Friday, January 17, 2020

Mary, as Luna, Goddess of the Dung Beetle Ball

Mary, as Luna, Goddess of the Dung Beetle Ball
Judy Takács

The story behind this painting begins in the middle of the most harrowing time in Mary’s life. 

It was a time whose concerns did not include breast cancer…until they did.

Its never a good time for a breast cancer diagnosis, but because she put her family’s concerns ahead of her own, she ignored symptoms that otherwise would have been dramatic and alarming.

After a slow and tumultuous several years battling the cancer, Mary was left happily in remission with a double mastectomy. 

Not wanting to endure continued surgeries, recoveries, complications and also needing to get back to the easel (she’s a phenomenal artist, and founder and director of Hull Art Academy of Art in Dallas, Texas)…Mary made a sensible and measured decision to forgo reconstructive breast surgery.

This simple and logical, personal, cosmetic decision was met with extensive pushback from armchair psychologists and nosy acquaintances.

Some folks actually asked her if she was trying to become a man. 

There were women who inexplicably said they’d be concerned if their husband still found them to be sexy with no breasts. 

Even doctors put intense pressure on her to reconsider, using sexist generalizations about how a woman’s self-esteem is related to her breast size. 

She was also strongly advised to clear it with her husband and consider his feelings on the matter. He was all but asked to sign a consent form agreeing to keep a wife without breasts. 

Because her husband is a loving and supportive best friend, his response was, “Unless you’re filling them with beer, I don’t know why my opinion matters.”

One of the unexpected issues with choosing to remain breast-less is that no plastic surgeon will tidy up the extra skin so your body will look smooth and intentionally breast-less.  Mary was told by a plastic surgeon that they only do surgery if you’re changing the size or shape because you’re not happy with what you have…not if you’re removing them.

Before disrobing for the posing session, Mary braced me with dire warnings of what I was about to see. In Mary’s eyes, she saw sagging skin with puckers, dimpling and scarring. I geared up to not display shock, or even wince…never having seen a double mastectomy in person. 

Her warnings were, in my eyes, very much unfounded, and her breastless-ness seemed very natural and quite lovely…exotic, other-worldy even. 

Thus came the inspiration to interpret her as a mythological character. 

I cast Mary as the Roman Goddess Luna; embodiment of the moon, driving her horses and chariot across the night sky. 

Mary’s Luna, however, is driving Dung Beetle Balls across earthly terrain.

Why Dung Beetle Balls?

Mary beautifully navigates her sometimes tumultuous life and identifies with the humble dung beetle, who literally takes the shit of other animals and rolls it into positive action. 

Dung beetleballs are created by dungbeetles to attract mates, store food, and safely house and feed baby beetle larva. Their production is a methodical process where the beetles roll the dung of other animals in a single direction away from their original source, using the heavens as their guide; sun by day, moon by night. After the dung ball has finished its job helping beetles pro-create and survive, it returns to the earth to fertilize new plant growth that will feed other animals whose dung will continue the cycle. 

Mary’s shit…hand-typewritten words from naysayers and doctors about her cancer and decisions …is rolled into her giant dung beetle ball as she marches forward in life, rolling it into positive action.

And Why Mythological Characters?

As I march forward in my art life painting people…especially women of strength and courage, I am shifting focus from my Chicks with Balls series to other forms of inspiration and imagery. 

I, like countless artists and authors before me, have found a very deep well of stories, themes and fantastical details in mythology. And by mythology, I mean the tales, legends and beliefs from all the religions; Pagan, Ancient Greek, Jewish, Islamic, Christian, Hindu…wherever there are colorful characters with stories to tell. These fictions have inspired art, literature, fairy tales and belief systems for eons. Their lessons and warnings reflect the prejudices, ignorances and injustices of the time they were written, and have endured because of timeless characters to become deeply rooted in our contemporary subconscious…for better and for worse.

I’m excited to explore these concepts and re-examine classic mythological characters and tell their stories through a contemporary lens. I dispel stereotypes with the #Me(dusa)too diptych, and put non-traditional bodies into action via my Venus interpretations and the Winged Victory triptych.

Mary as Luna bridges the gap between my Chicks with Balls series and my Goddess series, so she holds a very special place.

Because Mary’s portrait is part of the Chicks with Balls series too, it will be shown at the Zanesville Museum of Art as part of my first ever, solo museum show!

Opening Reception:
Chicks with Balls:
Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes
Thursday, February 13, 2020
5:00 to 7:00
The long-awaited SECOND Chicks with Balls
launches at the Opening Reception.

Gallery Talk:
Chicks with Balls: You, me, and every woman we know
Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Guest Lecture:
Beyond Chicks with Balls: The Goddess Project
Thursday, March 19, 6:00 to 7:00

Zanesville Museum of Art
620 Military Road
Zanesville, Ohio 43701

Both first and second Chicks books will be for sale at the Opening Reception and at the ZMA Gift shop for $50 each, during the run of the show. I’ll be available all three events to personally sign books!

Museum Hours:
Wednesday thru Saturday: 10:00 to 5:00

Thursdays: 10:00 to 7:30

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Hillary Emerges…and so does the SECOND Chicks Book

Hillary Emerges
Judy Takács

Our sweet high school babysitter grew up into a beautiful athletic woman who posts gorgeous selfies, with healthy foods and positive affirmations while hiking the desert mountains of Arizona. 

Maybe you know someone like this too.

If she weren’t one of your kids’ favorite babysitters…and you hadn’t watched her grow up since the age of 14…you might limit these posts, or even turn them off because…well, her life looks too idyllic and maybe yours isn’t.

But, as a wise internet meme once said, “On Facebook, you’re comparing your real life to everyone else’s highlights reel.” 

And, I was to find out eventually that the selfies of the gorgeous girl going on gorgeous hikes were not just Hillary’s highlights reel…at times these hikes were her life-line. Hillary is very forthcoming about her struggle with alcohol addiction and bulimia. She will readily tell you how healthy living, a positive mindset and her faith is continuing to save her. 

Saving others also saves her.

Hillary has worked for Water4Kids, an organization which drills deep wells and water filtration systems for areas of the world where there is no access to clean water. This is a noble and difficult goal, which Hillary speaks of passionately and fights for daily. Lack of access to clean water has many heartbreaking and unexpected repercussions. Diseases like e.coli, cholera and dysentery are rampant in the contaminated water these people drink from. Children cannot attend school because they spend their days walking many miles to fetch water from faraway sources and bring it back to their village. Women must often make the choice between preparing food and spending hours bringing home water. Villagers must choose between dehydration and dysentery.

Water4Kids reaches areas with the greatest need by drilling deep wells in remote villages throughout east Africa and Central India close to their schools and medical clinics.  The benefits are life changing and immense, and the organization has drilled 500 wells to date! 

She now works for a technology company that helps churches and ministries organize events.

Hillary posed for me the day after Christmas, when she was back in Cleveland visiting family. Together we decided that some big shiny Christmas balls would be absolutely perfect. I presented a triple image of her, emerging from the balls and representing her own emergence as the vital, smart, healthy, kind and positive young woman she has grown to be.

Because I loved this image so much, and also because it was purple…I chose Hillary Emerges to grace the cover of the long-awaited SECOND Chicks with Balls book!

I shall be launching the book, February 13th when Chicks with Balls heads to the Zanesville Museum of Art for its (and my) first ever solo museum show!

Opening Reception:
Chicks with Balls:
Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes
Thursday, February 13, 2020
5:00 to 7:00

The long-awaited SECOND Chicks with Balls
launches at the Opening Reception.

Gallery Talk:
Chicks with Balls: You, me, and every woman we know
Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Guest Lecture:
Beyond Chicks with Balls: The Goddess Project
Thursday, March 19, 6:00 to 7:00

Zanesville Museum of Art
620 Military Road
Zanesville, Ohio 43701

Both first and second Chicks books will be for sale at the Opening Reception and at the ZMA Gift shop for $50 each, during the run of the show. I’ll be available all three events to personally sign books!

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Chicks head to Zanesville Museum of Art

Sharon just wants peace, love and joy

Before the first Chick took off her shirt and hugged her first ball, I’ve been thinking about a solo museum show for my epic, now decade-old project, Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes.

On February 13, 2020, that dream is coming true.

Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes will have its (and my) first solo museum exhibition at the Zanesville Museum of Art in Central Ohio.

At the opening reception I will be launching and signing copies of the second book in the Chicks series; Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács keeps painting unsung female heroes. The collection is now more than 50 paintings strong and all the works  painted since the first book will be included in the second, which will be for sale exclusively through the Zanesville Museum of Art during the run of the show, through April 4th.

The second Chicks book…the purple one!

The Chicks with Balls show was curated by ZMA Museum Director, Laine Snyder and will include approximately half of the chicks paintings, including some that have never been shown.  There will also be a satellite exhibit at The Art Loft in Zanesville, where more of the chicks can be seen…details to come!

The night of the opening will also be the first reveal for a giant multi-figure triptych to honor some of the women who originally posed for Chicks and whose lives have taken torturous twists and turns since. They have gone through hell; some through hell and back, some still fighting their way forward. This piece, Love, Athena, serves to bridge the gap to my next series, The Goddess Project, where I re-examine stories and characters from the mythology of all religions, through a feminist lens.

Mark your calendars and head down to Central Ohio’s hidden gem, the Zanesville Museum of Art for the opening of Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes, or one of my two talks!

Opening Reception with book launch and signing:
Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes
New Opening Date:
Thursday, February 13, 2020
5:00 to 7:00

Gallery Talk:
Chicks with Balls: You, me and every woman we know
Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Artist Lecture:
Beyond Chicks with Balls: The Goddess Project
Thursday, March 19, 2020 

6:00 to 7:00

Zanesville Museum of Art
620 Military Road
Zanesville, Ohio 43701
(740) 452-0741

Please note, the Opening Date has changed since
some of the publicity went out.
The official, correct date for the Opening Reception and Book Launch is:

Thursday Night, February 13, 2020 5:00 to 7:00…see you there!

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!