The State of America
A few months ago, Simon Birky-Hartmann, former GoMediaZine author and manager, pointed me to the 1st in “The State of America” print series by Julian Montague and I knew we had to feature Julian and his project on the GoMediaZine.
Julian’s project has been featured all around the best graphic design blogs and it is likely that many of you have already seen some of the prints in his series. But if you have been out of the design loop for a minute, you are missing out on the beautiful minimalist design and colorful images. And who doesn’t want to see how their state will be represented.
Go Media recently had the opportunity to chat with Julian Montague about his “The State of America” series.
Tell us a little about the project and what motivated you to create the series.
The State of America series is a set of 50 prints that depict one of the official state insignia for each of the 50 states. All states have some selection of “official” things, state birds, minerals, amphibians, trees, etc. These are voted on by state legislatures and are often the result of campaigns by school children. It is a very mixed bag of things, seven states have the Northern Cardinal as there state bird, only three states have an official crustacean, and so on. What interested me about them as a collection of subjects to draw from was that they allowed me to alternate between the familiar and the obscure.
Tell us about yourself.
My activities are split between my art practice and my graphic design practice, however, there is a lot of crossover between the two. For my graphic design work I operate under the name Frazer/Montague Design. This is a partnership I formed with fellow Buffalo, New York designer Betsy Frazer in 2010. For my art related activities I use the name Julian Montague Projects. Where it gets complicated is that I use a lot of graphic design in my artwork, for example I made a series of faux book covers that are part of a multifaceted project about the intersection of animals and architecture. That work has received some attention from the design community as well as the art community. I also have an ongoing blog project where I try to post a modernist book cover everyday (I have posted 1400 covers since 2009). The fact that I design fake book covers, blog real book covers and design real book covers leads to some confusion at times. I consider the State prints to be on the graphic design side of what I do.
How did you connect with PrintCollection.com and how did you decide how to approach each print?
Print Collection is based in Buffalo where I live. I’ve known Doug Levere (the founder of Print Collection) socially for a few years. He was familiar with my work and he approached me about doing something for the site. We talked about it and came up with the state insignia as the subject matter. He gave me a great deal of freedom in regard to the choices and the illustrations, there were a couple notes here and there but for the most part we were on the same page.
How has the response been since you showcased the first prints on November 5th?
I’ve been really happy with the response, the first set of 21 were part of a FAB.com sale which was a great start, but things really got going after we released the second set of 29 on December 13th. I think all 50 make a better story. It’s been really gratifying to have design sites that I love post about the series. I was particularly happy to see It’s Nice That, Dwell magazine, Flavorwire and Aisle One post about them. In making these images I was hoping to make them cool enough that someone would want to buy one just because they liked the design and not because they are connected to a particular state, but, from a lot of the comments I’ve read, it seems that people feel strange buying a print of a state that they don’t have a personal association with.
From reading your bio on your website, you seem to have participated in many gallery showings and given talks/lectures. Could you give some advice to aspiring designers? As well as advice to seasoned veterans on how to get their work out there more?
Most of my exhibits have been from the art side of my career, the art world works a bit differently from the design world. But the best general advice I can give is to stay active online. We are lucky to live in a time where there are platforms to show one’s personal work, you have to take advantage of it. I’m pretty active on Flickr and Pinterest and by having a blog with daily design related content I’ve been able to make a lot of people aware of my other activities. Also, you can reach out to people that you think might be interested in what you do. It usually doesn’t hurt to try. But never, ever walk into an art gallery (at least in New York) and ask if they want to see your work, they hate that.
Are there any other projects you are currently working on that you would like to talk about?
Right now I am working on new faux books and posters for a show this summer in France. I would like to do more open edition print series like State of America, so hopefully I will be starting the next one soon.
I noticed from your bio that you exhibited at SPACES Gallery, could you tell us any interesting stories about your time in Cleveland and how the exhibits went while you were here?
I did a residency at Spaces Gallery for six weeks in 2005 as part of the SPACES World Artists Program (Most of the artists in the program are from more exotic locations). At the time I was working on a long-term project about stray shopping carts. In that project I developed a system of identification for stray shopping carts based on the situations in which you find them. It involves a lot of photography and text. So my mission in Cleveland was to document stray carts and then have an exhibit at Spaces. This involved me exploring every nook and cranny of Cleveland and its suburbs by bicycle. As it happened, this was in January and February of a particularly harsh winter so most of the time I was up to my knees in snow. Poking around vacant lots on Lorain Ave. in the dead of winter is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but at least I can say I saw way more than just the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I did enjoy my time there and met a lot of interesting artists and great people. Obviously coming from Buffalo to Cleveland was not exactly culture shock, same lake, same weather, same ethnic make-up, etc. A lot of the work I made there is included in my book The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification, which was published by Abrams in 2006.
- Julian Montague Website
- Julian Montague Blog
- Julian Montague Flickr Gallery
- Julian Montague Pinterest
- Frazer/Montague Design