Monday, November 21, 2016

Guardian Angel showing at the Evansville Museum in Indiana

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 recently, I called it what it was and renamed it, Guardian Angel of the Good Death.

But, lo and behold, she was accepted, and now she will hang on the museum wall of the Evansville Museum of Art, Science and History in Evansville, Indiana from December 11th through March 5th 2017.

Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science
411 SE Riverside Drive
Evansville, IN
812.425.2406
evansvillemuseum.org



I waited to post this until just before Thanksgiving because this will be our first without my parents…in fact my dad was rushed to the hospital two days before Thanksgiving 2015, and passed away a week after.  If you’re lucky enough to be sharing your holiday with one or both of your parents, give them an extra hug, a dose of patience and try to find common ground with some of the arguments that may come up at the dinner table…that’s really what we should all be doing as a country, and the very best place to begin is right at home.  Love to you all!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Serenity Prayer

Serenity Prayer: Acceptance
Judy Takács


Psyched to announce that Serenity Prayer: Acceptance is headed to the 

Cincinnati Art Club
Viewpoint 48 Exhibition
Opens October 20th from 6-9:00!

This year’s show will be hosted by 
310 Culvert Street, 5th Floor, Cincinnati, Ohio

Show Dates: Oct 20-Nov 10
Gallery Hours: M-F 9:00 to 5:00


“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 is thankfully doing well), 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.

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 storm of painful confusion, came together profoundly. So profoundly, that I worked on two paintings based on this subject simultaneously…the second one is below.


Serenity Prayer, Judy Takács
80th Annual Butler Midyear Exhibition, Butler Institute of American Art
Summer 2016



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!”









Monday, October 5, 2015

Boxing with Sandy

Sandy the quilt-maker pulls no punches
by Judy Takács
I offered Sandy some ball choices.

I also warned her that she needed to hold her gloves closer to her body if she wanted the coverage the balls she refused might have afforded.

Sandy felt it was more important to demonstrate correct boxing posture…even if it meant a possible nipple sighting. It was purely coincidental that the large central pose I liked best showed no breasts.…Sandy would have been okay with it either way.

I’m not surprised though, Sandy isn’t one to be squeamish about her body when it comes to creative endeavors. Literally throwing herself into her art as a quilt-maker, Sandy has painted her body with fabric dye and rolled on cotton muslin to create the fine art quilt that hangs behind her in her Chicks painting.

Shy, but eager to laugh with an infectious nervous energy, in talking to Sandy, I quickly discovered her fierce side. And to dispel any doubt, her necklace confirmed it.
 
Detail of Sandy’s “Fierce” necklace.

She has been boxing with a trainer now for the past few years and volunteered to pose with her pink boxing gloves. 
I was eager and thrilled to take her up on her offer; I’d been expanding the ball requirement for my recent Chicks poses.…pushing the envelope of women holding symbolic balls. The guidelines of a successful series should be a ladder for you to climb on, not bars to cage you.

The pink boxing gloves were perfect, and coincidentally well within my comfort zone too! On my easel for the past few months were paintings from a triptych with another model (actually, Kim Mettee, who has posed for Chicks, along other paintings) wearing red, vintage boxing gloves. 

Lady in Waiting
by Judy Takács

The greatest reward, however, was painting Sandy’s fascinating face. Until I painted her, I really didn’t realize how structural, beautiful and just plain fun her features were. To maximize my fun, I started with a smaller portrait, worked up the central one and have a third in progress, so I could really explore her fabulously fun to paint features.

Fierce the quilt-maker
by Judy Takács

The large central image in this triptych is called, Sandy the quilt-maker pulls no punches and, the smaller one, which will appear on the left is Fierce the quilt-maker. As for the painting on the right side of the triptych…you’ll just have to come to the show opening on October 29, 2015 at Tri-C Gallery East to see it for yourself in person!




Mark your calendars, Chicks with Balls 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

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tackling Leah Again

Leah’s Encore
by Judy Takács

You may remember my original Chicks portrait of Leah, who Runs, Bikes, Swims and Tackles…Paul.

So, if I already painted her, why did I paint her again?

Short answer; the first portrait (below) was bugging me and I had to do it!

Leah Runs, Bikes, Swims and Tackles…Paul
by Judy Takács
But, if you’ve been reading my blog, you may already know that I don’t give short answers. So, here’s the longer one.

Leah is sultry, sassy and gorgeous AND hysterically funny too…think Amy Schumer, only she’s hanging out with you, and not Jennifer Lawrence.

After laughing with her and Paul during the week our family spent with them at Cape Cod last summer, I came home to my now ancient-at-three-years-old painting of her, feeling that I had captured neither her beauty NOR her joy with any level of finesse. And, after further analysis, I also noticed this first portrait was a little too much “about the neck.” Make no mistake, I love a good neck and am happy render tendons within an inch of their lives, but, sometimes, in a very few special cases…I can go overboard.  Her neck was too long, her head wasn’t thrown back enough…and though her teeth were beautiful and white (she’s a professor of dental hygiene, so I couldn’t take shortcuts on the teeth)…her laughter had lost its sparkle.

Leah’s was one of my early Chicks portraits…from the days when I tried to accurately paint the spontaneity of laughter and often rendered the life out of it. Painting laughter is tricky, I’ve blogged about the challenges.

Also, now that the Chicks with Balls project has progressed well beyond its humble self-conscious beginnings, I’m finding more and more that I want to tackle the challenge of a double-image portrait; sometimes two heads are better than one to tell a complete story of soul. And in Leah’s case, the new and improved double portrait enabled me to show the bubbly joy and the quiet wistfulness that make her the compelling subject I’m proud to call my friend.

And, when I posted a tiny detail shot of Leah’s freshly painted eye, on instagram, it garnered more likes than any single image I had posted before. Nothing like public approval to make you confident about your decisions!

Take a quick look at my instagram!


Since it’s my second time tackling Leah Tackles Paul, I called this painting, Leah’s Encore. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to show the first one along with the second one at the next Chicks with Balls show, but you’re all invited to the show to be surprised!



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"!