Years 26 • Lives and creates Cleveland’s AsiaTown • Learned Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Ore.
Story by Jane Kaufman | Featured photo by Amber Ford
For printmaker and painter Juliette Thimmig, the artistic process often starts with a walk to uninhabited spaces within Cleveland’s AsiaTown.
She carries a sketchbook with her, along with pencils, pens and sometimes watercolors, using them to make drawings and notes about the slices of the world she observes.
“It’s so quiet down here,” Thimmig says. “There are so many pockets that are seemingly city that don’t feel city at all once you’re standing in them.”
Thimmig’s portfolio includes prints, mostly bold black woodcuts that speak to the state of the world and the environment, and colorful paintings with a powerful use of black, referencing that opaque woodcut style.
Thimmig grew up in Bainbridge Township on the Auburn line. As a child, she found herself drawn to both animals and nature. It was then that she first did observational drawings.
“I really liked growing up in rural Ohio,” she recalls. “It’s beautiful. It’s quiet, lots of frog sounds. And there was plenty to draw.”
Thimmig, who works as a shop technician and shop manager at Zygote Press also in AsiaTown, says it was her grandmother, Heidi Stull, who inculcated her interest in and appreciation for the making of art.
Stull, a native of Germany, opened a gallery in her Bainbridge Township home in 1988 through the early 1990s, introducing friends and neighbors to the works of European artists. Later, when Stull hosted Thimmig and her three siblings on visits, she encouraged them to produce works of art while they were with her – be it pottery, watercolor or prints.
“She really made it a point and made it a priority to make something with our hands,” Thimmig says. “So she kind of gave us the confidence that, if we make something, it’s worth something in the world.”
Thimmig attended Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Ore., where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in intermedia. She is largely a self-taught painter.
As well as giving her a grounding in her art and craft, living in Portland shifted Thimmig’s experience of living in rural versus urban settings.
“I think in the country, it’s easy to feel safe when you’re there,” she says. “And then when you move to a city and you’re surrounded by people, you feel even safer for some reason.”
She says AsiaTown is “insanely quiet.”
“It’s so comforting. The people, the food, the energy, the sounds,” she says. “It’s home for sure.”
After her walks, Thimmig spends time in her studio and plays music while she practices her craft: swamp pop, swamp blues, Motown, funk, blues, Thelonius Monk and Nina Simone.
“It plays a big part in my studio practice,” she says. “It kind of generates the mood and the intention.”
With eight presses available to her at Zygote Press, Thimmig has decisions to make – both about process and technique.
“It’s really wonderful in some ways, but if you are someone that has the attributes of, ‘I really love to learn, I love process, I love labor,’ I tend to try everything and like everything,” she says. “So it turns into a little bit of an indecision sort of situation.”
Eventually, though, Thimmig will settle on a process and begin creating, sometimes with a plan in mind.
“And sometimes that doesn’t even work to try and organize those things,” she says. “Sometimes it’s just a very emotional pull. … So just listen to my intuition, put on some music and get going.”
She said working during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging as an artist. While there has been plenty of material to work with, there has also been what Thimmig describes as a heaviness in the air.
“It’s a really odd sort of time because you would think it would be perfect for an artist that is an introvert and wants to be in the studio making things constantly and not worry about … social gatherings and things like that, but I think it takes a toll,” she says.
Thimmig, whose prints particularly say a lot about the state of the world, says she sees art and politics as intertwined.
“Even if you’re making landscape paintings and it feels irrelevant, it’s very much a political statement in my eyes,” she says. “It’s a pause from capitalism. It’s referencing the environment, so it’s got a lot underlying that is political in a sense. … Words right now are really polarizing. So I feel like images, in a sense, are sort of a way to disseminate information a little more broadly and bring people back together.”
“Juliette is a rare gem, and like a well-cut diamond, she brings this same integrity and dedication to her craft. This clarity shines in her paintings and prints. Her work deals with difficult themes through the perspective of the millennial generation, where her message is not particularly hopeful. In her painting, she delves deep into depictions of global warming outcomes and manufactured disasters in industrial wastelands like Cleveland. Her vivid relief prints, in contrast, explore cheerier landscapes but with a more uplifting curiosity. Her relief prints explore off-road escape routes through strawberry fields filled with carefully cut botanicals that take you on timeless road trips. Juliette has an innocence and appetite, much like Dana Schutz does, in discovering the stories and narratives of her time.”Liz Maugans, co-founder and former executive director of Zygote Press, and curator of the Dalad Collection and director of YARDS Projects at Worthington Yards
• View Thimmig’s work in Zygote Press’ virtual letterpress exhibition, “Make Ready for the Revolution!” on view through Nov. 30 at makereadyfortherevolution.tilda.ws.