Monday, February 9, 2015

Majority Rising: Inspired by Lee Heinen

The second 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. You can read the first installment here.


Majority Rising, subtitled, Cleveland’s Female Gaze, opens March 12th and features 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 will be the portraits I am painting of the living artists in this stellar grouping. 

Today Im talking about the portrait I painted of artist, Lee Heinen.

Judy Takács, Lee Heinen: Bathed in Sunlight

Lee does the exact opposite of what I do as an artist.  She sees the forest, where I see trees (one of the many reasons landscapes scare me so). She simplifies and sees major shapes and colors where I complicate and also delight in specific details. She is able to distill a scene to its essence and express it unapologetically with sensitive silhouettes and bold color passages.

In assembling my dream team for the Majority Rising show, I chose each artist’s work as a unit with its own distinct voice.

In painting each artists portrait, I purposely immersed myself in that artist’s distinct voice…and drew inspiration from their work for their portrait. I was not trying to paint in their “style” (oh how I despise that word as applied to art.) I was attempting to breathe in what motivates their work and let myself be motivated by it too.

Lee Heinen, Sandman

In Lee’s work, I breathed in glowing sunny passages, sensitive contours, intimate human gestures and abstract compositions that accounted for every square inch of canvas.

Nothing more…and nothing less needs to be said about the reclining toddler that fell asleep on the corner of the couch in Sandman.

Naturally observed multi-figural groupings scare me. Lee Heinen’s paintings, however, pounce on delicious specifics like the boy with two Oreo cookies and the man scratching his belly in Day at the Beach below. Then she carefully massages large shapes and contours to their essential gestural core; never too much, never too little.

Lee Heinen, Day at the Beach

Fortunately for me, the day I met with Lee at her beautiful studio in the heart of Cleveland’s Little Italy Art District, it was sunny and bright. She’s hosting a studio tour on March 21st, so you can see it too…along with much of her amazing work.

I had her pose in front of her windows, which glowed with sunlight, creating warm halftones on her face, with almost no true darks. Lee glowed with sunlight like her paintings do.

Not venturing too far from my comfort zone, I kept the background minimal, but sunny, so as to focus on the cool fun lights on her face. After several hand positions were painted and repainted, I solved compositional problems with an eye to capturing essential shapes…the forest, not the trees. In her face, however, I climbed up into the trees and painted each and every leaf…with relish.

I call my portrait, “Lee Heinen, Bathed in Sunlight”

Detail from Lee Heinen, Bathed in Sunlight by Judy Takács

Hope to see you at the opening reception

Majority Rising
Cleveland’s Female Gaze

Public Opening Reception: Thursday March 12, 5:30 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.  

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