By Gabriela Dellosso
Success in art and life is a wonderful thing. Judy Takacs is an example of art imitating life. She is a positive thinker, generous and sensitive to all the people that surround her. Judy is a figurative artist who tells stories about people who have something uplifting to share. Judy has been awarded seven “Best of Show” awards since 2010, she curates, writes blogs and chairs a sub-committee for the Portrait Society of America. Recently, she was invited to be an artist archived in the Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, joining a short list of legendary Cleveland Artists.
G: I think readers might enjoy learning about how you have developed the concepts for your various series of paintings. Tell us about how two of your series:
“The Age of Adventure” and “Chicks with Balls” came about.
J: For painters of people like myself, the challenge is always, “Where do I find my people?” Both Chicks and “Age of Adventure” are where I ended up when I started looking for fascinating people to paint.
The concept for Chicks with Balls came about years ago, when I was denied a show at a city art center because, at the time, I had mostly nude figure drawings in my portfolio. The forward-thinking director of the art center was frustrated with the council members in city hall, who cared more for hometown sports than the arts. She referred to them as “the sports guys.” They would not tolerate nudity in art at the city-funded art center. To amuse myself, I kicked around concepts as to what the “sports guys” would like and came up with “balls;” basketballs, baseballs, footballs. And what if the balls were covering the offending parts…self-conscious self-censorship and not a nipple in sight; Chicks with Balls.
Building my epic project around “what the sports guys would like” was not my goal though (and this same city art center won’t even display my Chicks with Balls show postcards, let alone give me a Chicks show), but it did get my wheels turning, and it got me to look at my own female friends and family. I saw a lot of figurative balls; strength, courage, persistence, professionalism, passion and unwavering love for those they care for. And, thus was born the concept for Chicks with Balls. I started asking my female friends and family to pose, and fortunately many said yes!
And because Chicks with Balls is a long-term ongoing pursuit, around the same time, I also wanted to have some fun painting wonderful, wise and gorgeous old people. I took inspiration from Rose Frantzen’s Portrait of Maquoketa Project (http://www.oldcityhallgallery.com/portraitofmaquoketa.html) and set up at my hometown senior center painting the elder citizens of our town. In addition to serving my artistic desire to paint gorgeous wrinkles, my year of weekly painting sessions in the lobby of my hometown senior center (http://www.judytakacspaintspeople.com/judytakacspaintspeople.com/The_Age_of_Adventure/The_Age_of_Adventure.html) was billed as an enrichment activity for the seniors. I began the portraits with an audience, and then continued work on the paintings for another 30 or more hours back at my studio. I did the same thing later at a retirement center for nuns, and blogged about that experience too. http://chickswithballsjudytakacs.blogspot.com/2014/03/painting-nuns-coveredand-uncovered-woman.html
G: The color red is found frequently in your paintings. Tell me about that.
J: Red is my favorite color. It has so many associations; love, passion, fire, heat, energy. It’s the opposite of subtle, it makes a statement and “pops” off the wall. And, try as I might to be quiet sophisticated, subtle, understated and muted with my color palette, it seems to go against my nature. So, because of this connection with red, I decided to shake hands with my devil and tone my canvas red before I paint on it.
I also found out that using a red ground gave me such a beautiful flesh and blood base for painting people. And, when placed on a super bright cadmium red background, even the most lavish flesh tones I mix up become toned down and melt together better to become flesh.
My first round of Chicks with Balls paintings all have a white background, but now I have expanded to other warm color grounds…Red, Purple, Orange and even a hot Barbie Pink for some of the most recent ones.
G: You have a marvelous sense of humor. I really enjoy that about your work. Where does that come from?
J: I’m generally a pretty happy, energetic person. But, I didn’t “chose” happiness like the facebook memes tell you to do. I have known too many people with depression and anxiety to pretend that I somehow have worked at it and they didn’t. I think I just got genetically lucky with extra doses of serotonin. Just like I got genetically lucky with late blooming gray hair and no seasonal allergies. I must have been standing in the extra belly fat line when they were handing out the allergies, gray hair and depression.
I also was fortunate to have found a husband who makes me laugh every day and to have known many funny friends over the years. There’s nothing like people to laugh with, to fan the flames of your sense of humor. And, I’m actively trying to convince my kids how funny I am too; that I’m not just the embarrassing woman who folds their laundry, sings badly and nags them. I’ve been told by my oldest that I’m only funny when I’m not trying to be… he’s funny too.
G: You are a well-rounded person. How do you balance family life, painting and all other activities in your life?
J: I’m actually not all that well-rounded…belly fat aside. I don’t have many other activities besides family life and painting. Occasional girls nights out of course, but that’s pretty much it, no sports or exercising or hobbies. Painting comes first, except for when family comes first.
I’m also very organized and self-disciplined. I wake up before 6:00 each morning and head upstairs to the studio in my home to start my painting day before everyone else does. I really do get up every day with that “Christmas morning” feeling when I’m heading up to the studio. And, my kids are teenagers now, sleep late and require less hands-on maintenance…or they head off early to school (one’s already in college), so I have the house and studio to myself most days.
But, between my graphic design business and then having baby after baby for a while (three boys in 4 years), there were about 10 years where I didn’t pick up a paintbrush. Someone was always crying (sometimes it was me), someone always sick and someone was always hungry.
And, even when I did start painting again, I didn’t even have a studio to call my own until 2009…I painted in the kitchen, but had to set up and break down the operation every day when the troops got home. I don’t regret the long break though, it was good to immerse myself fully in my kid’s lives and know I didn’t miss a single thing. Now I immerse myself fully in the painting. Though, once you have the kids, you’re never “done”…but that’s okay, you hopefully reap the rewards of the people you’ve created. Right now we have college applications, job applications, drivers education, summer jobs, spontaneous discussions about physics and computer programming…stuff like that…along with attitudes, lip, sass and eye-rolling.
G: What is your next project? What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?
J: Having only just re-entered the world of realistic figurative painting, in the past 7 years or so, I still consider myself very “young” in all this. I’m still very much trying to find my “voice.” Whom shall I paint? What will I say about them? And how shall I make these people I chose to paint come alive and force my viewer to care?
As far as future projects, I am infinitely hedonistic in who, what and how I choose to paint. But if I can paint the way I like and also save the world a little with my painting, well then that’s the kind of win-win I can get on board with.
One of the things lacking in our world is the ability to do something that I call “switching the heads” on a situation. It’s the same concept as walking a mile in another’s shoes before passing judgement on how they should live their life. As a painter of people, and a sometime writer, I try to let my viewers get to know a person they may have nothing in common with and maybe find out they actually do.
There’s a song by Sting, where he says, …“I hope the Russians love their children too.” There are profound human similarities running beneath the surface between people from different religions, races, political opinions, genders, ability levels, socioeconomic and educational level…but we as a society don’t dig deep and try to switch the heads on stuff to try to see how certain situations are parallel.
We try to label and distance ourselves…to make our way right and another’s way wrong to justify our actions…or lack thereof. I’m not trying to preach though; I only want to save the world if I can do it through painting. I’m not running for office or putting myself in danger by traveling to hostile areas. But, if through my painting, I could also somehow build bridges and save the world a little, well that would be a
great lifetime goal for me to at least get started on in the next 10 years!
Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes
Opening Reception: Thursday October 29, from 6:00 to 8:30
A solo show
Show Dates October 29 through November 24
Cuyahoga Community College
4250 Richmond Road
Highland Hills, Ohio
Opening Reception, October 21, from 5:00 to 7:00
A group portrait show with Lou Grasso, Diane Fleish Hughes, Milan Kecman, Billy Ritter
Show Dates: October 21 through November 13
Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus
11000 Pleasant Valley Road
The Drawing Show: From Doodles to Digital
Opening Reception: Friday September 25th from 5:00 to 9:00pm
An invitational drawing show, curated by Anna Arnold
Show Dates: September 15-23
The Florence O’Donnell Wasmer Gallery
2550 Lander Road
Pepper Pike, Ohio