Abstract Impressionism

Posted On May 4, 2021

Step inside Over the Mantel art gallery and prepare to be wowed. With 30 artists represented, you’ll find plenty to delight your aesthetic sensibilities, starting with the work of owner and artist Julia Seabrook Moore.

By Katherine Pettit

The landscapes are particularly evocative. First there are the colors – some light and airy, others dark and brooding. They catch your eye, but almost instantly, the composition begins to form into a scene from your memory – or perhaps suggests places you’d love to visit. Julia Moore invites the viewer to make a connection with what comes from the artist to live on the canvas.

“I want people to enjoy my paintings because they see them as thoughtful and meaningful,” she said.  “But I also want them to know that good paintings are never effortless. Artists work hard and my goal is to make paintings that make those connections and bring pleasure.”

The Columbia native has deep roots in the Midlands and counts a number of excellent teachers who helped her chart her creative course. “Among my favorite teachers as a teen was Nora Floyd, my art teacher at Dreher High School,” Julia said. “I also learned much from Dr. Nell Lafaye, who taught me in a small group at her home after school.” She studied with friends who would also devote their lives to artistic expression, including David Boatwright and Robin O’Neil.  

“Dr. Lafaye and Nora Floyd understood recalcitrant teens and taught us to paint fearlessly,” Julia said. “I was also influenced by Laura Spong a well-known artist who died in 2018 at age 92. She was a neighbor of ours and even as a child I recognized her dedication to her art. As an adult, I saw that her dedication stretched to include all of the facets of her well-rounded life.”

At the University of South Carolina, her professors and instructors included Dr. Edmund Yaghjian, Boyd Saunders, Phillip Mullen and John O’Neil, among others. “I learned from them all,” she said.

Julia found ways to be creative, even when she wasn’t painting. She worked at Hammond School for 17 years and during that time produced a number of events. “My art came out in entertaining,” she explained. Eight years ago, Julia, with her manager and “right hand,” Julie Coffey, created Over the Mantel and invited artists to display their work and collaborate in special events. “When gatherings became impossible during the pandemic, we began to offer outside auctions, where people interested in a specific painting on display could put their bid through the mail slot of the gallery. We hosted a new auction every week for seven months. It was a great way to keep art out in the community.”

Now, life is beginning to blossom again, and the gallery is open for business. “The artists here are dedicated professionals who are recipients of many awards and honors,” she said. “Their work hangs in galleries, homes and businesses all over the country and beyond.” The gallery has also received awards for its showing of local art among other accolades.

And although abstract impressionism remains a favorite style, she admires a variety of contemporary styles and she paints a little bit of everything. The paint is applied in a number of ways, to create texture and effect. In addition to more traditional brushes, Julia employs tools that are used to decorate cakes and knives that may or may not have been intended to create in the artist’s hands.

“I love expressionism and have dabbled in it, but I am still developing my approach,” she said. “I’m also intrigued by digital art. You can do so much with that technology. As my work has evolved, I find myself fascinated with the methodology of creating art and I am studying and reading more about how paintings are created.” She is thoughtful about her work. “There are still lots of hurdles I want to get over, including ‘trepidation.” In her opinion, the best artists are the “free-est” artists.

And she doesn’t play favorites with her work. “I try to paint intuitively so that my paintings will meet the expectations of my clients. As a result, I don’t think of my paintings as “mine” except when they are being created.” Much of her work is commissioned by those who appreciate her talent and use of color.

And with her gallery in Columbia, Julia has been able to reconnect with old friends and neighbors. That’s been a lot of fun and very satisfying. As the gallery invites more people to enter the space and appreciate the paintings on every wall, she and Julie continue to make new friends as they welcome friends from high school and colleagues from years ago. “I want people to like the arts,” Julia says. “And this is a perfect place to help encourage that to happen.”  

Find more at Overthemantel.com, on Facebook and Instagram, and at JuliaSeabrookMoore.com