Nadia Ann Juhnke: Boldly Evoking Childhood Memories

donna fischer | the artist next door | feb. 2016

The artist at work in the studio.Imagine an art spectrum. On one end you have commercial art with all of its softness and reassuring familiarity. Close to the opposite end of the spectrum lies another art offering, this one promising no safety net. Nadia Ann Juhnke's abstract print pieces feature much for the mind to chew on. This recent UWGB graduate is embarking on a career in art, and even at this early point she's grounded enough to know her own voice as an artist.

For Juhnke, what has gone before is just as relevant as what is to come. “I look at my old works and then I incorporate them into my new work and that way I can still be consistent and change at the same time in the sense of creating a personal, continuous dialog,” says Juhnke. “People can also recognize me when I make new works. That's basically a voice of an artist, keeping it consistent.”

Her particular process for making prints appeals to her need for structure. And with printmaking, one needs to think carefully about the finished look before embarking on the process. “You see things differently. You're working with film positives, looking at things inversely. You have to see the image before it's printed, and then you keep printing and printing over again, based on how much ink you put on the plate.”

But where do the complex layers of color and shape come from? “My images come from childhood memories,” she explains. “The way that my prints work show imperfections, like the way a child would draw or paint. My way of drawing is through automatic drawing; it's just freely drawing, a spontaneous and intuitive process. It has a lot to do with my personal life. Layering has a lot to do with it too, and that is a part of me because as you develop there are stages of your life that come into being. It was an outlet for me, a therapeutic remedy. I think screen printing, because its faster process helped me to get those ideas translated onto paper faster.”

Juhnke's first ambition was to become a dancer, but she did not make it into the highly competitive college level programs. Suddenly another door seemed open to her. “From that I fell back on art because I knew that was what I was really good at, and that I could actually, without failing, continue to do that. With art you can make it as structured as you want it. You can pretty much find your own equilibrium within art.” And within art, Juhnke is completely taken with the abstract approach. As she thoughtfully puts it, “Through abstracting we acquire the most wondrous and limitless principles of the environment that surround us.”

'Grounding'And with most things in life, practice is essential. “I make art a daily habit. Mornings work best for me. I put on music, whatever inspires me to start creating. I don't want any other distractions like the news. I stay away from the media culture a lot because there's a lot of violence and crime in shows that I've seen. When people watch this they get afraid and I don't want to put that into my artwork.”

Some of Juhnke's works are finished within a day, while others could take much longer. “Monotypes are a really good way to paint directly on a plate and then you print it right away. It's just a single, original piece. I document it each step of the way. If I have a huge piece with many things going on I take certain sections of photos and I find different compositions within that. From that I can make new work.” Last September, Juhnke participated in a very heavy-duty printing project called the Steamroller Print event. Artists set about arranging large wood cuts on a dock along the Bay of Green Bay in Ephraim for an actual steamroller to roll over. Though the work involved some heavy lifting, it was a novel way for the public to interact with local artists, all within a beautiful setting.

Having worked for a time with Alzheimer's patients at N.E.W. Curative, Juhnke can attest to the satisfying effects of creating art on others and herself. “I don't feel lonely. I don't feel stressed out. It takes me away from my inner complications.” She admits this with the same lack of artifice that her prints seem evoke. And when it comes to explaining her prints, Juhnke simply suggests they are what work for her. “Line has a lot to do with it. Dimension. It's pleasing to my mind because it just gives it so much to look at. Some people like it simple; some others like it more complex.”

Look for Juhnke's work at a Gallery Nite event at The Attic Books and Coffee in Green Bay later this year. You can also find her on Facebook, or send her an email at juhnkenadia@gmail.com.


Donna Fischer is an avid fan of music, film and art. When she's not writing on these subjects you'll find her gardening or snowshoeing around Green Bay.

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