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 all these 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. So, my starting message is also the takeaway message…please heed!

The vaccine does exist now.

Get your girls and boys vaccinated now.

This Just In:
I’m thrilled to let you know that Phoebe will be showing at the

Lakeland Community College
Annual Exhibition!

Reception: Sunday March 24, 3:30 to 5:00
Show dates: February 24-March 29

Check out the amazing roster of talent
 in this show and c’mon down!

Lakeland Community College
7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, Ohio

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

Shannon's Double LIfe

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.

When I first posted this blog in 2015, the Shannon Triptych was only two thirds complete. Finally Shannon is now ready and finishes this three part painting series.

Finally Shannon by Judy Takács

See this painting at the gorgeous galleries of the Zanesville Museum of Art

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 at the Zanesville Museum of Art:
Chicks with Balls: You, me, and every woman we know
Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Satellite Exhibition at The Art Loft Zanesville:
My Epic Triptych, Love, Athena will debut at their First Friday Artwalk
Friday, March 6th, 2020
5:00 to 9:00

Gallery Talk at The Art Loft Zanesville:
Beyond Chicks with Balls: The Goddess Project
Thursday, March 19, 2020
6:00 to 7:00

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 the events to personally sign books!

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

Thursdays: 10:00 to 7:30

The Art Loft Hours:
These are working art studios with a beautiful gallery common space, open for the First Friday Artwalk (March 6) by appointment and by chance.
Call first: 740.704.2118

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"!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Nina Poses a Second Challenge

At 40, Nina’s got it Covered
by Judy Takács
Above is my second Chicks with Balls painting of Nina, which was included in the 2015 Chicks show at Cuyahoga County Community College Gallery East. You may recognize her because, back in 2013, she was my poster woman for Chicks with Balls.

Nina is Grace under Fire
by Judy Takács

Sometime in 2014, Nina told me she wanted to pose a second time. 

We talked about painting her tattoo this time with possibly more flesh showing… and maybe without balls this time…suggesting she had the “balls” to pose without using any balls.

As with all planned paintings, however, sometimes inspiration is more powerful than a list of great concepts.

It was the start of the summer of 2014 and before we could arrange the posing session, I visited Colorado to see the Daniel Sprick solo show, “Fictions” at the Denver Art Museum. We made a rugged family vacation out of it, with outdoor activities in addition to museum trips. One of our family hikes took us to Colorado Springs, just 2 hours south of Denver. 

Colorado Springs had been etched into the long-term storage portion of my brain since 1984, when I purchased my big fat John Singer Sargent coffee table book and discovered the hauntingly beautiful portrait of Miss Elsie Palmer. I saw that her painting was permanently installed at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and made a silent promise myself that if I ever found myself in Colorado, I’d go see it. 30 short years later, that’s just what I did…and it was infinitely worth skipping the family hike for!

Miss Elsie Palmer
by John Singer Sargent
courtesy Art Renewal Center

Miss Elsie Palmer’s symmetry and simplicity are brilliant. And, though Miss Elsie was a teenager, I saw a connection between her and Nina’s spirit and appearance…and since I’m 13 years older than she is, I’ve always thought of Nina as young…wise beyond her years, but young!

Nina could rock this pose just like Elsie did.

Sargent, of course, had a distinct advantage because of the flowing Victorian dresses his female portrait sitters wore. Not wanting to create a period piece (I think I never have) but one that was “of today,” I posed Nina with items that might compositionally do for my painting what Elsie’s dress did for Sargent’s.

I decided to go to Nina’s story for inspiration and props. I had her pose with baby blankets from all her children.  The striped and foot-printed blankets were a breeze compared to the pink and white knit afghan that had warmed her preemie twins, Cadence and Carmella. I almost threw in the brush a few times, but, short of derailing my new concept, I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and paint the pink and white knit blankie. I feel I prevailed, but only just barely. It’s not a challenge I’ll take up again soon.

Nina had no need to use a ball for modesty though, her sumptuous auburn hair provided plenty of coverage. I did however include a ball beneath her feet to really drive home the concept of being in charge and to conjure up images of sitting on top of the world after prevailing through the gauntlet of trials her life has taken.

I call this portrait, At 40, Nina’s got it covered.

This painting was shown when
Chicks with Balls returned to Northeast Ohio in 2015!

Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus
Gallery East

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wanda Shines Her Light in Pennsylvania

Wanda’s Care-ful Light and Life
by Judy Takács

Wanda has been the loving rock of stability for her family…all her families.

Even as a child, she cared for her younger siblings as her mother dealt with severe depression.

Later, Wanda was essentially a single mom to her four, now adult children whom she raised to be self-reliant, successful and kind…despite adversity.

Wanda’s house is a full one. Her own adult son and five-year old grandson live there along with Wanda and her long time partner, a sweet and caring man whom she recently married.  She and her husband, provide much of the care for his five-year old granddaughter because his own adult daughter is unable to care for the little girl. 

This complex list of people who depend on her immensely, adds up to a lifetime of Wanda putting herself last.

And, I haven’t even started to tell you about the health issues which have, over the past fifteen years, added to her already extremely full plate.

Wanda has been living with debilitating pain and severe fatigue from lupus for the past fifteen years. Two years ago she almost died of sepsis from a kidney infection, and then last year she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Thankfully the treatments worked well on the cancer, but not without almost killing her; this time because of the blood clots they caused in her lungs.

She’s a quiet fighter though, puts on a positive face and soldiers on.

And, after her own children were grown, she began taking art classes at the Community College about an hours’ drive from her home in Pennsylvania. This is where I met Wanda, when the Chicks with Balls show made its first stop there as a traveling show in 2014.

The art classes at Luzerne County Community College, awakened her creative spirit.

Wanda embraced her artistic side and threw herself into her photography the way she had with all the other aspects of her life she cared about; with her whole heart and soul.

She graduated with Honors in commercial art and photography.

Since awakening this sleeping giant, she hasn’t looked back. She bravely left her full-time job of more than twenty years to open a photography business. Wanda is also on the Dean’s list as she attends college full-time for her second bachelor’s degree in studio art and art history.

She humbly describes her considerable talent and her discovery of it as “her little light” and chose to pose with a small ball of light. Since we discussed this in advance, I ran to buy spherical Christmas bulbs, knowing they’d be perfect!

This quiet, gracious demeanor which veils the bubbling creative passion lurking just beneath the surface is what I wanted to capture in my sparkling, glowing, purple painting of Wanda.

On the day of the posing session; as if to parallel the twists and turns of Wanda’s life; the lovely spherical set of Christmas lights which I had brought with me all the way to Pennsylvania for her to pose with…shattered!  The whole string shorted out just before she arrived for the shoot and I was swearing like a sailor! I really wanted to paint the luminous effects of my beautiful model carefully holding an actual glowing bulb.

Wanda was unfazed though, and chose a sparkling glitter ball to pose with ( I brought back-up balls) and I named her painting, “Wanda’s Care-ful Light and Life.”

And, I’m psyched to let you know that I’ll be part of a group exhibition at the 


featuring the work of
Benjy Davies, Beth Nash,
Joe Radoccia and Judy Takács
Opening Reception:
Thursday, August 30, 4:30 to 6:30
through September 28

Coburn Gallery
Ashland University
Center for the Arts, First Floor
330 College Ave.
Ashland, Ohio

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Kicking it off with Bridget’s Wrap!

Inspired by Bridget’s Wrap
by Judy Takács
Bridget’s wrap is a hand-painted sari which came from India and thoroughly ignited her creative spirit. It was given to her by the owner of Alpaca Fiber Studio in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Bridget has been felting and loving it, at this neighborhood Alpaca studio for several years, and as a collector of textiles, she was drawn to this piece when it arrived from India with a fabric shipment.

She brought it to our posing session, tied it around her waist and the image was striking. Her pose had the timeless mythological or biblical feel of a painting from centuries ago. She also passionately clutches chunky red skeins of the bright red alpaca yarn she brought. The symbolic magic 8-ball is from my own vast ball collection and brings the image back to our time.

Bridget honored me by posing on her 52nd birthday…coincidentally the 8th of the month. We spent the better part of an afternoon bonding over the emotional, anxiety-driven complexities of our various children and their lives. She looked at her chicks painting as marking a significant before and after where she begins a future of harnessing her creative side and letting it lead her where it will.

I call her painting, Inspired by Bridget’s Wrap

And, I’m psyched to let you know that Bridget will be showing as part of a group exhibition at the 


featuring the work of
Benjy Davies, Beth Nash,
Joe Radoccia and Judy Takács
Opening Reception:
Thursday, August 30, 4:30 to 6:30

through September 28

Coburn Gallery
Ashland University
Center for the Arts, First Floor
330 College Ave.
Ashland, Ohio

Monday, March 9, 2015

Majority Rising: The Self-Portrait

The sixth and final installment in my series of blogs leading up to the Majority Rising show which I curated and participated in at the Artist Archives of the Western Reserve for Women’s History Month.

Majority Rising, subtitled, Cleveland’s Female Gaze, opened March 12th and featured work by legendary Cleveland figurative artists, Shirley Aley Campbell, Lee Heinen, Kathleen McKenna, Marsha Sweet, Marilyn Szalay…and me, Judy Takács.

My contribution to the show as curator and participant, was the portraits I painted of the living artists in this exceptional grouping.

And, in the interests of fairness, I included a self-portrait too. As you may already know, for each portrait of these Cleveland Art Legends, I chose to be inspired by their art as well as their likeness.

To apply that concept to my own self-portrait, I turned to my inner hedonist and asked, what kind of painting would bring me the most joy to create?

The answer was loud as a fire engine… “red”.

Judy Takács, Silent Picture, a Self-Portrait

Lately I’ve been LOVING painting on red. It creates a flesh and blood undertone beneath my skin layers. It’s a joy to build a human face and hands on red. That is why so many of paintings these days are on bright cadmium red (toxins and consequences be damned.)

In addition to loving red, I LOVE antiquing. Over the past few years, my two younger sons have enjoyed antiquing with me; each with their own changing agenda…antique weapons, coins, vintage movie projectors and old 16mm film reels. I antique for things that would be fun to paint.

Taking inspiration from excessively talented artist, Pamela Wilson, (whose antique treasure trove must be the size of an army barracks) I too, am collecting props and costumes. Unlike, Pam, though, who can paint any object or space she chooses, with exquisite mastery, detail and precision,  my “stuff” painting skills are as still developing.

Unlike actual faces, where I will tackle anyone for better or worse…for me to paint an object, it has to speak to me. It can’t be too mechanical (no car engines) or repetitive (no fenceposts, combs or chain link fence). It must have organic yet identifiable shapes (a beat up old shoe is perfect and so are the boxing gloves on my easel right now), yet not be too shapeless (no tumbleweeds please, and I shall run screaming from a mink coat thrown into a bean bag chair with no seams).
Work in Progress Detail from, Lady in Waiting
And, if you’ve been following the Chicks blog, you know my skills were severely taxed with some of the balls I had to paint… golf-balls; spawned from the bowels of my personal hell, and were banished from my studio.

So, in seeking hedonistic painting pleasure, I look for objects that are fun for me to paint, and then as I contemplate them, I extrapolate the symbolism…though sometimes even that process works in reverse. I’m currently looking for antique white opera gloves.

A scene from Unbearable Lightness of Being, with Daniel Day Lewis and Lena Olin as Sabina

I almost didn’t buy the discount 1940s bowler hat I stumbled upon at the
Medina Antique Mall because it was so artistically cliché (I thought of Magritte of course, but also the beguiling Sabina in Unbearable Lightness of Being…the quintessentially gorgeous, sexually provocative, woman artist, painting in lingerie and ever-ready for her married lover to show up at his convenience…)
But, the bowler fit my extra large head perfectly and the price was right!
Unexpectedly, the self-portrait concept came together in a flash.

Since one of my kids was into old movies, we’d been watching several Charlie Chaplin films lately. I always knew a picture was worth a thousand words, and my Number 12 Rosemary Shiraz Filbert Brush was the perfect mustache shape!
Charlie Chaplin
Thus was born the concept for my self-portrait, which I (oh so cleverly…and ironically, because it’s of me, who is never silent) called,  Silent Picture.

And, since a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, and I’ve already used up 608 of them I shall say no more!

Past Show:
Majority Rising
Cleveland’s Female Gaze

March 2015

Artist Archives of the Western Reserve
1834 East 123rd Street
Cleveland, Ohio 

Read the first Majority Rising blog featuring Shirley Aley Campbell, and the second one which talks about Lee Heinen, the third one, which is all about Marsha Sweet, the fourth one about Kathleen McKenna, and the fifth, all about Marilyn Szalay.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Majority Rising: Marilyn Szalay…the artist I couldn’t paint

The fifth installment in my series of blogs leading up to the Majority Rising show which I’m curating and participating in at the Artist Archives of the Western Reserve for Women’s History Month. 

Majority Rising, subtitled, Cleveland’s Female Gaze, opens March 12th and features work by legendary Cleveland figurative artists, Shirley Aley CampbellLee HeinenKathleen McKennaMarsha SweetMarilyn Szalay…and me, Judy Takács.

Today I’m shining the spotlight on Marilyn Szalay.

Unfortunately, because she passed away in 2012, I never had the privilege to meet the iconic Marilyn Szalay and tell her how I loved her powerful, monumental charcoal drawings…or to paint her image for the Majority Rising show.
Detail from, Sadness of Miss Jane, by Marilyn Szalay

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to her sister, Diane, for allowing me to search through the treasure trove of Lynn’s work which she now cares for and protects. To an artist there’s no greater gift than to know that your work is well-loved and your legacy will be kept alive by someone that cares.

I spent a fascinating and inspirational afternoon poring through her charcoals. Her drawings are tightly woven compositions that beautifully show her superb draftsmanship.

I am floored by the depth of form she achieves in charcoal, and love that her figures are larger than life size. Using only shades of gray, she models a face to come all the way out beyond the picture plane. And then she continues the construction and places a beautifully sculpted three-dimensional nose to sit on it. This detail from Portrait of Kathleen below, shows exactly what I’m talking about.

Detail from, Portrait of Kathleen, by Marilyn Szalay

Ironically, this portrait of a child, “Kathleen” is what I used as inspiration when I was wrestling with my portrait of Kathleen McKenna and the glasses she wore. I love when I can find a work that tells me how to solve a particular problem…Lynn’s Portrait of Kathleen did just that for my Portrait of Kathleen McKenna.

Detail from, Inspired by Malala and by Kathleen McKenna, by Judy Takács

But for Lynn, building the structure is only the first step. After she has established impressive sculptural integrity with value, she has the crazy audacity to risk wrapping it in a chain link fence shadow

…or a pattern of branches and their shadows

…or images  from another room reflected on glass.

The pieces I chose for Majority Rising simply floored me with this kind virtuosity and expression.

Detail from Winter Light, by Marilyn Szalay

Winter Light above, was juried into the Realism Today show at the John Pence Gallery in 2000, and was also featured in American Artist Magazine.

This detail from Winter Light above, is evocative of a late November Northeast Ohio day where we might not see the sun again for a month. Marilyn Szalay has shown us this moment in nature with a predominantly figural composition. This is why Lynn’s work speaks to me so…the figure and face are the canvas upon which life is projected…literally.

Lynn eloquently expressed her artistic goals…

I continually redefine myself and my perceptual skills and view of humanity, whenever I draw. It is my fascination with the nature of things that binds me to actual imagery. The gaze of an eye or the gesture of a hand, in its myriad of variations, can be so powerful and captivating. By developing my acute sense of perception, I am open to the subtle yet infinite possibilities. My images are an intense and personal record of eternal moments in time.”

I did not paint a portrait of Marilyn Szalay. I didn’t feel it would be right…or do her legacy justice…for me to use a photo I did not shoot myself to paint from.

Thankfully, her sister Diane allowed us to exhibit a beautiful self-portrait charcoal drawing by Lynn. Of incredible depth and of great sentimental value, it is not for sale, but will hang with her other work and represent Marilyn Szalay’s image in the Majority Rising show.

I’m hoping you can make it to the opening reception and see the wonderful
(if I do say so myself) Majority Rising show…

Majority Rising
Cleveland’s Female Gaze

Public Opening Reception: Thursday March 125:30 to 8:30

Show dates March 12 through May 2

Artist Archives of the Western Reserve
1834 East 123rd Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Or stop by during gallery hours:
Wednesday through Friday: 10:00 to 4:00
Saturday: 12:00 to 4:00

Private Studio tours in conjunction with the exhibit:

Lee Heinen Studio Tour, March 21, 2015, 1:00 to 2:30

Shirley Campbell Studio Tour, April 4, 2015 from 1:00 to 2:30

Judy Takács Studio Tour, April 11, 2015, 1:00 to 2:30

Kathleen McKenna Studio Tour, April 18, 2015, 1:00 to 2:30

Individual $20
AAWR Member $15

To reserve your spot and buy your ticket to any of the studio tours, email Katelyn Gainer, Gallery and Administrative Assistant at or call 216.721.9020. 

Read the first Majority Rising blog featuring Shirley Aley Campbell, and the second one which talks about Lee Heinen, the third one, which is all about Marsha Sweet and the fourth installment, where I talk about Kathleen McKenna.