuts in the park near my house and then making art projects out of them. 

  1. When you’re outdoors, what are you looking for? What qualifies as photo-worthy to you? How do you share these experiences with others through your art?

That’s a great question. I have recently read a lot of Czech folklore filled with transforming bodies. People’s souls flock to trees at night, then reinhabit their human bodies again at dawn. The stories are really about a relationship with nature, where neither nature nor humans can exist without each other. Walking in the landscape with my camera, I see porous edges that blur the lines between bodies. Scattered tufts of fur blend in with the ground, and the form of a deer’s stomach becomes a mushroom bloom.  

  1. What’s something that energizes you or a guilty pleasure you’re willing to share? 

Not a guilty pleasure, but I love learning about dog training. My dog and I dabble in agility, which is a lot of fun.  

  1. What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now? 

Many artists are practicing here, and I’ve found it to be a very kind and open community. It has been really gratifying getting to know the different galleries in Columbus. It feels special to go to openings at several spaces, sometimes in the span of a single weekend, and have each of them feel totally different. 

  1. How does your artwork relate to the exhibition’s Big Cloud title? 

As a cohort, we first connected by texting each other photos of the clouds in Ohio, which are very different from the clouds in other parts of the country. In a way, that impulse to photograph what impacts you about your environment and then share it is really at the heart of my art practice.   

  1. Is there anything else that is important to know about you or your work?  

In addition to using a camera to make photographs, I also make photograms. Photograms are a way to make photographs without a camera. For part of my thesis work, I made graphite rubbings of the trees I encounter daily. Then, in the darkroom, I laid the drawings against the photosensitive chemistry on a sheet of photo paper and passed light through to take a photograph. In this process, I am using the rubbing as a kind of “negative.” The photograms are wonderfully abstract, though they draw out similar textures and qualities of light to my camera-based photographs. I’m excited about how they can bring our awareness to the abstraction inherent to photography.


Big Cloud offers an inspiring look at a diverse group of emerging artists from The Ohio State University Department of Art. See the exhibition at Urban Arts Space from February 14–March 18, 2023.

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