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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Student Artist Spotlight: Juliana Soldat ’24 depicts mental illness through sculpture

Juliana Soldat ’24 sculpted pieces for her independent study that comment on mental health and personal struggles. (Photo courtesy of Juliana Soldat ’24)

When she started in the art program at Lafayette, Juliana Soldat ’24 saw herself primarily as a painter. This weekend, it is her sculptures that will be on display in the Williams Visual Arts Building.

Soldat’s interest in sculpting grew in professor Nestor Gil’s sculpture class during her sophomore year, where he began to mentor her, a process which he described as “mostly say[ing] a few provocative or ridiculous things and then get[ting] out of the way.”

According to Gil, Soldat has “intense curiosity and a profound sense of discipline.”

“Julie understands that there is a response to every ‘I wonder,’” Gil said.

Soldat sculpted the pieces that will be on display as part of her independent study with Gil. One of the pieces she is most proud of is called “Rubbed Raw.”

“These hands … hold a candle in the shape of soap that comes around the wrists like it’s binding the hands, and as the candle burns, it theoretically frees the hands,” Soldat said of the sculpture’s design. “So it’s a commentary on OCD. The whole thing is inspired by mental illness and disorder because my other major is psychology.”

“Rubbed Raw” is a sculpture that depicts the battle of mental illness. (Photo courtesy of Juliana Soldat ’24)

“Rubbed Raw” will be displayed in its full glory with lit candles on Sunday. 

“I want a moment where I can burn the hands and have people see how I want it to be seen,” Soldat said. 

Many of the pieces Soldat will be showcasing has to do with representing mental health. For example, she represents PTSD in “Healing Cycles,” which is a “circular hammer hammering a nail into itself.”

Similarly, anxiety is represented in “Crawling Out Of My Skin,” which features bugs crawling out of a face. For Soldat, this representation is personal.

“Bugs crawling out of the face is kind of a more self-anxiety representation. It just feels like my skin’s crawling, or like I’m itching. I have the itching a lot lately. And it’s just a really weird sensation. And it’s just like they’re buzzing and it won’t stop,” she said. “And if other people were like, ‘Yeah, that’s that’s how it is,’ I think that would be really fulfilling.”

When thinking back to one of her first projects, “Null,” Soldat recalled shattering the work into pieces by dropping it on the floor. The disappointment, however, turned into a sense of pride. “That was also the first one that I installed,” she explained. “And I saw the light on it, and I was like, ‘That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s why I’m putting in all these hours and effort.’”

Seeing people feel represented in her final pieces, getting support from professors and finding a sense of community while working in the studio has made Soldat’s artistic journey at Lafayette “very encouraging in every possible way.”  

“I just can’t stop … it calls me, Soldat said of her art.

Soldat’s pieces “Healing Cycles,” “Rubbed Raw,” “Crawling Out Of My Skin” and “Null” will be showcased this Sunday, Feb. 12 from 12-2:30 p.m. in the Williams Visual Arts Building, but it will stay on display in the following days.  

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McKenna Graf
McKenna Graf, Staff Culture Writer

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