Thirty-five miles upriver from La Crosse is Fountain City, a small town nestled against the bluffs that seems a throwback to earlier times. There you will find Julia Crozier’s paintings hanging peacefully in the Red Horse Gallery. Hardly a cosmopolitan mecca, this gallery is a truly unique find and so is Crozier’s work.
Many artists tend to limit themselves to a certain style or medium, but there are those who venture outside the art box. Julia Crozier is one of those adventurers. Her work crosses style and medium boundaries, but the root of her inspiration stays the same, nature and her love for it. But, there are contradictions, the flip side being her fascination with the visual elements of small towns and cities.
Most visually soothing are her meditative paintings of natural elements, roots, vines and especially, lotus plants. Many trips to Perrot Park in Trempealeau has given her a library of images to work from, photographs that eventually translate themselves into meticulously detailed paintings. The best and most intense are the Lotus Plant images. Beginning with a black sheet of paper, Crozier uses oil pastels (oil paint in stick form) that she gently shapes and blends to create exotic images of local fauna. The effort is time consuming and exhausting.         “After doing several of them I really need to take a break,” Crozier says. And these breaks manifest themselves in unique ways.
A trip to the Grand Canyon was inspiration for a river painting of racing water following the contours of polished time worn rock that creates a vertigo sensation, where your eye is moved to red scumbled rock textures that hang above the river, to detailed foliage at the water’s edge. Another piece titled, “Subterranean River” is more abstract, a perspective of the river looking down. Washed areas of blue and sand colors interact to create a landscape, but one that seems more reflective of an inner personal experience than a natural observation.
But, probably the most unique work is represented by her abstracted cityscapes. Their layering and fragmentation are reminiscent of Marc Chagall with hints of Paul Klee and George Groz. These images always have a river and the buildings are jumbled stacked images that force the viewer to explore a maze like construction in order to figure out what’s happening. The colors and forms are loose and playful, but according to Crozier, all is not what it appears to be as in “City Aflame.” At first glance one sees a pleasant town, but upon closer inspection a darker mystery emerges.
These paintings started out as earlier compositions that weren’t quite right or didn’t work and were painted over and often, repainted again. The artifacts of this process are buried there in the final image creating a kind of visual archeology. Crozier says, “It is freeing to undo an idea, to not treat every creation as precious, to create anew.”
Croziers most playful pieces are two small box-like creations about 8 inches square and 2 inches deep titled “Little House” and “Dragon Invasion.” These are almost childlike in their execution, but are very deliberate, intending to be exactly what they are. This is probably the most difficult part of creating art, that idea of intention, to make something seem easy and obvious when it is not.