Juliana Hatfield Says Goodbye To The Stage, Hello To Art School

Q: A big part of your identity is wrapped up in making music. How do you let go of that?

A: It’s so confusing. It is and was such a huge part of my life. I feel really good about not performing. I feel really happy about it. I just have to be doing something creative to feel good, and I am. And I don’t need to do it in front of an audience anymore.

Q: Does the urge to make art feel different or the same as the urge to make music?

A: I think it comes from the same place but is very different in execution. With music there’s more of a physical release. Not a release, really, because I was always really tightly wound. There was hardly any of that catharsis you hear about. But there is that physical part. It’s like doing a sport when you’re performing. You’re sweating. You’re using all these different parts of your body, singing and playing guitar, coordinating them. And I think painting is more about using different parts of my mind, maybe. It feels a little more intellectual. I’m just learning how to talk about it. It’s a whole other language. They’re both kind of forms of meditation, but painting is more interior, and obviously it’s more isolated. It suits me more. I’m a person that really likes to be alone a lot. But it’s harder on my mind to paint. It hurts my brain somehow, in a good way. Do you paint or draw?

Q: I have no talent whatsoever in that area.

A: Have you tried?

Q: Trust me. I’m no good.

A: But what’s good?

Q: What’s good is something that looks real or interesting or pleasing. I can’t draw a straight line. But it sounds like you were an artist long before you started doing music.

A: You know what’s so cool? My mother, who is thinking of selling the house I grew up in and is slowly cleaning out the house, she has this stash of paintings I did as a child. She showed them to me, a stack of things I did from the age of, like, four to nine, and I was really blown away. A lot of it I had no memory of doing, but I was painting a lot. I compared it to some of the stuff I’m doing now and there’s a lot of the same stuff.

Q: Like what?

A: There’s this one drawing of a turtle. The whole shell is this grid I did with colored pencils. I’m working on some screen prints with the same grid pattern. There’s this connection. Are you still writing songs?

Q: I am.

A: Are you liking it?

Q: More than anything. It’s like gas in my tank.

A: That’s so great. To have something that’s so exciting in the second half of life, I wish everyone could have that. I was really feeling stuck. Somehow I was trapped in this life. To be able to get out is such a great thing.

Q: I have to say your whole aura is different. There’s a lightness.

A: I feel happier.

Q: You’re actually sort of glowing.

A: I was talking with an old friend on the phone and he told me that I’m laughing more than I ever have. And I am. I’ll be watching a rerun of Seinfeld and I’ll be guffawing. I’m laughing really hard at stuff like that. I know I’m doing the right thing. Regardless of whether anyone thinks I have any artistic talent.

Q: I was looking at your website and saw a drawing of two chimps having sex and watching TV.

A: That was for a class at school.

Q: It’s a pretty striking image, and I think it’s really hard to combine humor and commentary. Can you say something about that piece of art since it’s already public on your website?

A: How you just described it is kind of what I was trying to say earlier about art being more intellectual than music. I want humor and I want social commentary and I want pathos and I want whatever else I want, and how do you express that without words? That’s the challenge. And maybe I’m not even thinking consciously that, oh, these are the things I want to express. You’re trying to translate feelings into visuals. The assignment was to construct a narrative around a found photograph. For years I’ve had this little photo of these two chimps having sex that I cut out of a magazine on my refrigerator. I took it and drew the chimps much bigger, did all the shading, and then for the narrative part I drew a naked lady and it wasn’t working and I erased it. And then I drew a TV and that really worked. People are like monkeys.

Q: Do you have any sense of what direction you’re going to take as an artist?

A: That’s part of what my goal is for this year. I’m trying to figure out where I want to focus. There are two main areas I keeping going to. One is this really abstract direction, and then there’s this figurative stuff with parts of bodies and self-portraits and plastic surgery stuff. It’s all over the place right now.

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  1. Victor
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Saw her in Dallas a few years back and it was definitely one of the best I’ve ever seen. Really strong performance, really connected with the audience, and a smaller crowd made it feel very personal and honest. Obviously if the touring thing is affecting her health, I wouldn’t want her to continue, but if she ever feels the urge to come back to it, we’ll definitely be there.

    Good luck in whatever you pursue, Juliana.

  2. sadface
    Posted January 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    this is simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking. to know we, as fans, will never see her perform on stage again just makes me feel like my chest is being sat upon by a really heavy person or animal. i am choosing drugs to cope.

  3. Posted January 12, 2012 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    Great post!

  4. Billy
    Posted January 12, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    As any artist. Growing and using different means of expression is natural . We grow we feel we see it all so different. And fullfilling wat we precieve as expression be it music art computers all of it takes a piece of us. It’s just up to us to find the fulfillment of it that makes us whole. Good luck to you Jules. And your music is always forever on vinyl . And in my soundtrack to my life. . We same age. Lived the same lies and joys and monsters. And your music helped and added to it. Thank you and good luck you’ll be just fine . School is knlowledge. And knowledge is soul power . Rock on sister . 4ver fan billy

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  1. [...] PM by Carly Carioli "People are like monkeys." Drawing by Juliana Hatfield. In an interview with former Phoenix and Boston Globe scribe Joan Anderman, JULIANA HATFIELD does everything but confirm that she's done with music. (Given that she [...]

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