Thursday, June 29, 2017

Her Beloved Pride

Once upon a time, back when hair was big, shoulders pads were wide and leggings had stirrups, my BFA Thesis at the Cleveland Institute of Art was all about The Seven Deadly Sins.

Me, with my Seven Deadly Sins board game, just before my 1986 BFA Presentation.
In the foreground, my life drawing teacher Francis Meyers
in the far background I can recognize James Groman and David Jupp!

This yearlong expedition into the artistic investigation and depiction of  Sloth, Envy, Rage, Greed, Lust, Gluttony and Pride culminated with a cross-shaped board game that was as religiously irreverent, fun and satirical as this free-thinking heathen student of illustration could imagine.

My hypothesis was that the sins were simply human traits that we all have. Taken to excess, yes, they’re not the best traits we have…but, in the grand scheme, they’re also not the worst. Note, the sins don’t include murder, lying, stealing, cheating, bullying, violence, taking away the rights of others, silencing opposing voices, reneging on promises, taking away healthcare from children, the sick and the poor, letting other starve, enslavement, taking away the right to control how your body is used …you know, the really bad stuff.

No, the Seven Deadly Sins are a fun group of juicy, deliciously, compelling human traits that are open to endless interpretation…and excuses to paint people. 

I decided to revisit the Seven Deadly Sins some 30 years after my 1986 BFA and have only just started to scratch the surface. So far, I’ve painted and blogged about Sloth, using my hardworking, but sleep loving son as a model, and have, won a Best in Show for my interpretation of Greed…who protectively guards her ideals and artistic integrity… entitled, Guarded Idealist

Underlying the human nature of the Seven (not so) Deadlies is that they mostly affect the sinner herself.  And, taken in moderation, they are necessary for self-preservation (Gluttony in moderation is sustenance, Sloth is rest, Lust is procreation…see?)

Perhaps the toughest one to interpret is the “sin” of Pride.

Yes, in Medieval Catholic lore, the concept of contrition and guilt loomed large, and a healthy self-esteem warranted Hail Marys, a wearing of a sackcloth and even some self-flagellation. But nowadays just about every self-help book and internet meme since Stuart Smalley first appeared on SNL want us to have a positive self-image and feel good about ourselves. In fact, just recently the conventional wisdom has changed about telling your kids you’re proud of them. Now you’re supposed to tell them they should be proud of themselves…for how hard they’ve worked as well as for their successes. 

In other words, take ownership of your awesomeness!

So, I present my triple image of my beautiful platinum-haired model and muse, paying tribute to, and embracing her own positive self-image…Her Beloved Pride.

Her Beloved Pride
Judy Takács

And, you knew it was coming…
I am PROUD to announce this painting will be appearing
as part of the

81st Annual Midyear Exhibition
Butler Institute of American Art
Opening Reception:
Sunday July 9 from 1:00 to 3:00

Butler Institute of American Art
524 Wick Ave.
Youngstown, Ohio

Show runs through August 20th

Tuesday, June 13, 2017



things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time.
items of collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed ones, that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity.
Ephemeral Whisper
Judy Takács

Ephemera, a fleeting thing that takes its feathery place as a memory without taking up space as a reality. 

Human life is ephemeral.

My dad passed away in 2015, my mom, six months later in 2016. Having lived in the same house for the past 50 years, they amassed and produced a lot of things.

And by things, I mean writing. Both were professors. 

My dad had created mountains of notebooks, carefully penned in flawless Hungarian Cursive. Pages of equations with occasional words peppered in; “therefore,” “it can be concluded” “given” and “we can surmise” separated paragraphs of calligraphic sigmas, lambdas, x’s, y’s and equal signs.

To my artistic eye, these scripts were like Ancient Arabic, Chinese or Hebrew…so beautiful to look at, but (sorry) Greek to me.

Some of it (18 boxes actually!) went to be scanned and archived at Case Western Reserve University, (link to come) where he retired as professor emeritus in the late ’80s. My dad’s legacy as a Pioneer in Queueing Theory will be preserved and useful to generations of future mathematicians who can actually read these calculations…which, I’m told, are brilliant.

And some of the writings were absconded by me…as ephemera to incorporate into my art and to be appreciated for its visual beauty alone.

My mom’s writings were more readable.

As a professor of English Literature at Notre Dame College of Ohio, a scholar of the Irish Dramatists and Shakespeare, and a contemporary author and historian, she had mountains of beautifully organized notes for teaching, research, study and analysis. She had journals too…galore…which will be kept intact for the ages, and for me to read about who she actually was, independent of being my mom. She also sowed many seeds of ideas for novels and stories. These may some day serve as inspiration for paintings. 

I also absconded bits and pieces from her loose writings to incorporate into my art, drawing great comfort from her familiar handwriting. 

So I present to you my Ephemera Series.

Instead of posing myself yet again (some say all our portraits are really self-portraits) I chose my model as a timeless angel for the ages…collecting, defending and dispersing wispy whispers of Ephemera with luscious vintage butterfly nets and expressive hands and face.

Into my oil paintings, I collaged butterflies torn from my parents’ combined writings…floating, fleeting ephemera.

As with all the found things from my parents’ home, life and legacy, I try to pass them forward for a new life and purpose. 

Ephemera Collector
Judy Takács

I have thus far given pages of these written ephemera to Alia El Bermani in the form of a cut paper snowflake to use in her painting, to Leslie Adams for her “Handwritten Dreams” project at the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, to Amy Kesegich for collage work, to Karina Fassett as wallpaper inspiration, to a mathematical niece to fuel her STEM fire, and have dropped off three baskets full of everything ephemeral to Liz Maugans at Zygote Press for all manner of printmaking. 

I have also passed along boxes of jewelry from my mom and grandmother’s compounded collection to my favorite jewelry artist, Kim Mettee…who has fashioned them into two amazing commissioned necklaces for my sister and myself along with a host of other adornments.

Earrings and necklace by Kim Mettee Designs
inspired by pieces from my grandmothers jewelry from Istanbul

My dad’s books have found loving homes with the Math Grad Students of Case Western Reserve and with my own math-loving boys. My mom’s books on Shakespeare and Drama are the start of a library for theatre majors at Baldwin Wallace University. The Hungarian books have been carefully distributed in the U.S. and in Hungary by a good-hearted docent at the Cleveland Hungarian Museum. And a couple of Irish Fairy Tale books found their way to my Irish neighbor Teresa’s house to read to her many nieces and nephews.

Pieces of their furniture have become part of the collection of the Cleveland Playhouse prop warehouse…I’ve already seen one of their 1970s padded folding chairs in “Between Riverside and Crazy” just last month. There were no takers for their 60 year-old twice re-upholstered extra-long yellow French Provincial couch, so it now sits in my studio awaiting inspiration…and the right model. 

What I still have left, however, are many (many) writings. 

Zoom in to see the gorgeous handwriting from my parents’ ephemeral writings.

If you would like to incorporate some of these ephemeral bits of handwritten Mathematica and Literature into your art, shoot me an email with your mailing address at I will send you some to use as you choose…the ironic preservation of fleeting ephemera from one generation of creative thinkers to the next.

And, I'm happy to let you know that, for a limited time you can see my painting, Ephemera Defender at the Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Ephemera Defender
Judy Takács

Please accept my invitation to…

In Memoriam

Manifest Gallery

Opening Reception:

Thursday, July 13th, 6:00 to 9:00 pm

and also during the
Walk on Woodburn Art Walk

Friday, July 14th, 6:00 to 9:00 pm

Show runs through August 11th

Manifest Gallery
2727 Woodburn Ave.
Cincinnatti, Ohio

Monday, November 21, 2016

Guardian Angel showing at the 8th Annual Lakeland May Show

Guardian Angel of the Good Death
Judy Takács

If you’re lucky enough to see you parents into old age, you know its coming.
For me it began August 2012, with a cancer diagnosis for my mom.

Having just attended the funeral of our good friend who died from stomach cancer the week before, I knew how this story would end; with a little gray person gasping their last breath as they left this world.

I also knew there could be a lot of life crammed into the between-time. I just didn’t know how long that between-time would be.

And I knew she had to outlive my dad, who was 9 years her senior at 88 and very much counted on her to love and help him in his every waking moment.
My mom knew this too, but neither of us said it out loud.

Soon after August 2012, I came to the realization that not only would I have to make sure my parents lived well. I also had to make sure they died well.

I was not in denial about the inevitable, but, like Scarlet, just preferred to “think about it tomorrow”. Besides, we were very busy with many doctors visits, surgeries, hospital stays, picture taking and memory making in the between-time.

“Tomorrow,” however, came in December 2015 and then again in June 2016, when my parents passed away within 6 months of each other; my dad first…the natural order of things.

The sequence of events, twists, turns, plans, unknowns, changes, red alerts, whens, hows and ultimate absolute clarity of what was to be…was dizzying and remarkable. The Serenity Prayer was my mantra for a time.

I was fortunate, honored and determined to be present for each parent, before, during and after their bodies shut down.

In fighting…and then not fighting the inevitable…

In embracing comfort, but shunning heroics…

In vigilantly preparing for and guarding the sanctity of a peaceful ending, I felt every bit the Guardian Angel of the Good Death as each passed from this world with my sister and I “in loving attendance” as the obituaries for my mom and dad both read.

It was absolute closure, the feeling of a pulse and then not feeling it, the belabored breathing with the steady metronome click… and then its absence. 

And then, the eggshell time immediately afterwards when ostensibly nothing has changed…except for everything.

And since it was impossible for me to write these words just a few short months ago, I painted it.

The painting was originally called Guardian of the Passage…attempting to politely skirt using the word “death.” But, just before submitting it last November, to the 58th Annual Mid-States Competition at the Evansville Museum in Indiana, I decided to call it what it was, and renamed the painting, Guardian Angel of the Good Death. She was accepted to the Evansville show and awarded a Merit Prize.

Now I’m thrilled to report that Guardian Angel of the Good Death was juried into the Eighth Annual May Show at Lakeland Community College. Started by Gallery Director, Mary Urbas, eight years ago, The Lakeland May Show holds its place as one of Northeast Ohio’s premier Juried Exhibitions. This year, the May Show’s street cred was increased exponentially as the juror was none other than, Lou Zona, the director of the Butler Institute of American Art (which hosts Northeast Ohio’s other premier Juried Exhibition…the Butler Midyear Show.)


An awesome Joseph Clark review of the May Show at Lakeland, its themes, its highpoints and its insights…in CAN Journal. Many of these stellar and thoughtful paintings shown and discussed and, I’m particularly excited that he spent so much time talking about “Guardian Angel.” Check out the review.

Please join me and the other fabulous artists
whose work hangs in the…

Eighth Annual May Show at Lakeland

Meet the Artists Reception
Thursday, May 25th, 6:00 to 9:00
Awards Presented at 7:00 P.M.
Show dates: May 18-July 14th

Lakeland Community College
7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, Ohio

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Serenity Prayer

Serenity Prayer: Acceptance
Judy Takács

“Do everything slowly.”

That was my mantra for the excruciatingly long month of December 2015. The month of healthcare hell that included three hospital stays…two for my mom, (who, thankfully did well for another six months), and one for my dad, who, at 91 passed away peacefully.

“Do everything slowly.”

I thought of this mantra myself. It is decidedly different from “slow down!”  To me, “slow down” de-values and tries to correct what you’re doing. It’s an annoying platitude, chanted by the cloyingly unflappable, for whom everything always seems to work out.

No, “Do everything slowly” is a positive action, a procedure with instructions, an artful dance with grace, observation, thought and dutiful acceptance of a job to be done, at its very core.

“Do everything slowly” allowed me to control my process of letting go of control… it was a Serenity Prayer of sorts.

We all know “The Serenity Prayer”…even if you didn’t hear it at an AA meeting. I was reminded of it again, when we chose this verse for the prayer cards at my dad’s funeral. It seemed fitting to his calm demeanor in life, and to our surprise at the elegance and timing of the events leading to his death.

“God, grant me the serenity to 
accept the things I cannot change;

The courage to change the things I can;

And the wisdom to know the difference”

My excruciatingly long month of healthcare hell and the logistical ping-pong of how it all played out with two parents in the hospital…and then one in the grave…showed me the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change” part in graphic detail. The conflagration of healthcare hell was one of the things I could not change.

I did, however, control what I could and took to the canvas whenever a break in the daily healthcare/funeral/administrative business presented itself.

The beekeeper paintings had been working themselves around in my head for months now…and it was time to put brush to canvas. My talented muse, jewelry artist, Kim Mettee obliged and wore the beekeeper protective netting and I was presented with the challenge of creating a painting where I couldn’t rely on a face to pull it together. Instead I had to focus my attention on the hands, the pose and the specifics of the mesh netting.

I added the bees, and the concept of controlling what I could amid a conflagration of painful confusion…came together profoundly. So profoundly, that I worked on two paintings based on this subject simultaneously.

The second painting, Serenity Prayer is below, and was selected by curator Alia El-Bermani to be included in Sight Unseen, a  Poets/Artists Magazine exhibit at the Abend Gallery in Denver, Colorado. Happy to say she found her forever home with a loving collector.

The show is over, but you can still purchase the beautiful catalog!

Serenity Prayer, Judy Takács

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Phoebe, surrounded by all these grandmothers…

Because the takeaway message that goes with my Chicks portrait of Phoebe is so important, I shall begin with it.

Have your kids vaccinated for the
HPV (human papillomavirus) 
And, ladies, get your yearly Pap test. 

Perhaps these health warnings, coupled with the unorthodox pose (even for Chicks) will give you a clue as to Phoebe’s struggle…and her strength.

Four years ago, Phoebe was diagnosed with 
cervical cancer

Phoebe, Surrounded by a hundred grandmothers by Judy Takács

She volunteered to pose with a concept in mind that was definitely outside the box…ahem…bottomless, with balls.

No stranger to creativity, Phoebe Marie Nelson, a fine artist, assembles exquisite collages where classical figures are composed with geometric shapes that radiate, point, circumvent and target.

After hearing the excruciating details of her cervical cancer story, I saw the brilliance of her art, and how very clearly it expresses the beauty and the beast of her cancer treatment.

When Phoebe posed, her cancer had successfully been beaten into remission with targeted radiation. She described the procedure as an Erector Set being built inside her body to aid in the precision placement of radiation…a landing pad, if you will, for the lengthy barrage of stealth missiles of radiation that were sent to eliminate the cancer.

The cancer attack mission was effective. The collateral damage, however, left her with side effects that included continued destruction of surrounding tissue. Pelvic Radiation Disease was the first major problem, which was treated with the 40 consecutive days of Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments. She subsequently developed, an autoimmune condition called Lichen Sclerosus and even sustained vision loss (the glasses in the third portrait are new to Phoebe.) And, because she was rushed to emergency treatment after years of severe gynecological symptoms went undiagnosed by doctor after doctor, the choice to harvest eggs and potentially have children at a later time, was taken from her without discussion.

I had only known Phoebe through mutual friends, when she volunteered to pose. After some discussion about balls, and her unorthodox concept, she chose a glowing green glass ball that radiated amazingly beautiful, other-worldly green flecks of light. The metaphorical reference to her radiation treatment struck me with full force once I began to paint these alien colors on her thighs.

So, why the hundred grandmothers?

When I begin a Chicks posing session, there’s an ice breaker time period. Sometimes, even if the model and I have been bonding over quite personal topics for hours, as soon as the top comes off (or for Phoebe, the bottom) and the balls come out, there’s a little inhibition, and it’s my job to make the model comfortable.

Even before I met Phoebe, I knew that I’d want to explore the beautiful narrative tattoo collection covering much of her body. As we talked about the meaning of the words and pictures, I sensed her spiritual connectedness with all things in this world. I asked her if she’d ever visited Lilydale, NY a town of spiritualists and mediums which I’d heard of but never visited myself.

Her eyes lit up immediately, and suddenly her poses were natural, animated and alive. She explained that she had visited spiritualists in Lilydale on several occasions. 

The Lilydale website defines a spiritualist as, “One who believes, as the basis of his or her religion, in the continuity of life and in individual responsibility. Some, but not all, Spiritualists are Mediums and/or Healers. Spiritualists endeavor to find the truth in all things and live their lives in accordance therewith.”

The spiritualist she communicated with told her she saw “all these grandmothers” in her aura. Realizing that she had indeed been surrounded by wise women from different generations her whole life, she took inspiration from that knowledge and had two tattoos created. Her right foot says, “All these Grandmothers” and on her left foot is written “You'll never walk alone.”

The concept of the hundred grandmothers resonated with me as well, and is very much in keeping with the whole Chicks with Balls concept; wise women, working behind the scenes to protect, serve and comfort those they love…creating a karma of goodness that is paid forward.

I used “Surrounded by a hundred grandmothers” as my title, and inspiration for the triple portrait of Phoebe. Repeating her image three times implies that she is also protected by her own strength, wisdom and resilience.

And, anecdotally, the hand of the Phoebe on the far right is my own. Well into the painting…and rushing to finish it for the Chicks show at Tri-C Gallery East, I found I needed the hand to be in a downward position. Having no reference from Phoebe herself for this hand position, I posed my own hand…artists do this more than you’d think.

This act of artistic convenience is also symbolic. Though, I’m not old enough to be her grandmother, I hope that after meeting her at our posing session, I can be added to Phoebe’s figurative grandmother tally as another ostensibly wise woman who cares about her.

And what good is a grandmother if she doesn’t dole out health advice…repeatedly?

For those of you who remembered my dire health warnings above about getting a PAP Test, don’t get too comfortable just because you have them every year.

Phoebe got hers yearly, but her particular brand of cervical cancer is a rare one, Cervical Adenocarcinoma and went undetected by the PAP test. So, really, her only defense would have been the HPV Vaccine, which vaccinates against the human papillomavirus, which can develop into cervical cancer.

But the vaccine didn’t exist when Phoebe was a teenager, and ideally it needs to be administered during the teen years.

The vaccine does exist now.
Get your girls and boys vaccinated now.

And, if you’d like to hear more about any and all of the Chicks with Balls paintings, see the works and ask some questions too, join me for…

Chicks with Balls
Discussion Day in the Gallery with Judy Takács
Monday, November 16th

Gallery talk begins at 10:40 to the general public and Tri-C Drawing Students of Prof. Clarissa Gerber.

Break for “bring your own bag lunch” at noon, with continued casual discussion and question and answer session.

Gallery talk continues at 1:00 to  the general public and Tri-C Painting Students of Prof. Gerber

It is casual, and you may pop in and join the discussion at whichever time is convenient for you…remember to bring a bag lunch!

I will be on hand to answer questions, discuss my work and inspirations and sign the compact version of the Chicks books, which will be for sale at the gallery front desk for $50. 

Gallery East
4250 Richmond Road
Highland Hills, Ohio
Gallery East is the first building on the left when you enter the campus from Harvard Road.

Click here for very detailed directions to the Gallery East at Tri-C.
Gallery Hours:
Monday through Thursday 10:30am to 3:30pm

Monday, October 26, 2015

Judy, Judy, Judy

Judy, Judy, Judy…a detail

People have been saying “Judy, Judy, Judy” to me my whole life.

Legend has it, Cary Grant said it first to Rita Hayworth playing a Judith in “Only Angels Have Wings.” But, according to Peter Bogdanovich, Cary only said things like “Hello Judy. Come on, Judy,” and “Now, Judy.” For some reason though, it went down in cinema history as three reps of  “Judy”, and I haven’t contested it. I actually kinda like it. People remember my name that way…if nothing else.

So, with every new crop of chicks I paint, I put forth another self-portrait. And each new self-portrait nods to and addresses its predecessors, resolves some issues and adds a much-needed breast or two to this show of topless women with covered ones.

Judy, Judy, Judy is no exception.

For Judy, Judy, Judy, I incorporated the mirror ball; a wonderful reflection of that which is me…see detail above.
I’ve used the mirror ball before, in my previous Chicks with Balls self-portrait.

Detail from, Judy finally grew a pair
Neither portrait has appeared online in their entirety…though I have shown details everywhere. And if you haven’t come to a show or seen the book, you probably won’t see them in their entirety…I’m leaving something for the honeymoon so to speak. Both self-portraits with the mirror ball, however, will be part of the upcoming show at Tri-C Gallery East.

For this last self-portrait, “Judy, Judy, Judy,” I explored the challenge of a painting that can be hung in multiple directions. I’ve only done a few and the compositions intrigue me immensely. The job of filling the empty spaces with more of the fun stuff…hands, faces, bodies… make these turnable paintings a joy to create and hopefully fun to look at as well. 

And, just in time for the Tri-C Opening, October 2015, some amazing coverage in
Cleveland Scene Magazine online!

And don’t forget if you haven’t already, give my new facebook page, Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes…a quick “like!”

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Becoming Shannon

Becoming Shannon by Judy Takács
Not fitting where you’ve been put might kill you or force you to build the wings you need to fly.

In many ways, for Shannon it did both.

Shannon is a sweet, funny, beautiful, chatty, passionate, bold, truthful, realistic, candid and outspoken woman. She has a dramatic way about her, loves jewelry with all its symbolic qualities, and she’s an incredibly talented artist and illustrator.

And she’s fun as hell.

Though we only met once before, we spent the better part of a very fun snowy Pennsylvania day together in the makeshift art studio of my Holiday Inn Express room, where Shannon posed for Chicks with Balls.

We talked non-stop and I became educated about how Shannon built her wings to fly…from where she was put.

Shannon, the sweet fun woman I just described, was put…born…into a male body and was in the process of transitioning from being Michael to becoming Shannon.

Picture it ladies. You are you, with all that is wonderful about you; your sensitivity, your desire to chat, to slow down and understand, to logically organize and plan, to care, to think deeply, to multi-task, to enjoy being pretty, to have fun with jewelry, clothes and shoes that are expressive, colorful and specific to you. And yet, people keep throwing you a football, putting you in a dark suit, challenging you to man-up and fight, expecting stoicism and silence…and your body is wrong; profoundly so.

You are existing in a body that is not your own. You are a woman in every way, but your body doesn’t match your soul. This was Shannon’s life. She knew she was a girl as young as age three, but her body was that of a boy.

One of the results of years spent in the wrong body in a world of misunderstanding, was that Shannon developed a severe bulimia addiction. Bulimia often manifests itself when the victim is powerless in other ways to exert control over her life. Bulimia gives its victim control over at least her own body. And exercising that control takes over and becomes a way of life. The details of how she managed this addiction are astounding. It became a full-time job, and Shannon is very open with how many times a day she purged (sometimes 10 times a day), and how she arranged her work and life around this addiction. It was an addiction in every sense of the word. It cost her teeth, many years of her life…and almost cost her life; with her weight dropping below 80 lbs. at its worst.

It wasn’t until she was a young adult that she saw a news special on gender reassignment. It was like being blind all your life, and then discovering therapies to help you see.  Or like being wheelchair-bound and then finding a medical procedure that allowed you to walk.  She didn’t agonize over the decision. As with many important paths in life…falling in love, choosing a career that moves you, being handed your new baby, saying a final goodbye to something painful … it’s obvious when it makes itself known, as if the answer were there all along.

If the decision was simple, the process of gender reassignment was immeasurably difficult. In fact the pre-process is often the gate at which many are turned back.

As it was, Shannon (then Michael) spent another almost 15 years struggling with the medical condition of inhabiting the wrong body, as well as with her bulimia, before actually embarking upon the epic journey to “Becoming Shannon.”

In order for a doctor to even think about beginning the hormone therapies that are part of gender reassignment, Shannon would have to break her bulimia addiction.

She actually surprised herself with how completely she was able to give up binging and purging. The prospect of becoming female within her sights, surely gave her the strength she needed to become healthy enough to withstand the procedures and therapies to come…and to exercise the control over her body that purging could never give her.

In addition to a therapy of female hormones, which act like puberty and menopause all at once, there are physical procedures that make your male body become female. Permanent Laser hair removal is painful and extensive and breast implants were yet to come.

I will now address the question everyone wants to know; will Shannon be having the “other” surgery?

This is a question that should not be asked, and it goes beyond mere privacy.

There’s a vast social movement to discourage discussion as to the status of the genitalia of transgendered individuals.  Their public acceptance in the gender they have become may be in jeopardy if it is known that they haven’t had the surgery for the genitals…sadly, opportunities and excuses for prejudice and mistreatment are plentiful for those who are looking.

Another common question is, “Why can’t he just be gay?”

Contrary to misconceptions, gender transition is not about who you’ll be having sex with or how it will be done, it is about how you’ll live your life true to who you are. I never asked Shannon if she was interested in men or women…at this point it was very much beside the point.

So, the day she posed, Shannon was well into the process of reassignment, but was not too near the end either. This is a very vulnerable time for those going through it, and their privacy should be respected. Even Caitlyn Jenner only came public with photos of herself once the surgeries and procedures were complete and she looked every bit the beautiful woman she had become.

Shannon, however, was brave enough to pose during this transition time. She felt this was an important outreach activity; She’s always been very open on facebook and in life about her struggles and triumphs while becoming Shannon. I’m honored she saw posing for Chicks the way many other women have; as an empowering step for her.

The ball Shannon chose was the classic “blackball” …like those used by organizations with secret voting processes to keep someone from joining. She said that she had felt blackballed her whole life.

My paintings of her were complex and challenging because I was so compelled by her image. I realized that even though this was not a commissioned portrait, I wanted to present Shannon to be as beautiful as she really was. And, because she was transitioning, she had to look as beautiful as the woman she was becoming, but still acknowledging the physical appearance of the man she was. The portrait had to toe a very tricky line. And, there are only a few examples of trans women in art to draw inspiration from, Janet Bruesselbach’s extensive series was one of the few I found out there.

Shannon’s jewelry and hair offered their own complexities. The small brush has never been my friend, and the wispy tendrils of her curly locks, along with the delicate filigree of her jewelry from India put this painter through the ringer.

Because of her unique challenges, I painted a smaller portrait first (above), focusing on her likeness, spirit and her joy. The double portrait (below) posed a greater challenge with so many elements at play. She holds the black ball she chose to pose with, and I also added a huge reflecting black ball to symbolize her giant lifelong struggle. The Barbie™ Pink background is the color her childhood had been missing (ladies, and mothers of daughters, you know what I mean). And, anecdotally, when I decided, months later, to add the giant reflecting black ball in my painting, I set up a scale model still-life to paint the reflection from, using an actual Barbie Doll from my youth.
Shannon, A Double Life by Judy Takács
The paintings are called, Becoming Shannon and Shannon: A Double Life.

Watch for further developments… I am working on a third portrait in my Shannon Series, and it may just be ready in time for my solo Chicks show at the Tri-C Gallery East, which opens October 29th!

Mark your calendars, the Chicks are returning to Northeast Ohio!

Opening Reception:
Thursday night, October 29th from 6:00 to 8:30
Show dates October 29 through November 24th

Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus
Gallery East
4250 Richmond Road
Highland Hills, Ohio
Gallery East is the first building on the left when you enter the campus from Harvard Road.

Gallery Hours:
Monday through Thursday 10:30am to 3:30pm

And don’t forget if you haven't already, give my new facebook page, Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes…a quick “like!”