Judy Pfaff is an artist’s artist. Perhaps I should be more specific and say she is my kind of artist’s artist. And “my kind of artist” is a much bigger category than me and my friends. Legions of us have followed her for years, and we keep being compelled, enthralled, delighted and at times left speechless by the stamina of this woman who is part whirling dervish and part postmodern alchemist. There’s no flagging or slowing down with this one. Great work just keeps coming from this timeless, energetic and passionate artist.
If you are in the Boston area, you have a chance to see a spectacular selection of her work at Wheaton College in Norton: Judy Pfaff: Drawing Thick and Thin.
This show is full of those Pfaffian marvels—exploding images and colors in every shape and size, natural elements such as leaves and branches alongside industrial materials including foam and flexible ducting, plastic that has been made to look like molten glass, wall colors individualized for specific pieces, cut outs and mark making that force the two dimensional into three, backdrops constructed from photographs and images, creating a veritable cornucopia of images in lively juxtaposition. The joy of making, looking, discovery—this whole show is an unabashed celebration of just being alive.
I’ve written about Pfaff many times on Slow Muse. In an interview with Constance Lewallen published by Crown Point Press a few years ago, Pfaff had words that are still feel relevant and meaningful to this current show as well as the larger arena of art making that is coming from a like-minded place:
Lewallen: [Your] work is not ironic as so much of the work being shown today, in which the artist is the art critic as well…You once said to me that a positive way of looking at this phenomenon is that now artists have created another arena for themselves–they can be critics, they can be businessmen.
Pfaff: When I am in a generous mood I think that. But often I think it is very depressing that the whole art world seems to demonstrate that attitude now—cool, detached, competent. I think one of the things about being an artist is that you should be allowed to test murky, unclear, unsure territory or all you have left are substitutes that signify these positions. Having it all together is the least interesting thing in art, in being alive.
Lewallen: Someone once wrote that your work deals with art at the fringes of confusion of life itself.
Pfaff: I like that.
I spent two hours in the gallery today, and I hope I can return again. I’ve posted a slew of images below, many of them detailed views, that speak to the extraordinary richness of Pfaff’s multidimensional explorations into the “murky, unclear and unsure territory” that is her art making.
The show runs through November 11. Kudos to Gallery Director Michele L’Heureux for making this exhibit happen. For more information about the exhibit, click here.