Thursday, May 9, 2019

Emilie, The Tenth Muse…heads to the Tenth Annual May Show at Lakeland!

Emilie, The Tenth Muse…The One Who Sees
Emilie is a rare gem at an art opening. 

She doesn’t have a dog in the fight.

By that I mean she’s pure patron, appreciator, creative spirit, lover and follower of art… without being an actual maker of art herself.  

In the Northeast Ohio world of gallery openings, museum shows and juried competitions…literally everyone…from Part-time Volunteer Gallery Assistant to Museum Director…is also an artist, or has been at some point in their life. This is why Emilie is so rare, and I told her so the moment I found this out.

Since then, I have seen her at every art opening I attend, and she has attended many that I do not. Usually she pops in to one, and then has two more on her dance card for the same night.

At one such art opening, I talked to her about how I’m transitioning my Chicks with Balls project to my Goddess project, where I view the mythology of all religions through a feminist lens and reinterpret images and stories that have shaped our collective thinking.

Emilie’s portrait is one of a few that stands at the threshold of the Goddess project. 

In Greek Mythology, there were nine muses; Godesses who inspired great achievement.  These eternally beautiful and youthful daughters of Zeus had names like Thalia: The Cheerful One, Erato: The Lovely One and Melpomene: She Who Sings. There were even specific muses for flute-playing, astronomy and remembering things (TUM PECCET… find out the rest when you click it). 

The glaring omission in this glowing line-up is a muse for the Visual Arts!

In the world of figurative art, the concept of the artist’s muse is as old as art itself. 

The artist’s muse, however, isn’t an ethereal 22 year old goddess whispering in your ear, it is a mortal human whom you find fascinating to paint because of physical, intellectual or emotional attributes…or an exciting combination of all three! As Picasso once said, “Let inspiration find you working.” An artist’s muse shows up and poses for you, thereby enabling the actual “working” part of inspiration. 

For me, a muse often falls in line with the kind of lines I like to make. And, for those who haven’t noticed, I love painting glorious age! The fact that Emilie is such a great appreciator of art just made her mythological title that much easier to come up with: Emilie, The Tenth Muse…the One Who Sees.

But, I’m not the only one inspired by Emilie. If you talk to her for a bit (at one of the many art openings where you’ll see her), you’ll find out that she is the proud mother of two-time Academy Award Winning Director for Pixar films, Lee Unkrich. Among a host of other movies, he directed Toy Story 3 and Cocoboth of which won Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film. 

Yes, THE Toy Story 3 and THE Coco…I shit you not.

I don’t want to end my blog with the words, “I shit you not…,” so I’m going to throw a little love in the direction of my own “ethereal, whispering in your ear” muse; John Singer Sargent.

Isabella Stewart Gardner
(1888) John Singer Sargent

The pose and composition of my portrait of Emilie was inspired by Sargent’s portrait of iconic collector and museum founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum catalog says, Sargent’s painting of Mrs. Gardner presents her as a “pagan deity.” Art critic and author, Henry James called Sargent’s depiction a “Byzantine Madonna.” Both descriptions speak to me.

Mrs. Gardner's head is surrounded by a mandorla 
patterned after a tapestry in the Gardner museum collection. In keeping with this regal addition, I re-imagined Emilie's mandorla as a halo of brushes, befitting the muse of the visual arts. 

Emilie’s sari is an exotic fabric from an exotic land purchased at an exotic fair-trade store in Lakewood, Ohio. The primary colors and patterns made me think of Toy Story and Coco. And, Emilie wears the red-striped admission bracelet for Front International, Cleveland’s first-ever summer-long adventure as an international contemporary Art Mecca. 

Front International is a triennial festival to be repeated in the summer of 2021, so mark your calendars!

And, if you find yourself in Boston, make a point to head to The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Around the turn of the last century, Mrs. Gardner amassed a major collection that included Sargents, Zorns, Manets and Bonheurs along with some Rembrandts, a Vermeer and even a Michelangelo drawing.

During her lifetime, these works were beautifully displayed in her private home…really a mansion… which she bequeathed as her legacy, to become the magnificent Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It ranks among the best private museums in the world and is a “must-see” even in Boston, the land of “must-sees!” Its just around the corner from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, but don't plan to make a day of it…make at least two days of it. 

In the meantime, if you want to be inspired by The Tenth Muse.
head to the Tenth Annual Lakeland May Show to which I’m thrilled to find out she was accepted!

I won’t be at the opening, since I’ll be in Chicago for the opening of Secondary Meanings…(damn the laws of time, space and physics!) but if you go, you may just meet Emilie, the inspiration for The Tenth Muse and maybe you’ll be inspired by her too!

Tenth Annual Lakeland May Show
Lakeland Community College
Opening Reception: Thursday May 16th, 6:00 to 9:00

Through July 12, 2019

7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, Ohio

Monday, April 29, 2019

Arachne: The Spider and the Queen Bee

Arachne: Predator and Prey…left panel
Available through Zhou B Gallery on

Arachne: Predator and Prey. The Arachne story from Greek Mythology, is a little known one, so I shall tell it here.

In the ancient world of the Greek Gods, Arachne was a mortal woman and an extraordinary weaver. She boasted of her skill, declaring that she was better at weaving than the Goddess Athena.

Pride in her accomplishments was Arachne’s first crime.

It is the crime that has disempowered many talented and intelligent women since…well, since women could speak. She knew she was good and told people so. In a man, this is respected as confidence in one’s own abilities. For a woman, however it is seen as undesirable bragging. Even contemporary women of great skill tend to hide their light lest they be seen as too cocky.

Athena, Goddess of Arts and Crafts (among other things) also demanded that Arachne declare her weaving prowess to be a gift from the Gods.

Arachne wouldn’t hear of it. She had built her skill through hard work and persistence, not magical divine intervention. For me, as an artist, this really hits home. I always bristle when someone tells me I’m “blessed” or “gifted” with the skill to paint…when in fact I am consistently working very hard to master it as a lifelong goal in progress.

Athena took umbrage at these perceived insults and challenged Arachne to a weaving duel…if only all disagreements were settled this way.

In this competition, both woman and goddess chose to weave complex scenes of figurative art…a detail I adore.

Athena’s weaving was predictably grand: a scene of Olympus and a tribute to the glory of the Gods.

Arachne’s weaving, however was profoundly moving, truthful, beautiful, realistic and earthly…and far more skillful than Athena’s. Arachne depicted the Gods as carnal beings whose whims, passions, and petty jealousies create suffering in the lives of mortals.

With predictable pettiness, Athena was disgraced that her own work could not best that of a mortal. She became enraged with the very jealousy that Arachne’s vision of the Gods depicted. She tore Arachne’s beautiful weaving to shreds.

Thinking this was only the beginning of Athena’s godly wrath, Arachne attempted suicide by hanging herself right there on the spot.

Athena thwarted the suicide and removed Arachne from the rope she tried to hang herself with.

Then, in classic vengeful-God style, Athena declared (I imagine with great sarcasm and false fanfare) that since Arachne was such a superior weaver, she should hang from a rope forever and weave for all of eternity.

Arachne: Predator and Prey…center panel
Available through Zhou B Gallery on
Athena* summoned her almighty Goddess powers to turn Arachne into a spider…for the crime of beating her at a weaving competition…nooo, the gods weren’t petty…

My triptych casts Arachne as the beautiful and diligent weaver of her spider web. She is also prisoner of it; wrapped with the same silken webbing she uses to create it… even as she sprouts the multiple arms of an arachnid to complete her metamorphosis.

The Arachne Triptych…measuring almost 10 feet when seen together…it made its debut at the Zhou B Gallery in Chicago as part of Secondary Meanings, a Poets/Artists Exhibition and Catalog curated by Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt, sponsors of The Bennett Prize.

And, since it’s a triptych, there’s also a third panel…but, because she’s been in hiding for so long, I’m going to keep her a secret for a while longer. You can see her though, if you snoop around on the Zhou B Gallery site on!

Order the stunning Poets/Artists Secondary Meanings catalog here.

The Arachne triptych is available…as a set or as individual paintings…
check her out on…leftcenter…and right!

*Future paintings in this series will address the other cultural myth implicit to the Arachne story: the “Queen Bee” concept, as personified by Athena.

As I examine mythology, I often find powerful Goddesses, Queens, Sorceresses, and Witches smiting young women who have angered them simply by being beautiful, talented and clever and intelligent. The capable young women in these stories are punished, persecuted, thwarted, enchanted, manipulated and murdered by the very women who should be their mentors.

The concept that there is only room for one powerful woman at the top has repeated itself in mythology, religion, literature, fairy tales and also in the corporate and political world. It affects how women view and treat each other and validates the humiliations and injustices women have suffered from society as well.

The world has also suffered greatly for the “queen bee” concept as well. If you look at how history is riddled with testosterone-induced wars, conquests, pillages and enslavements…you’ll notice a distinct absence of women leading these charges. And also how women in positions of power often seek to emulate this swagger in order to be seen as strong…when in fact, strength also lies in setting ego aside and seeking peaceful solutions; a skill that wives, mothers, sisters, teachers, nuns, nurses, nannies and all unsung female heroes have practiced for millennia.

This “queen bee” myth…and practice… needs shattering and future paintings will attempt to do just that with my paintbrush.  I will also write about them…because I want to make sure you all get the point! J

Sunday, September 30, 2018


to be showing at the
Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art as part of Painting the Figure Now 2019

If there’s one story from Greek Mythology that everyone knows, it’s the tale of Medusa.

I shall refresh your memory in case it’s been a while.

Young, handsome demi-god Perseus was charged with killing the hideous snake-headed Medusa and bringing back her head to an evil king for reasons way too complicated to tell here.

The tricky thing was that if you so much as looked at Medusa, you’d turn to stone immediately. 

Perseus, armed with a mirrored shield (given to him by Athena) killed Medusa by looking only at her reflection, not at her actual stone-invoking face.

#Me(dusa)too two
to be showing at the Ohio State Fair Cox Art Center
All fun and adventure, except that’s not the whole story.

The apocryphal story of Medusa, through a feminist lens, is classic rape-victim-blaming at its most horrific and deadly.

Long before the Perseus beheading story, Medusa was a beautiful young woman. 

Medusa was raped by the God Poseidon in Athena’s Temple.

Athena*, angered that her temple had been desecrated, took vengence on the victim Medusa…not the rapist, Poseidon.  Blaming Medusa’s beauty, Athena made it so no man could ever look at her again. She cursed innocent and lovely Medusa to become a snake-headed gorgon whose glance turns those who look at her into stone.

This rape-victim-blaming story has repeated itself throughout time, and continues through news stories and political events happening right this minute…thus the reason for my rushing this post to publication.

For my painting, I have re-imagined the hideous gorgon and restored Medusa’s youthful beauty and innocence. I have also given her a hashtag stigmata; a merging of Greek, Christian and Contemporary iconography.

Hashtag Stigmata detail from #me(dusa)too

The duo of works I’ve painted are called, #Me(dusa)too and #Me(dusa)two.

And, I’m thrilled to share that both paintings will be showing this summer, each at its own spectacular venue :

will be included in
Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art
Opening Reception:
Thursday, July 11, 6-8:00 pm
Through September 28

Curated by WMOCA Director, David Hummer and Poets/Artists Didi Menendez
Painting the Figure Now 2019 is also a Poets/Artists Catalog all about the works and curatorial inspiration that went behind this phenomenal show! Click the link and check it out!

#Me(dusa)too two
will be included in
Cox Fine Art Center
Opening Reception: 
Tuesday July 23, 6:00 to 8:00 pm
through August 4

*Athena is cast as one of the evil ones in this story, isn’t she? 
Well, fear not, future paintings and blogs will also address THAT myth too… the myth of the powerful queen who does everything she can to keep other women down. This queen bee theme is repeated over and over in religion, mythology, fairy tales and political smear campaigns. It desperately needs retelling…and that’s just what I’ll be doing in the coming months! Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Judy Takács, the artist formerly known as Judy Takács Pendergast

And, in honor of my birthday…(56 today)…I am reclaiming my artist name…Judy Takács…and dropping my husband's name, Pendergast from my facebook name.

Judy, Judy Judy…Takács
I shall kick off this blog by telling you how much I love my husband.

And, even though I’m dropping his name from my facebook profile, I am totally keeping him!

We are happily settling in to our new empty nester-dom, resurrecting the candle light dinners we used to have 24 years ago, eating al fresco on the deck, traveling and really enjoying each other’s company too. It’s awesome to find out that the man you love is also someone you really really like too!

Here’s why the “Pendergast” was added to my name.

24 years ago we brought home our first born and realized that from that point forward we were no longer just a couple…we were a family.

Sweet Sloth…my oldest just before college

And the fact that we would be a family was the whole reason that when we got married 27 years ago, I added my husband’s name… Pendergast to mine. I eliminated my middle name (Eva) and shuffled my maiden name (Takács…also my artist name) to become my new middle name. My full and legal name became Judy Takács Pendergast…and still is. 

Silent Picture…a self-portrait of the artist Judy Takács

But, this mouthful of a name was never intended to be said together or to be hyphenated. I really had two identities.

I intended to be Judy Takács the artist, and Judy Pendergast the PTA mom.

I would sign Judy Takács to paintings and Judy Pendergast to teacher’s notes.

I would receive payments for paintings and graphic design work as Judy Takács and sign checks for kid’s pre-school enrollment as Judy Pendergast.

But then, facebook came along, and my two worlds collided. I saw that many of my married friends were using both their maiden and married names in their facebook profile so that kindergarten friends could find them, along with their new neighbor. So, I did the same.
Hatchlings…a self-portrait of the artist, Judy Takács
What I didn’t realize was how much I would use facebook to market and talk about my art. And, even though every single one of my social media identities, and even my wikipedia page, only uses my artist name, Judy Takács

…I still sometimes see painting labels and artistic venues and art friends refer to me as Judy Pendergast or Judy Takács Pendergast. I bristle that the art identity I was trying so hard to define (Judy Takács the artist) wasn’t sticking. I even wrote a blog article for the Portrait Society of America about this predicament that many women artists have…I called it “Making a name for yourself when you actually have three.

My favorite line which I wrote for the article was, “It’s hard to market yourself as Coke when you’re also known as Coke-Pepsi.”

So I have decided to drop the Pepsi…the Pendergast…from my facebook name.

From now on, my facebook profile name will be Judy Takács!


See what I did there? I put “Period” on the next line? Didn’t want to confuse you again!

And, I figured my birthday would be the best time to do this…because after all, 56 years ago today was when I first got the name Judy Takács.

Judy Takács as baby…with rattle…in crib

Thank you for reading to the end and remembering that my facebook name from now on will be Judy Takács!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Highland Matriarch…inspired by Highland Monarch

A few months ago, the American Women Artists put out an interesting Call for Entry.

In pursuit of their far-reaching goal to have 25 museum shows in as many years, they charged artists to become inspired by one of the works from the Haggin Museum Collection (where this year’s AWA show would be held). Artists were asked to create our own work as a result of that inspiration.

I chose Eugend-Joseph Verboeckhoven's Highland Monarch as my inspiration.

Highland Monarch
Eugene-Joseph Verboeckhoven
The organic twist of horns, the knock-kneed rhythm of legs and the elegantly arranged, lounging wooly rams are what first drew me to Verboeckhoven’s painting. As a life-long painter of people, I knew I would interpret this painting using the human form, and as a painter of paint strong women of character, courage and empathy, I wanted to re-contextualize it as a feminist piece…a Highland Matriarch. (yes, I used the word re-contextualize…)

The model posing for this piece is one of my patient and willing favorites.  She indulged me with awkward hand poses, duct-taped on gloves (my long black gloves were too big for her), tissue paper horns, and an itchy thrift-shop curly lamb coat.

To get the ram horn detail authentic, I sought out and actually found rams horns attached to the base of a hunting-theme specialty-shop lamp. Truly it was not an attractive lamp at all, but the horns were powerful, gorgeous and had the organic twist of forms that I love to paint.  Lucky for my model, I did not make her wear the actual horns, which were quite heavy, and firmly attached to the light fixture!

I did set her in a regal languishing pose, calmly ruling the countryside, much like the Patriarchal Ram in Verboeckhoven’s painting. I echoed his rolling hills, the mountains in the mist, and the subtle, cloudy grey sky.

Highland Matriarch
Judy Takács

The little sheep salted about in the distance were the piece de resistance to my first-ever Scottish Countryside scene.

Highland Matriarch made her Museum debut at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California as part of American Women Artists Full Sun Exhibition in the Summer of 2018. 

Psyched to say she will be showing again soon…

Valley Art Center
47th Annual Juried Exhibition

Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony: 
Friday November 2, 6:00 to 8:00

Show runs through December 11

Valley Art Center
155 Bell Street
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Cleveland Figurative, CAN Triennial and Front International: Explained

Once upon a time, Fred Bidwell, Cleveland’s generous and highly active art patron and benefactor, along with Artistic Director, Michele Grabner…masterminded a Cleveland art event the likes of which had never been seen.

This summertime festival and Northeast Ohio-wide art event would be called FRONT International, and take place across many of the major art venues that Cleveland is so rich in (CMA, MOCA, CIA, Spaces and many more…some surprising!) during the Summer of 2018.

Hand picked international artists with a connection to Cleveland would be invited to create works, projects, films, installations and use all manner of creativity to address the theme of An American City…Cleveland. 

The publicity and international recognition generated by this event would be the boost that Cleveland…and lovers of “the land”…are always looking for. 

And, the CLE Art Community would not BE the Cleveland Art Community if we did not jump all over this to try to show off some of the terrific art being made right here by Cleveland Artists.

So, masterminds on the board of Cleveland’s own CAN JournalLiz Maugans, Michael Gill, Nancy Heaton and many others…put their heads together.  CAN (which stands for Collective Art Network) is a unique Art Journal and networking group dedicated to the promotion of all things Art in CLE. Plans were made to stage our own event to spotlight Cleveland artists during the FRONT International events in Summer of 2018.

This CLE event is called the CAN Triennial and takes place at the iconic 78th Street Studios, on Cleveland’s West side. In their own words, THIS is what CAN Triennial is:

“A gathering of exemplary contemporary art from Northeast Ohio, featuring new discoveries, rising stars, and the region’s most accomplished artists. An exhibit filling three floors of the 78th Street Studios with painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, fiber art, music, film, and site-specific installations. A Gallery Pavilion bringing together 20 of the most selective dealers from Northeast Ohio and surrounding cities. A deep dive into the creative minds of Cleveland.”

The 78th Street Studios is the former American Greetings Creative Studios…turned warehouse…turned art mecca. It houses artist studios, galleries, hosts weddings, events and the coolest monthly Third Friday Artwalk our town has ever seen. It made perfect sense to make this the one stop place to showcase Cleveland Artists for International Art tourists (apparently there is such a thing!) coming to town for FRONT International!

Thus was born my role in all this:
I gathered just a few of Cleveland’s foremost figurative realists to share their work at Booth No. 10, CLEVELAND FIGURATIVE at the 78th Street Studios, during the CAN Triennial Art Event.

Contemporary Figurative Realism is a movement that has been brewing on the coasts for over a decade. Cleveland’s own figurative artists have also been passionately painting humans with an eye to truth, beauty and the beauty of the truthful depiction…physically and emotionally.

To own a masterful depiction of a human soul is to bring empathy into your home. Contemporary Figurative Realism invites viewers to feel something for and with another person on this planet; to smile, to be touched, to connect, to linger and think.

Visit us at Booth 10 during the hours below to make friends with the artists and discover the beauty of the human souls who have been so lovingly painted.

Saturday-Sunday, July 14 and 15…12:00 to 6:00

Saturday-Sunday, July 21and 22…12:00 to 6:00
and during the 
Third Friday Artwalk
Friday, July 20…5:00 to 9:00

78th Streets Studios
First Floor Gallery Pavillion, Booth No. 10
1305 West 80th Street
Cleveland, Ohio