Judy Horowitz and I met at Art Basel Miami Beach many years ago and lost touch. However, she got back in touch with me and I decided that I had to chat with her about her work http://judyhorowitz.artspan.com/, her life and the contemporary art world in general. She has relocated from sunny Miami to Denver. Why did she move and will her work be different as a result? Check out our cool chat and find out …
“… I think the majority of artists are trying to communicate and whether the viewer understands the message I believe is often irrelevant to the artist. I hate when people ask, “What does it mean?” OR “What is the painting trying to say?” People project when they look at art, so I prefer to let them make their own decision as to ‘what it means ...’”
MICHAEL: Hello Judy, I think we should start by talking about your painting style. It's cool and unique. How long did it take you to cultivate and do you have a name for it?
JUDY: I don't have a name for the way I paint. I think it is more of an evolution. When people ask, I really don't know what to say. I have been an artist all of my life; people fascinate me. It is how they connect in their universe - the images represent people as opposed to being a specific individual. Sometimes I change things up completely because I get bored. Examples would be the layered, canvas paintings, still people, but in a different style.
MICHAEL: To me, your paintings have sort of a nostalgic, wistful vibe. It's almost as if you're reflecting back on times gone by. I don't know. Does this make sense to you?
JUDY: I guess I am just fascinated by people. I don't think of it as nostalgic or wistful. For me, it is an idea/image/feeling I want to convey. In some ways when I paint, I go somewhere else. I really can't explain it; it is more intuitive. I can actually work on a painting and talk on the phone about totally irrelevant things. My idea of planning might be a simple sketch, but if I can't visualize it before I start, it does not happen.
MICHAEL: I understand. Is there a narrative involved in your works? Are you telling any stories or is the work purely just painting figures?
JUDY: Yes, there is a narrative or theme. The Tattoo Series started with my son getting a tattoo and realizing you that you need to see the person and not the tattoo. My tattoo man is every man; he has a daughter, a puppy, works etc. Most people see the tattoo and not the person. The Waitresses series was a time when I was on the road a lot, so they were representations of people I would see. Cut canvas paintings also tell a story, life in Miami. I have always said if you wanted to know about my life in a sense, look at the work. The images always represent a something or someone in my life.
MICHAEL: When you're painting, is the process more emotional, intellectual or even spiritual? What's going on within you while you're painting?
JUDY: That is a really good question. It is a combination; more emotional and maybe a little spiritual. The images have to speak to me, sort of sing their own song. If that component is not there, it gets trashed. Sometimes I think I might be daydreaming when I am painting, I'm not really sure.
The intellectual part comes into play only when I consciously step back and evaluate whether or not the painting is working from technical aspects.
MICHAEL: Judy, you recently moved from Miami to Denver. Why did you move? Did your work as an artist have anything to do with this? What was your life like in Miami and what's it like now in Denver?
JUDY: I moved from Miami to Denver for family reasons, it was not art related. There is not much difference with respect to daily life, less traffic in Denver. I would say the biggest difference is that in Miami getting your work shown involves having a retail gallery represent you and there are limited opportunities. Denver has co-op galleries which is a new experience for me but provides more opportunity for my work to be seen.
MICHAEL: Is your work influenced at all by where you live? I mean, now that you're in Denver, do you think your environmental frame of references and inspiration will change things for you?
JUDY: My work was definitely influenced living in Miami, especially from a color perspective. Prior to moving to Miami, I had lived in Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit. The sky was always grey and overcast, the buildings were primarily brown/red brick.
The sky in Miami is a very blue 90% of the time, the flowers, plants and trees are tropical with very vibrant colors. The houses and buildings are also painted in all kinds of colors. The hardest part of coming to Denver is the lack of all that color, but at least the sky here is as blue as it is in Miami.
I have always been around musicians. Dancing is a big part of the Latin flavor of South Florida. Those images became part of my work in Miami. There was a time in Miami when I worked in a corporate environment; those experiences became part of my imagery.
Miami was also the beginning of the Tattoo series. I realized that the tattoo images that people put on their bodies meant something to them. It is so hot in Miami that most people wear minimal clothing so the tattoos are very visible. The Tattoo Man series started with the painting of the Tattoo Man as a painter. He was covered with snake tattoos, but the painting he was working on was minimalist. People become their own paintings.
Time will tell as to what happens in Denver.
MICHAEL: People become their own paintings. I love that. What purpose do you think art serves? I mean, most people on earth will never set foot inside an art gallery.
JUDY: I think the majority of artists are trying to communicate and whether the viewer understands the message I believe is often irrelevant to the artist. I hate when people ask, “What does it mean?” OR “What is the painting trying to say?”
People project when they look at art, so I prefer to let them make their own decision as to “what it means.”
MICHAEL: I love that.
JUDY: Art is all over the place and not just in galleries. Take Wynwood walls in Miami. Graffiti is worldwide; art is in the objects of indigenous peoples.
MICHAEL: Why do you think so many people remain intimidated by specifically contemporary art and feel that they must have an art history degree to relate to it?
JUDY: I think when you say "contemporary," it is too broad. I think when the average person sees images they don't understand or recognize - especially with respect to art - they think it must be a lack of their own education. Otherwise, why else would they not get it?
Some people are just not comfortable enough to say “I don’t like or I don’t get it.” I sometimes feel that art gets over “intellectualized” and over analyzed. It’s the public's effort to finding meaning.
MICHAEL: Yes. I think we’re trying to figure out ways to put art under our control when it really doesn’t need to be under our control. All we have to do is just enjoy it. Does the art world value female artists are much as male artists now? What’s great and what remains to be done?
JUDY: It is harder for female artists and the value of their work does not seem to rise to levels of male artists. I have always signed my work as “J. Horowitz” for obvious reasons. Personally, I think gender should be taken out of the equation and we should just look at the work. I would be curious to see if a gallery owner or curator, if they looked at a room full of art work without names, whether they could assign gender to the work.
MICHAEL: I think not. What do you think about the contemporary art world and art market and how they function? Do they make sense to you? Do you feel that you're part of them?
JUDY: During the 70s until my sons were born in the late 80's, I immersed myself in that world and to some degree was successful. When women artists have children they lose traction and the galleries change their perception. I get it. I had to stop producing for 10 years and it took some time to ramp back up. The gallery is a retail store, it's a business and what the artist produces is a commodity.
Art is too personal for the artist, it is hard to step back and have that perspective. It is too easy for artist’s feelings to be hurt by rejection.
I have always wanted my face on the cover of art (magazines). It could still happen - after all Louise Nevelson was pretty old when her face graced the cover, but I don't feel that I am part of that scene anymore.
MICHAEL: How much of your personal feelings do you put into your work? Do you ever wake up cranky or fearful or whatever and go straight to your canvas and “paint it out” there?
JUDY: No, I learned a long time ago that was not for me. Sometimes I will draw, but I prefer to be clear and not have anything else going on in my head.
MICHAEL: Finally Judy, Most people on earth will never visit an art gallery let alone buy art. So what's the point? Why should people care about art?
JUDY: I think the point of creating art is for the artist to express ourselves. People don't have to care. It is the artist who hopes the viewer cares enough to spend a few minutes with what has been created.
MICHAEL: Thanks Judy. This has been a great chat.
Check out Judy Horowitz at http://judyhorowitz.artspan.com/.