"Drawing on Your Fears"

Oct. 14, 2013 ASHLAND, Ohio - The Coburn Gallery at Ashland University will host an exhibition titled “The Fear Project,” which will feature 44 drawings and mixed media artworks created by Ohio artist Julie M. Elman.

The exhibition will run from Oct. 31 through Nov. 22, and an opening reception is planned for Thursday, Oct. 31, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. During the reception, the gallery patrons will have the chance to have their fears recorded and incorporated into an artwork that will be exhibited alongside Julie Elman’s “The Fear Project.”  The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12 noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and is free and open to the public. For more information about the reception or exhibition, call 419.289.5652 or visit the Gallery on Facebook.

artwork by Julie Elman

Elman is an associate professor in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University in Athens, where she teaches courses in publication design. She has an MFA in photography from Ohio University and a BFA in commercial art from the University of Dayton. She worked in the newspaper industry for 15 years, as a designer, photojournalist and picture editor.

She is co-author of The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook, 7th edition, with Tim Harrower (McGraw-Hill, 2012). Elman designed the New York Times best-selling photography book “The Rise of Barack Obama” (Triumph Books, 2008) for Pete Souza, who is the chief White House photographer. She also designed the book “Stories from the Anne Grimes Collection of American Folk Music” (Ohio University Press, 2010). She has been working on the Fear Project since February 2012.

While sitting at her kitchen table one evening, Elman started the Fear Project. She simply wanted to explore other people’s fears through their words and her visuals. As a former newspaper designer, she felt this compulsion to approach her project in a more journalistic way. She asked people what their fears were, and she either wrote them down, or she used her iPhone to record them describing their fears.

The topics have run the gamut and have included failure, losing a child, centipedes in the shower, the impulse to jump off high places, small holes, escalators, dying alone and needles. Participants in this project have included neighbors, students, colleagues, family members — and as the project has grown, more and more people she did not know have reached out to her with their fears.

She decided that for the first seven months, she would create and post online three fear pieces a week.

What started out as a personal exercise to ignite her own creative process, slowly evolved into something more universal and more substantive.
After she created her 90th fear piece, a mini goal she set for herself, she just kept going and never looked back. She has created more than 125 fear pieces so far.

She says, “Admit it. You’re afraid. Very afraid. Of something. Spiders, perhaps? Getting a root canal at the dentist? The stranger out there who will kidnap your kids? I illustrate people's fears. Working with their words, I just try to visualize what those fears could possibly look like,” Elman says. “I don't dwell too much — I just let my intuition point the way, and I post my pieces no matter how I feel about them. It's a good way to get over any fears I have about the creative process. Fear not, I keep telling myself. Fear not.”

Most recently the Fear Project was featured on NPR The Picture Show: "How to Draw Out Your Worst Fears," written by Kainaz Amaria, which featured a story about the Fear Project and a slideshow of 13 fear pieces. Check it out.

Start Date: 
Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 4:30pm to Friday, November 22, 2013 - 5:00pm

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