For the past two years, Toronto-born visual artist Julia Dault has lived with her art-critic husband, Brian Sholis, in an apartment on the top floor of a restored brownstone in the Sunset Park neighbourhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. The brownstone is located a few short blocks from the studio where she creates the abstract paintings and hand-shaped Formica sculptures recently showcased in The Ungovernables, an exhibition of work by international artists under 40 at New York’s New Museum. Her next solo show is in July at White Cube Bermondsey in London. To keep her creative juices flowing, Dault frequently retreats to her sunlit living room, her favourite room in the apartment.
“It’s a great pleasure to crack open the windows on a weekend morning, pile up the various sections of The New York Times between us on the couch and listen to the ships sound their horns as they pass through the nearby bay,” says the artist, who graduated in 2008 with a master of fine arts degree from Parsons The New School for Design, where she now teaches. “On such mornings, we’re reminded that our oasis of calm is itself located on an island.”
“Our apartment is filled with books, all organized alphabetically and by category. The shelves on the left are dedicated to books on American history, as Brian is pursuing a PhD in the subject. The shelves on the right contain our novels and books of literary criticism. Art history books, artists’ monographs, non-fiction, travel and poetry line the walls in the dining room. Brian and I installed the shelves ourselves, but, after a terrifying crash in the night, the fiction shelves had to be reinforced by a hired professional. Oh, the weight of all that prose!”
“The fireplace is one of two in the apartment, though, sadly, neither is functional. Our landlady is a mosaic artist who pointed out to us the beautiful late-19th-century tiles on the floor in front of it. The lovely decorative metalwork offsets the disappointment we feel on cold nights.”
“The silvery reflective boxes on the mantel are a sculpture by an artist friend named Tony Feher. He wrapped various paper packages – the box your bottle of Aspirin might come in, for example – in aluminum tape. The numerous pieces can be rearranged at will, like building blocks. Sometimes we stack them, sometimes they’re spread out along the mantel; I like to rearrange the pieces every week or so.”
“The small couch in the centre of the room was made by Gus*, a Canadian modern-furniture company with a New York outlet two blocks from our previous apartment. Given its proximity to our place, we decided to deliver the couch ourselves. Walking it up Seventh Avenue was quite the adventure. We nearly gave up and set up an impromptu living room in the middle of the sidewalk. But, obviously, we persevered.”
“These are the original 19th-century narrow-board floors, which run through the entire apartment. I grew up in a large house with hardwood floors, so have a fondness for them.”
“The plants are my domain. The spider plants are all relatives, all grown from offshoots, and the tulips we purchased from our neighbourhood hardware store. I could not resist the yellow.”