By Jona Jaupi
The Last Supper plates. Art by Julie Green, all plates fired by Toni Acock; image courtesy of Julie Green.
Julie Green is a familiar name to many arts enthusiasts. Not only is she an art professor at Oregon State University (OSU), but she is also a nationally acclaimed talent who is well known for her continuous series, The Last Supper.
The Last Supper is a project characterized by painting American death-row inmates’ final meals, or their requested final meals, on ceramic plates. Green’s art project doubles as an advocate for abolishment of the death penalty. The artist actually grew up in a Midwestern Christian-conservative household that favored capital punishment.
“The margin of error in capital punishment was something I learned about in college [at the University of Kansas],” Green tells BTR. “The fact that there may be innocent people on death row is the reason that I keep making the plates.”
In her statement for The Last Supper, Green writes that she initially noticed the final meal requests because they were being publicized in newspapers and in a way that humanized death-row inmates.
“My motivation is to do this for our society, to encourage dialogue,” she says.
Green has been working on The Last Supper for over 10 years. The socially conscious series will be installed at the Block Museum at Northwestern University this summer. Green manages her extensive art project in a methodized manner.
California 21 June 1935. Hearty Breakfast. By Julie Green. 2013. Image courtesy of Julie Green.
“It has taken really good organizational skills to archive and document in alphabetical order by state and in chronological order by execution, 600 plates,” Green explains. “It sometimes feels like I’m doing my income taxes six times a year.”
Like any artist, Green’s work, from her overall message to her using ceramic plates, is certainly influenced by her upbringing and personal experiences. She explains that she chooses to use ceramics in part because she was “born in Japan where ceramics is highly revered and beloved.”
Green was a recipient of the 2011 Joan Mitchell Painter and Sculptors Grant. The artist plans on completing 50 plates a year until capital punishment is abolished, painting for exactly half of each year. When asked what her end goal as an artist is, Green responds, “Ideas equal material and the process is as important as the object.”
Green explains that she doesn’t have proud moments as an artist as much as she has moments where she is honored to be an artist.
“My greatest honor as an artist,” Green explains, “was to be included in The New York Times in article by Kirk Johnson.” A humbled Green says that she is, however, proud of her OSU students.
While painting is a paramount passion of Green’s, she also enjoys cooking, reading, hiking, and doing yoga. In the future she simply sees herself painting more and continuing the activities she loves.