"I had asked Julia to be part of my first show, Beautiful Dreamers, and getting to know her through the process of painting her portrait was truly an inspirational experience for me," says Sweterlitsch. "Not only is Julia a wonderful person, but her dedication to her art, ballet, as well as her entrepreneurial acumen in starting and growing Barre is truly impressive. Getting to know Julia inspired me to approach my painting with the same commitment and passion as she brings to dance."
As a portrait painter, Sweterlitsch was intrigued by the concept of a "serial portrait," or a series of portraits all about a single subject meant to capture different aspects of the subject's personality. Andrew Wyeth has, perhaps, the most famous "serial portrait" in his Helga series. Alex Katz created a similar project through his lifelong dedication to painting his wife, Ada. "I became interested in how the cumulative effect of a serial portrait can convey a greater understanding of an individual than a single image or moment. Once I met Julia, I realized I would be honored to attempt a 'serial portrait' of such an amazing woman," explains Sweterlitsch.
Sweterlitsch created her images for Julia based on a series of photo shoots she has taken of Erickson at her home/studio in Greenfield and the studios of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She was welcomed by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre to observe a studio rehearsal for Giselle where she created life-drawings of Julia, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre also graciously allowed Erickson and Sweterlitsch to use costumes for paintings that will highlight the artistry of PBT's dramatic productions while also showcasing specific moments of choreography. The centerpiece of the show will be a diptych of Erickson as Odette and Odile in Swan Lake.
Sonja Sweterlitsch: Julia is on exhibit from August 20th through September 14th.