Julia Gartrell

November 4, 2019 – January 29, 2020

Durham visual artist Julia Gartrell will develop the Radical Repair Workshop while in residence in the Ruby. The Radical Repair Workshop is a pop-up art experience that will encourage you to reconsider your relationship to mending, sentimental objects, single-use items, and radical (potentially non-functional) modes of repair.


While in residence in the Rubenstein Arts Center, Julia Gartrell will be developing the Radical Repair Workshop. This pop-up art experience—inside a vintage 1966 Frolic camper—will encourage participants and viewers to consider their relationship to mending, sentimental objects, single-use items, and radical (potentially non-functional) modes of repair.

The Radical Repair Workshop

The Radical Repair Workshop is a multifaceted investigation of repair, reuse, mending, and the relationships we cultivate with materials and objects in various states of use—or misuse. This residency will support the project in its initial stages, and while in the Ruby, Gartrell will develop and host public repair workshops, investigate possibilities of repair using 3D printers and laser cutters, and collect and produce supporting materials.

“This project that challenges participants to consider what is reusable, what is sentimental, what ‘broken’ really means, and to connect with an object or material on physical and granular levels.”

Julia Gartrell

When the Radical Repair Workshop is complete, you will be able to step inside to explore the gallery and assist in the repair of existing items and/or contribute your own items for mending. The Radical Repair Workshop will teach concrete skills, such as sewing and darning, but also explore abstract notions of repair. The approach to mending will be non-traditional—your item may not actually be “fixed,” but it will be transformed into a permanent art object, thus realigning our relationship to its “value.”

Stories of the objects will be collected and recorded for use in future installations and publications on the project. Gartrell is a queer artist interested in an anti-capitalist approach to the art object, and hopes that the Radical Repair Workshop encourages participants to accept “failure” as an actual form of success (as described by Judith Halberstam in The Queer Art of Failure). The repair will also take cues from Gartrell’s research into the creativity cultivated when resources are limited, such as in models of creative reuse and the escape of functional fixedness. Modes of mending will vary depending on the item, but the Radical Repair Workshop will be fully stocked with both traditional and non-traditional mending supplies ranging from string, tape, glue, and hardware to clay, dust, organic materials, and psychic energy. Results may be fleeting, ephemeral, or more permanent in nature, depending on the item being “repaired.”

About the Artist

Julia Gartrell is an artist and educator based in Durham, NC. She received an MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in art from Kalamazoo College. Her work explores notions of “making do”, material plasticity, and radical approaches to repair. She has participated in residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center, the Power Plant Gallery at Duke University, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Ox-Bow School of Art, and others. Julia has exhibited nationally and internationally, and currently teaches as adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University.