We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Judge and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Hind sight has taught me that I had good instincts in my earlier years but did not act on them: I learned later on, that I was “risk adverse”. I wish I had listened to my inner voices when I was younger in that regard and taken more risks. The thing is, if you make a “mistake” when you are young, chances are you can recover and recover. If you live a life of avoiding risk, you might end up marooned in a place where you regret paths not taken. The biggest risks I did take in life, were the ones that have served me best to have chosen and moved me onto a saner and more fulfilling path. There is also an aspect of risk when you are older; there is more fear in risk. I have a friend, in her late 70s who has no permanent source of income besides what sales she personally can make of her work. She moves from place to place living in fact, a truly fulfilling life but absolutely on the edge. I could never do that. I think it’s important to look in the mirror when you are young and understand your relationship with risk, and plan accordingly. There is no one formula.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I had a traditional BFA, MFA trajectory which dropped me into the hard art world of the late 70s, when conceptual art dominated. I floundered, unprepared for this reality and did not find my place for a good decade. I was a decent painter but without an original voice until lots of time spent in Italy filtered through. I developed my style integrating aspects of traditional techniques of the Renaissance and the artisan ceramic industry. I am currently known best for works on paper for which I employ powdered pigments. My imagery is geometric but also nature based. The use of the “spolvero” (dust) technique that I combined with contemporary imagery was the first thing that made this work unique: the old and the new together, the sensual but reductive imagery. From there I gained the confidence to dig deeper and move the work forward. My first important show was at The Drawing Center in NY and it lead to several others at important institutions, the Corcoran Museum, Bard College and later that lead to a purchase by the National Museum of Art. As the work evolved I began to gain a steady following and sales followed. I did a great print project with Wildwood Press of St Louis MO which pushed my improvisational skills. A Workspace Grant from the Dieu Donne Papermill in NY allowed me to move experimentation on another interesting tangent. So proud I got to make a great installation and show for the important Aldrich Museum in CT. My work was acquired by several museums and collections worldwide including the Cassino Museum of Contemporary Art in Italy (CAMAC), The Philadelphia Museum of Art where I attended school (to name a few). I recently competed for and won an MTA Arts in Transit public art project. I created a terrazzo floor design and major laminated glass fabricated with Franz Mayer Glass studio, a premier stain glass workshop in Munich Germany, for a new train station on the Metro North (NY) line inaugurated by Governor Cuomo in 2017. In 1997 I created a new product, totally by chance, which is still in production and selling today. A sommelier in Köln asked me to design a dish for olive oil. Based on my drawings of concentric pattern, I worked with the mold makers at Grazia di Deruta, Italy to create an all white dish of terraced irregular forms: as the oil fills the dish, each terrace creates a change in color of the oil according to it’s depth. This was an unexpected outcome and a little eureka moment for me, it was a thrill! I learned how to produce and market a design from the ground up, one step at a time. That is an entire other story! But I know my little dish will be around for years to come and it’s patented. Teaching after school kept me afloat in the early years, my specialty was Drawing. My teaching career enhanced my studio life: at Parsons School of Design I was surrounded by great art and design talent in the broadest sense. I learned as much as my students. I am very proud that I had great success as a Professor there where with my teaching partner we created a top notch Foundation Curriculum in Drawing that touched a decade of first year students. During this time I also started a gallery for work on paper in my new building in Brooklyn called Schema Projects. We had 4 great years showing works by local and international artists. I think the best thing for me in the course of my art life was the opportunity to develop a sophisticated eye acquired traveling all over, seeing all kinds of art, architecture, museums and galleries and forming what become, longstanding friendships with artists all over the world. Another was gaining an appreciation for cultural artifacts that were not exactly “in my lane” such as graphic design, fashion and product design, typography, fine artisan work and industrial processes such as I encountered in my travels. I had the privilege of attending scores art fairs such as the Biennale di Venice, Munster Sculpture and Documentas in Dusseldorf. These experiences stretched my imagination and also laid down a high bar that served as a reality check for my personal work. My advice to others would be to create structure in your life, set goals as early as you can and live by them. Stop and make an assessment every once in awhile. Recharge. If you are alone in the studio, find opportunities to collaborate. Create a supportive community wherever you are. Don’t stay in situations where you feel your wings clipped. Women need to make sure they are supported by partners and not in competition. Today opportunities are vastly different for young artists than they were for me: dip into them but don’t let them or the “art market” consume you.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Mom, who always encouraged my art interests: I still remember those trips to MOMA, the Met, the opera and theater in NYC. Friends are indispensable; where would I be without those who “always show up to my openings” ! “like” my posts! Are my biggest fans! Pick me up when I’m down, always take a phone call, talk me down from a tree. Want me back to make a show with them in a distant land. Too long to list here. My family. Mentor: Tom Chimes, beloved Philadelphia artist. (deceased) My alma maters; no matter how you feel about them you are “stuck” together, but I mean that in the best sense. You are linked. Moore College of Art & Design, Tyler School of Art (Philadelphia and Rome, Italy) Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Ubaldo Grazia of Grazia di Deruta who had the intelligence to bring artists and designers from all over to work in his family majolica factory and gave us all free rein. Ann Ledy, my boss who hired me and gave me free rein to build a drawing program because she believed in me Maryanne Simmons of Wildwood Press St Louis MO a great collaborator Paul Wong of Dieu Donne Papermill for letting me get crazy and making a huge mess of the studio Franz Meyer of Munich, stained glass fabricator par excellence made my design come alive MTA Arts in Transit Kenise Barnes Fine Art, showing and selling my work and placing it in public and private venues