Artists > Julia Whitney Barnes

Julia Whitney Barnes


To learn more about the artist visit @juliawhitneybarnes on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.


The artist, living in Poughkeepsie, NY, works in a variety of media from cyanotypes, watercolor, oil paintings, ceramic sculptures, murals, and site-specific installations.

She has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally including the Dorksy Museum, New Paltz, NY; Ely Center of Contemporary Art, New Haven, CT; Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM), Woodstock, NY; Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, ME; Carrie Haddad Gallery, Hudson, NY; Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Kent, CT; and Garvey|Simon NY, New York, NY. She was awarded fellowships from New York State Council on the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Arts Mid-Hudson, Abbey Memorial Fund for Mural Painting/National Academy of Fine Arts, and the Gowanus Public Art Initiative, among others.

Born in Newbury, VT, Julia Whitney Barnes spent two decades in Brooklyn, before moving to the Hudson Valley in 2015. She received her BFA from Parsons School of Design and her MFA from Hunter College.

Whitney Barnes has created site-specific installations at the Albany International Airport, Albany, NY; Brookfield Place/Winter Garden, New York, NY; Arts Brookfield, Brooklyn, NY, the Wilderstein Sculpture Biennial, Rhinebeck, NY; Shaker Heritage Society, Albany NY; The Trolley Barn/Fall Kill Creative Works, Poughkeepsie, NY; GlenLily Grounds, Newburgh, NY; ArtsWestchester, White Plains, NY; Gowanus Public Arts Initiative, Brooklyn, NY; Space All Over/Fjellerup Bund i Bund & Grund, Fjellerup, Denmark; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council/Sirovitch Senior Center, New York, NY; Brooklyn School of Inquiry, Brooklyn, NY; New York City Department of Transportation, New York, NY; and Figment Sculpture Garden, Governors Island, NY and among other locations.

Whitney Barnes was awarded a glass commission for NYC Public Art for Public Schools/Percent for Art that is slated to be completed in 2023.


In these works on paper, I approach each growing thing with equal importance regardless of whether it is a weed, rare species, wildflower, or cultivated flower. Most works have several species fused into one composition, often to the point where the exact plants depicted are open to interpretation. Each composition starts as a unique blue and white cyanotype printed onto watercolor paper and then I paint in many layers of color pigment. I am most interested in creating objects that feel both beautiful and mysterious. I want each cyanotype painting to be familiar yet slightly outside of time.

Cyanotype is a camera-less photographic printing process invented in 1842 by scientist and astronomer, Sir John Herschel, which produces a cyan-blue print when a non-toxic chemistry-coated surface is exposed to sunlight. The second person and first artist/botanist to make cyanotypes was Anna Atkins and she learned the technique directly from Herschel. She is cited as the first female photographer, though made without the use of a camera. Her family was friends with William Henry Fox Talbot (credited with inventing photography) and Atkins learned techniques from him and then made her own path. She published the first photographic book Photographs of British Algae in 1843.

Through my use of the cyanotype medium, I manipulate physical impressions of plants grown locally in my Hudson Valley garden and other nearby areas, along with intricately cutout photographic negatives. Each selected flower is preserved through a pressing process in which I dissect and shape each form—akin to a specimen from a natural history museum—and then lay everything out in massive flat files in my attic studio. There is a directness to the link between botany and the cyanotype photogram technique because of the physical plant leaving its mark. Given that sunlight starts the exposure process with cyanotype chemistry, I carefully arrange elaborate compositions at night and utilize long exposures under natural or UV light to create the final prints. Once the unique cyan imagery is fused, I meticulously paint the exposed watercolor paper with multiple layers of watercolor, ink and gouache. Each cyanotype is created by the power of light, inspiring viewers to look at these very recognizable images in new and different ways.

In the summer of 2015, I moved from Brooklyn to a hundred-year-old house in Hudson Valley, along with my spouse who is also an artist. Four weeks later, I gave birth to our daughter, Magnolia. We held a tree planting ceremony and positioned a magnolia tree in our front yard, including the placenta as fertilizer. This small act was the beginning of my intimate connection to plants growing in our yard. After the birth of our son August in 2018, we had a similar ceremony with a dogwood tree in our back yard.

Throughout the eighteen years I lived in New York City, one of the things I felt most lacking was a direct relationship with nature. After moving to Poughkeepsie, the influence of having green space of my own for the first time in my adult life started to creep into my studio process. The simple action of frequently going outside, then inside, then outside again made me think about interior/exterior in formal and metaphorical ways. It is deeply satisfying to take something that is ephemeral and represent it in a way that can live on forever.


To learn more about the artist visit @juliawhitneybarnes on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

Artworks of Artist

Julia Whitney Barnes
Nocturnal Nature (Poppies, Bleeding Hearts, Violet, Pollinators, Moon)