Judy Glasser and I visited the Guggenheim Museum in 2013 to see Robert Motherwell’s Early Collages (50 collages). You can still see the exhibition online. I wrote about the exhibition at Art of Collage (Robert Motherwell and Contemporary Collage dated December 18, 2013). Judy and I lost track of each other, then met again at a recent Zoom meeting organized by the NY Artists Circle. Judy asked people to look at her updated website and send her comments. After I looked at her website, I emailed this message: I LOVE your work. Can I interview you for my blog Art of Collage?
Judy’s website includes new and recent paper collages and wood sculpture (as well as a gallery for older sculptures and commissioned works). All the recent works are painted with heavy body acrylics and house paints in 4 oz. cans (so she can explore a lot of colors). You’ll see a lot of reds and red-oranges, yellows, some pinks and bright blues and greens. I am fascinated to see how she assembles the parts and how the colors interact.
The image above is titled Astral Wall Sculpture (2020), wood with acrylic and house paints, 13.5 x 7 x 5 inches. As you look at this work, you see the range of colors within the reds and you feel the texture of the wood. This work could be large and maybe it should be. It gives a sense of being large. When I look at this sculpture, I get a sense of reaching out, like a warm hello from a friend. Glasser says all the 3D works begin with three elements: her hands, the geometric shapes, and space. When she starts, she connects two pieces, and then sees where the third one leads her. “My hands lead the way; my eyes and mind follow. I need to experience my ideas in actual space.” Glasser wants to achieve a sense of balance in the form and harmony among the parts. See Glasser’s current sculptures.
COLOR is IMPORTANT
Judy Glasser said she’s started to work with color in a new way: “Until recently, I painted the sculptures AFTER the shape was complete. The colors sat on top of the sculpture. This year I am working with color DURING the process of building the sculptures, and this change is directly attributable to working with painted paper collage.
REMAINS OF THE DAY # I (above), dated 2020, is a wood assemblage, 7.5 x 6 inches, acrylic and house paints. The wood shows it’s history and some surfaces include dings. There is so much to look at. It’s a feast for color and abstract design.
REMAINS OF THE DAY #2 (above), dated 2020, is a wood assemblage created with plywood cut into different angled shapes that fit together and form a rectangle. It’s 12 x 8.5 inches, and painted with acrylic and house paints. Almost all Glasser’s assemblage works have a shallow depth and are installed on the wall. Since COVID, Glasser creates most of her sculpture and collage in a small studio space in a weekend home on Long Island, NY. Read her comments about working during COVID at the end of this interview.
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The image above shows Judy Glasser with her sculpture titled ONE STEP FORWARD (side view) 2020, 6 x 3 x 3 feet, aluminum and exterior paint. It’s a commissioned sculpture for a private residence. See additional views. Glasser says she used to work in a scale that matched her height (5’ 6”) and the width of her outstretched arms. She started working on a smaller scale two years ago when she was making models for a large sculpture commission. See current sculptures.
Before she worked with wood sculpture and collage, Judy Glasser had a long career as a ceramic artist. Most of her pottery was constructed on the potter’s wheel or coil-built. The image above is a stoneware vase, 17 x19x 6 inches, made in the 1990s. Glasser said: “My life has had many twists and turns and I have never resisted my impulses, either in my life or my art. I started with an undergraduate degree in Urban Planning, then, by chance, saw a film about pottery, was mesmerized by the process, and decided after seeing this film to be a potter. That was a radical decision because I had minimal art training – and had never touched clay before. I switched graduate schools to study pottery at Teachers College Columbia University where I could learn about pottery and have the credentials to teach. It was the right decision. I loved working with clay and the challenges that accompanied the process. After 30 years, suddenly, and unexpectedly, clay no longer called to me. At first I experimented with abstract forms with the leftover scraps of clay, then started building with flat clay slabs. Sculptural ideas came quickly and naturally. But, sculpture made with clay slabs had to be fired in a kiln and it limited the size I could work.“
She enrolled in mixed media classes at the Art Students League (NY, NY), and began working with wood, cardboard, found wood and other found objects. She discovered she loved taking things apart and reassembling them, and because she was no longer working with clay, had the freedom to construct in any configuration without worrying about how it would fit in the kiln, whether the fired clay would warp or how it would shrink.
The image above is titled RAILS (2011), wood, acrylic, concrete, pigments, graphite, 16 x 8 x 2 inches. The painted color looks like fired clay. Most of the sculpture in the Archive Gallery (dating from 2009 – 2015) is more assemblage than freestanding sculpture.
The 2 images for ZIG ZAG (above), show a front and side view so you see how the flat wood pieces are stacked and fit together. Dated 2011, it’s wood, acrylic, concrete, pigments and graphite, 25 x 18 x 7 inches. The colors have the look of fired red clay.
RED FOLDS (above), 2012, 26x37x9 inches, is wood, acrylic, concrete, pigments and graphite. This work appeals to me for its folded shape that looks like pleated paper I want to see this work installed on site, to understand how it’s put together. It looks like it is wall-mounted. I hope I can see it soon in person.
Open the Collage Gallery and see more than 20 tiny, painted paper collages – all recent – including 2 sculptural collages. The heights range from 4-7 inches. Judy Glasser told me her handmade collage papers are supple, textured and about as thick as cardstock, adding, her process involves painting, scraping, layering and repainting. She tears the painted papers into smaller pieces and plays with colors as she starts to work. She says: “When I get a composition with colors I like, I photograph it (for 2 reasons) first to remember where each piece goes, because papers move when you glue them together, especially when they overlap; second to see the work at different stages, and maybe reorganize how the papers will be placed.“ She may also pull off a piece after it’s glued, which can leave a scar on the panted surface. She loves the look of the scars. Some of her collages also include printed and found collage papers.
COLLAGE #2 (above) is constructed with painted papers and a candy wrapper, 5.5 x 3.5 inches. Glasser does not glue the collage papers down tightly. She wants collage to show dimensionality and shadows.
COLLAGE #6 (above) is constructed with overlapping painted papers (no size listed). I love this image, because the painted papers are so bright, vibrant, and appealing. The strong yellows on the left and right sides are not the same color. I counted 6 shapes under and over each other, but it looks like Glasser included 8 pieces.
COLLAGE #17 (above) includes even more painted papers than Collage #6 above. The color palette is very late summer/early autumn – with deep reds, oranges, browns and yellow. The core paper shows through in deep grey where the paint is worn off. Notice how the scars along the edges create directional patterns. This piece is so appealing to me because of the texture.
SCULPTURAL COLLAGE #1 (above) is constructed with painted papers. Glasser says she disassembles and reassembles all her collages (2D and 3D) if she decides the color relationships have to change. With 3D, you see front and back and side views. Glasser says the intuitive thinking process feels the same for constructing both sculpture and collage.
BALANCE (above) is a sculpture dated 2020, wood with acrylic and house paints, 13 x 8.5 x 6 inches. See this work – one of 5 sculptures by Judy Glasser currently at the Lockwood Gallery in the show “Rock Wood Paper Scissors.
FLIGHT (side view above), is a sculpture dated 2020, wood with acrylic and house paints, 13 x 6 x 6.5 inches, and is currently in the online exhibition FLUX: Vita Mutata, organized by @sculptors.alliance (Nov 15, 2020 – extended to Jan 30 2021). Vita Mutata means: life is changed – not taken away. Curator: Natsuki Takauji asked artists to submit works completed before and during the pandemic and share individual stories behind the artworks (see Judy Glasser’s statement below).
Judy Glasser’s studio practice is always about construction and creative evolution. She is an artist who is never afraid to trust her instincts and who is never without creative inventiveness.
Glasser is affiliated with the Carter Burden Gallery in Chelsea, NYC and is waiting to resume teaching at their Covello Center in East Harlem, NY (closed temporarily due to COVID).
Here are the last two paragraphs she wrote for the @sculptors.alliance show about her creative practice during COVID:
New routines emerged after I decided to stay full-time at my weekend home on Long Island. What has evolved during this very productive time is a new vocabulary of forms and colors. An unexpected motivator and influence for this distinctive change turned out to be the many birds around our house. With uninterrupted time now available, sitting and watching them has become a daily routine. I am enchanted by their swooping through the air with wings extended, seeing their lightness and bright colors. My forms mirror the energy and grace of these agile aviators. My new work is lighter, brighter and extends outward.
Another inspiration and motivator is connecting with other artists and galleries via Zoom and social media, which has given me a renewed sense of community. I am encouraged by the creative ways we are developing to exhibit and promote our work. A big step for me was to post my work online, mostly on Instagram and Facebook. The positive response to my work propels me forward.”—Judy Glasser
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Thank you, and I welcome your comments about Judy Glasser’s interview here. Do you make collage? Do you make ceramics? Sculpture? If you like, please read my Art of Collage post about early collages by Robert Motherwell at his 2013 Guggenheim Museum exhibition.