I have ABBA on my mind today.
Tag Archives: American
I have heard the phrase “If the walls had ears …” but in this case the walls have toothy grimaces.
And Judith takes the foreground with Holofernes’ head on a platter as if she is ready for a Fourth of July picnic.
Seems appropriate for today.
Keri Oldham employs watercolor on a large scale “to depict bloodied tableaus inspired by folk art, mythology, medieval demonology and fantasy. Her paintings are modern allegories for women’s continued fight for success and identity in modern life.” Her series “Blood Banner” depicts both the demons that form our nightmares and the heroines who slay them: Red Riding Hood, Judith and others. Judith is depicted in both of these as a domestic goddess – attired in a sleeveless summer dress and wearing a kerchief over her tidy hair. The bloody falchion stands in the background and Judith’s dress bears the blood spatter of her deed.
It is unclear why this version has a gutted alligator on the wall (was Holofernes hidding inside? was Holofernes an actual serpent?), but that adds to the sense of Americana. I mean, what could be more American than violence?
I am sure the computer image of this artwork does not do it justice and it comes to life in person. But even as a flat image, Scott Fischer has created an arresting portrait of the strength of Judith.
In the words of the artist –
The legendary Judith, beheading Holofernes, taking destiny into her own hands. Diving deep into my obsession with lines, hatched in carefully controlled value ranges, as a vehicle to lead you through a piece. Keeping your eyes swimming. This painting is on copper, and as part of the process I engrave down through the paint in select areas to the metal below. The final mesmerizing effect makes for a piece that can only truly be appreciated in person, for it will change as light reflects when you walk by.
See video of the entire creation on Instagram
Quarantine. Aren’t we all tired of quarantine? Apparently Judith has had enough and is ready to flee Bethulia for a new place to shelter-in. So she has packed-up her suitcase and is ready to go. What do you suppose is in there …?
Yesterday, it was hats. Today, it’s dolls. But a special doll.
This is the work of Randi Channel, also known on Etsy as Tiny Shirt. She specializes in 100% original, handcrafted, porcelain ball jointed art dolls
The title of this doll is “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” (2014). The ball jointed doll is sculpted from porcelain, painted with over glaze, and has suede lined sockets that are assembled with elastic cord. The hair of both Judith and Holofernes is from alpaca.
Judith wears a bandeau, shrug and skirt. The bra-cup bandeau is red, trimmed in matching lace. The shrug is an ephemeral ivory chiffon. Her skirt is multiple layers – from a Venetian lace ivory mini-skirt over a gold tulle sheath to an orange silk train covered by more tulle.
Holofernes wears a grimace.
Behold the jugs of Karen Labarga!
Karen is a prolific potter from West Palm Beach, FL, who specializes in the Southern folk art ceramic form of face jugs with devilish expressions. Judith is not her only subject: you can find more of her work on eBay under angell917. Just scanning the images of her work is a delight.
Here are her tributes to Judith, described in her own words.
“Here for sale is Judith from the Bible ‘Book of Judith.” She just severed the head off the Assyrian General Holoferness and holds it up for us to view. Here’s a bit of the story: The Assyrian Army has surrounded the Jewish Army. A brave young widow named Judith decides that with God’s help she will take matters into her own hands. Judith tells the officers of the Assyrian army that she wishes to join them and because of her beauty they take her right in. She is taken to the leader Holoferness who keeps her for his own. He becomes sodden with wine and falls asleep. Then, with all her might, Judith struck him twice in the neck with his own sword, and cut off his head! She left the Assyrian camp with the head in a bag, but when she arrived back at the Jewish camp she held up the Head of the General Holoferness for all to see and said a lot of thanks to God. The head was hung up on the parapet and when the Assyrians woke and saw it hanging over the Jewish camp the fled in confusion. This face jug of Judith is 9.5″ high and is 9″ wide at the elbows. Judith has black hair that is parted into two braided buns. She wears a shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a brown skirt. Holofernes’ head hangs by his brown hair in her raised left hand. The eyes, teeth and the artist logo skull stamp are made of porcelain. The eyes have blue melted glass. On the back of the jug, the words “Judith and Holofernes” are carved into the clay. This is a one-of-a-kind hand made artwork. The artist signature and the number are carved into the bottom. This jug is made by me, Karen Labarga, a folk artist living in Plantation, Florida. If you have any questions, please ask. Please check out my other jug for sale; a Martin Brothers style devil jug.”
“I’m sure you’ve all seen the famous paintings depicting the Apocryphal book of Judith in the Old Testament. The Book of Judith, relates the delivery of Israel from it’s enemy, Holofernes. The lovely widow Judith went into the enemy camp with a plan. As one of the enemy, she was brought before the Assyrian General Holofernes, who immediately succumbed to Judith’s beauty and charm. Holofernes invited Judith to his tent. She got him drunk and he fell asleep. Judith cut off his head and rushed back to the Israelite camp with it. She had it hung on the parapet of the wall. When the Assyrians awoke and saw the decapitated head of thier General, all was over. Then all the Israelite army overwhelmed them. The height of this whiskey jug is 9″ and the width is 10” across, elbow to wrist. It is a completely functional jug made of stoneware and fired in a high fire reduction kiln. The teeth and eyes are porcelain, as are the eyes and teeth of the decapitated head. On the back is a skull stamp, typical to many of the Labarga jugs. Karen Labarga is a folk artist living in Florida. The bottom is signed, numbered, dated and says Book of Judith 13-8. Please email with any questions before bidding. Many THANKS to all our wonderful customers. We have never used the second chance offer so please remember that anything truely from ebay will be located in your “MY MESSEGES” in your “MY EBAY” area. Don’t forget to check out my other auction.”
Maid: Excuse me, madam, but … did we forget something?
Judith: No, I don’t think so. I have the fauchon right here in my hand.
Maid: Yes you do, although you forgot to wipe off the blood. And then there’s the …
Judith: And I have my shawl. And I remembered my jewelry.
Maid: Yes you did. But you don’t have the top to your gown. And then there’s the …
Judith: You might be right. I do feel like I’m forgetting something. Like I went in the tent for some reason and now … dang, I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight and I can’t seem to get ahead.
It may seem that I make light of this work, but actually I find it very appealing. This work of Bryson Burroughs demonstrates his classicism (obsession with narrative content, traditional pictorial perspective, and figuration) and his emulation of Puvis de Chavannes, the muralist. The similarity of their styles is seen in “an overall simplification of the painted surface, a reduction of modeling to eliminate chiaroscuro, an emphasis on linear outline to delineate major passages, a palette of lighter tonality, and a preference for subdued subjects based on religion and mythology.” (1,2)
But Burroughs’ true claim-to-fame was serving as Curator of Painting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 28 years. He continued to paint scenes of biblical stories and Greek myths. However it was suggested that Burroughs knew he could never contribute to high art, and he painted these “affectionate fantasies as a respite from being art’s servant.” (3)
(1) Child’s Gallery, Bryson Burroughs.
(2) Douglas Dreishpoon, The Paintings of Bryson Burroughs (1869-1934), New York: Hirschl & Adler, 1984
(3) Vivien Raynor, ART: BRYSON BURROUGHS, WORK INSPIRED BY MYTH, New York Times, March 2, 1984.
ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING OPPORTUNITIES EVER – this depiction of Judith comes with THE ARTIST’S SKETCHBOOK! It’s the next-best-thing to reading the mind of Jerome Witkin. From this vantage point, the viewer can trace the progress of Witkin’s thoughts about constructing the Judith story. And his thoughts on his role an artist:
I wish to be remembered as a religious artist who attempted to portray the most intimate range of human feelings and the meetings of the human with life’s demons and deities…. Art and the holy are twins. Rembrandt, Kollwitz pray with muddy and bloody hands. (1)
But first, to introduce the artist. Jerome Witkin is a figurative artist who delves into political, social and cultural themes. That is an understatement. Witkin is considered one of the most relevant artists of the last few decades – turning figurative narrative works into a passionate expression of basic human conditions. His canvases exude both humor and suffering in the storytelling of homelessness and the Holocaust. A casual blog is too small a space to give credit to Witkin; an entire book is a better way to travel the landscape of the intensity of his work (see Sherry Chayat ‘s Life Lessons: The Art of Jerome Witkin, 2006). For today, the focus is on Judith and Witkin’s re-creation of her story in 1979.
Prior to and during this composition, Witkin had endeavored with the larger-than-life murals “Kill-Joy, To the Passion of Kathe Kollwitz (Kreischerville Wall)” (1975-76) and “Death As An Usher: Berlin, 1933″ (1979-82) relating to the catastrophe of war and the Holocaust. “The Act of Judith” is small potatoes in comparison – smaller in size and smaller in emotional scope. According to Chayat:
During this period, Witkin began exploring portraiture as a vehicle for psychological narrative. Working with the model as a collaborator in mutually created dramatic poses, he developed an epic portrait style using mythology, both historical and contemporary, to probe his own and other’s anxieties, fears, and fantasies.
This period of exploration would produce “Madonna della Baggies,” “St. Fischera,“ and “Screams of Kitty Genovese” as well as “The Act of Judith.”
A few pages from The Act of Judith Sketchbook provide clues to Witkin’s creative process for Judith –
Removed from contemporary realities of death and destruction, the subject of Judith reverts to an Old Testament narrative that may-or-may-not be true. On spectrum of interpretation of the story, Witkin’s Judith is less virtuous and more vile as she taunts the viewer with a clownish Mask of Death.
Or is it a Mask?
The use of light and dark enhances the ominous atmosphere of the run-down interior, with brightness dissolving into a demonic red cast on the right wall. Judith stands half in shadow, her face almost obscured – but the hand with the knife clearly outlined by the brightness escaping from the torn curtain in the background. The hand that holds forth the mask is also illuminated by a light that gives a grisly gleam to the ghoulish features.
And the most disturbing feature of all? Almost unseen, the hand of the viewer in the lower right corner. Fingers curled, they convey grasping, begging, desperation. Suggesting a disabled Holofernes prostate beneath Judith’s gaze, suggesting that we are the disabled victim – and she is expressionless with no sympathy to offer.
The world of Witkin is a harsh reality of muddy and bloody hands.
(1) Joel C. Sheesley, “Jerome Witkin: A Profile,” Image,Issue #11, Fall 1995
The throat of an opera singer, that is.
You may recall that Tyson Vick has been here before in Judith finds her voice (Nov 2011). His blog chronicles his photography that illustrates the operas of Mozart as well as his learning about textiles, historical costuming, wig styling, millinery, and photoshop techniques in the process. This time he is back with more elaborate costuming and photography of Judith – and two big prizes for his photography! Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) – which includes members world-wide from all genres of photography, including fine art, commercial, and advertising – conducts two Members Only Competitions each year. In 2014, Tyson Vick won first place in the Creative Division – Composite of Members Only First Half Competition with “Judith, Triumphant” AND third place for “Don Giovanni Act 2.” But enough about Don Giovanni and back to Judith.
Isn’t she stunning? I mean, it’s easy to see why Holofernes lost his head. Not only is the photography award winning, but the costuming – based on the portraits of Judith by Lucas Cranach the Elder – is exquisite. The construction of this luscious gown is detailed here, with lively commentary by Vick – who loves to indulge in one of my favorite things: sewing in front of the television. (Yes, I was groomed for genteel evenings with an embroidery hoop before the hearth rather than a sweaty hour of Zumba but alas those days are gone.) Vick also photographed his progress so that the intricate details of the gown can be appreciated off the model.
The final photograph is Judith in action, on stage during Act 2 of Mozart’s Betulia Liberata. Composed in 1771 when Mozart was 15 years old, it is the only oratorio he ever wrote. Maybe he thought one was enough?
Writing a blog is so gratifying and narcissistic. I can choose the subjects, I decide what I write, I don’t have a deadline and I can choose when to publish. I can even re-write it after it has been published. And best of all: I can let new artists speak for themselves.
This is the work of Daria Souvorova, who graduated from Pratt Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and currently is the Artist-in-Residence at PrattMWP and instructs at Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute. Actually, Daria’s most insightful work so far: The Seven Deadly Sins. Check it out! She not only sketches and paints but also writes eloquently about her art. So I am going to take a break, and allow her words to describe Judith and Holofernes.
I began the fall semester with a large scale drawing and painting on the theme of Judith beheading Holofernes. This composition, and the transition thereof, reflects my thinking process over the summer, and the evolution between the roles of heroes and villains in my life.
Instead of choosing the traditional moment depicting Holofernes struggling for his life, I chose to show him in the moment before he is beheaded. I drew him fluid and slumping onto the Fury’s grip. He is delirious and in denial. Smiling, in fact. He is incapable of taking responsibility for his actions and does not even understand his punishment.
The fluid movement between the figures in this work became important. The lighting also played a big role: Holofernes is almost completely in silhouette, which separates him from Judith who is brilliantly lit against the darkness of the wall behind her. Fury wields the sword that pierces the space. It points toward the bed and alludes to the nature of the punishment. A sliver of light follows the edge of the sword and is mirrored by the silhouette of the woman on the bed, that Holofernes was just dragged off of.
The slashing of the blade became a very important movement in the composition. I wanted to emphasize it. I originally composed a three-figure grouping – the bulk of the right panel. I added a second panel to the left to allow room for the blade. This was the first instance in which I began to reconsider the symmetrical rhythm of my compositions. The figure’s silhouette is the only light on the bulk of the left panel, and as the figure disintegrates almost entirely save for the sliver of light that mirrors the sword, the figure proves unimportant outside of its role of identifying the secondary villain.
Returning to the Judith and Holofernes painting: I became interested in segregating the hero and villain through taking advantage of pushing some figures towards Idealization, and others towards Characterization. I created more specificity in the gestures and features of the figures, and began to find interest in the spaces that surrounded them. The angle of the doorway and the groupings of figures that melted away into the light began to be considered as narrative devices, as much as representations of the main characters. I was thrilled to paint the chair and the fabric that envelops it – the violet folds of a yellow pillow became characters of their own right. I repainted the composition in halves and was delighted at the improvement of each section yet continuously dismayed as previously successful areas appeared inferior in comparison. This painting took over three months to complete and became a representation of the progress of my narratives.
Looking at the completed Judith and Holofernes in conjunction with my drawings and the portraits I have been working on, I was surprised at the stark difference between the drawings and the painting.
Judith and Holofernes was a very black and white composition for me, created at a time when I was focused on morality and a strict intended narrative in my works. Seeing it set against the relative subtlety of the portraits made me realize the level of theatricality in the image. At this point, I began searching for more earnestness and connection between the viewer and my images.
I am very appreciative of Daria’s own words because they address several questions (and gave me some time off). However, I must confess: my first interpretation of this composition was a time-lapse version of the story. I saw Judith-before, Judith-during and Judith-after. How interesting that perspective seems in comparison to the artist’s explanation – but still not a bad way to look at the movement across the canvas, in my humble opinion.
Just one thing that remains unexplained: in the center of the execution, as background to the action is a painting on the wall. It looks a lot like … curious Psyche and sleeping Cupid. At least Cupid escapes the dagger and only had to endure the wax from Psyche’s lamp – and doesn’t end up like Holofernes.
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With delight, I received an email from Daria with an article about one of her students, “Seven Deadly Sins” and her upcoming “Lost and Gained.” I think I will be able to relate to Lost and Gained. Mostly Gained.