photo by Angelina Aragon

Artist of the Month: Julie Hooker

Written by Judy Harper Category: Arts Issue: January 2019
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Julie Hooker doesn’t need watercolors, oils or acrylics to create amazing artworks.

Julie “Jooj” Hooker doesn’t need watercolors, oils or acrylics to create amazing artworks. She digs dirt – and then paints with it.

“People assume I mix it with paint, but it’s just dirt,” she says.

Originally from Michigan, the self-taught artist has dabbled in art all her life, including a stint in Los Angeles painting set designs. Her illuminated stained-glass mosaics and wood carvings have garnered prestigious awards, with custom murals and works on leather and bone also part of her repertoire. Dirt entered the picture in 2007.

“I was hiking in Sedona and my boots were all dusty. I looked at the red dirt and thought, ‘I bet I can turn this into paint.’ I began to play with it and found that soil has a mind of its own.”

The Scottsdale artist grinds the dirt to a fine consistency with a mortar and pestle and adds a binder such as gum arabic. Her palette includes crushed lava rock, mica, charcoal and dirt from across the globe, including Jerome, Prescott, Utah, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Aconcagua in Argentina and Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko. Brighter tones are achieved by adding turmeric and paprika. “The colors complement each other because it’s nature’s palette.”

Hooker’s latest project is a series of dirt paintings to bring awareness to the plight of the Salt River wild horses. “I was raised with horses, so it’s a natural fit. I’m a cross between a little kid and a scientist.”

Find her work at Buffalo Collection and the Thunderbird Artists Waterfront Fine Art & Wine Festival, February 8-10, both in Scottsdale. joojart.com