Freedom Fighter How Julia Freeman’s art is combating “Big Pharma”

On any given night in Seattle, residents are lucky enough to have a huge array of local artistic events at their disposal. One of the curators and creators of this rich, eclectic art scene is Julia Freeman. In addition to being a prolific visual artist, with her work having been shown all over Seattle and the world, Freeman also helps run The Alice, a contemporary art gallery in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Her body of work explores many themes, but one that is recurring is her distaste for our culture’s reliance on, and alteration by, pharmaceuticals.

“Recreationally, I don’t dive into that in my own work, but opioids are such a huge problem, and opioids are part of what I dived into in “Quiet Alter.” And just seeing how that has evolved with the health and recreational concerns, it’s definitely the one thing sort of competing with cannabis recreationally.”

This theme emerges in the bloodied, feminized heads of pharmaceutical CEOs in her last exhibit,Drug Dealers.” In 2016, Freeman had an installation exhibit “Quiet Alter,” which explored the ways in which pharmaceuticals are “quietly altering” our world. The exhibit included collage, sculpture, video, a board game and an essay from Cristien Storm. It’s this mindful dedication to mental well-being that is part of what makes Freeman’s art so intriguing. Cannabis has a long history of oppression from the pharmaceutical industry. Freeman who occasionally cannabis vaporizes cannabis caught up with CULTURE to chat about her history as an artist, her work and how she feels about cannabis’ role in dismantling the problems associated to the pharmaceutical world.

Are you from Seattle originally?

I’m from a small town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. But I moved here 13 years ago and have been here ever since.

Can we get a brief description of your personal history as an artist?

I moved to Seattle for grad school at [the] University of Washington, so that was the impetus for me to move to Seattle. From there on I have had a couple studios, starting about 11 to 12 years ago. In addition to my studio practice, I also run, co-founded and curate for The Alice, a gallery in Georgetown. I’ve shown internationally and nationally as well. The show that’s highlighted most in my head is an exhibition on the DMZ (de-militarized zone) between North and South Korea. A lot of artist communities have popped up in that region, because the land is really cheap. So, I was in an exhibition there.

Judging by your past exhibition “Quiet Alter,” and your most current exhibition “Drug Dealers,” it seems that pharmaceuticals are a theme in your work. Where do you see cannabis fitting into that, both for medical and recreational use?

The pieces you’ve seen from “Drug Dealers” are portraits of 16 CEOs from large pharmaceutical corporations, that I’ve slowly kind of tortured their portraits,and manipulated them. And the last process I put them through, I made them all into women. Because I thought that would be the worst thing that could happen to them. It was about how these greedy, mostly all white men and one white woman, who really have no consideration for the well-being of others and the sort of profit industry that is ruling our society. That being in the form of quietly altering our state of consciousness and how we function in the world through pills that have been legalized and condoned by our government, and then these people are profiting off of it.

So the connection to cannabis, is that it has been purposefully left out of the equation. Because, I don’t know all of the laws, but because of patenting, and because of the fact you can’t use it to torture people, and you can’t get people addicted as lifelong customers. They’ve created a binary against the cannabis industry for sure in order to make their industry profit more. Recreationally, I don’t dive into that in my own work, but opioids are such a huge problem, and opioids are part of what I dived into in “Quiet Alter.”

Is there any art, or a particular artist that you love to enjoy when you’re consuming cannabis?

Jessica Stockholder is really amazing. She’s a digital artist and she creates some really nice digital works that are transformative when you’re stoned.

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