With images of Plague Doctor Masks and Acqua Alta, the “Insomnia in Venice” paintings by June Julian refer both to the pandemic and to climate change. Julian’s art characteristically “addresses human and environmental themes of imbalance and regained equilibrium,” and through this series, continues to explore that trajectory.
Insomnia in Venice:
Venice, La Serenissima, in my insomnia, I hear you call me again. Why don’t you let me sleep?
Can traditional easel painting effectively communicate contemporary global issues? The Insomnia in Venice paintings point to climate change and Acqua Alta in damp, lamp lit calli and canals. Since living in Venice many years ago, I am still haunted by the extraordinary spell of its deep past and its present threatened status as a cautionary tale for coastal cities everywhere.
The Plague Doctor:
The Plague Doctor mask is an appropriate symbol for our contemporary times. Historically, doctors wore the Medico della Peste mask while making their rounds in Venice during the Black Plague. Its characteristic long beak was stuffed with aromatic and medicinal herbs that were thought to be protective. By employing the iconic mask and the atmospheric effects of curative myrtle smoke, the Plague Doctor paintings refer to the miasma of obfuscation surrounding the Covid 19 virus.
Feature image: Venice 5 (detail)