I’m not sure why I’m showing you these paintings by Judy Shreve. Pastoral scenes are generally not to my taste. However, these pictures have a quality that transcends their subject matter, they’re imbued with an honesty and warmth which I rarely come across. A truth that doesn’t need a wonderful technique to express itself.
Shreve came to art late. She began using clay in her 40s but when she switched to earthenware a few years ago she began using using slips, washes and glazes to create marks on the clay. Before long she discarded clay for paper and wooden panels and took up acrylics, Painting being a faster medium, acrylic more fluid, allowing her space to reflect on the land around her, the everyday scenes of her rural life.
Rabbits, cows, goats, pigs, laundry and barns are everywhere in these simple pictures, their outsider aesthetic free of intellectual discourse, of art school theory, of conceptual theories. Rather they’re clearly defined. They give us a window into her world, stories of her life in rural America, of a domesticity many of us dream of. Shreve’s art is drawn from her own experience, they’re stories of a full life, of an emotive existence that is sensitive to the world around her. This delicate perception is given voice in these pictures, in her long ramblings on her website, a diary, the ongoing journal of an artist who lives within the spirit of her environment yet is firmly rooted in the prosaic everyday activities of life.
Many years ago my mother used to buy paintings of rural scenes from a farmer living down the road from our holiday home in County Leitrim, Ireland. They were flat, simple, beautiful and poignant renderings of the many animals that lived in and around the barns of his farm. To this day they touch me in a place that is deeper than my intellect can go. They are innocent, truthful and expressed from the heart. I feel the same when looking at these pictures. Here’s what Shreve has to say about her work:
I am amazed and delighted that I can express an image from my imagination onto a blank canvas. I used to think only a special group of people called ‘artists’ could do that, but now I realize that art making is the process and not the final outcome of a piece.
I am a storyteller and had to learn to tell a story with paints instead of with words. It is my desire to express from a true place and create an emotional response to what I see. It’s not always realistic, because I see this world in an intuitive-abstract way. And it is the feeling that touches my heart that I want to portray in my work no matter what medium I am working with.
Now I can’t imagine not working in my studio everyday whether it’s writing, drawing, painting or working with clay. It all brings a song to my heart that maybe only I can hear, but it is my hope that others can share that song with me through my art.
And I thought I’d include this wonderful quote by Friedrich Nietzsche which she has on her site. It says everything about her.
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.