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Judith Joseph—artist, teacher, and “lounge lizard”

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Judith Joseph photo 1

Prismatic Ketubah by Judith Joseph, New York 2010

Art sometimes has a mind of its own. And in artist Judith Joseph’s case, her art decided to take on a life of its own, as it has evolved and emerged as a 3D, interactive exhibit called The Owing Project.

This exhibit invites art viewers to “become participants in a dialogue about the personal, spiritual and societal issues around debt and owing,” according to Joseph.

“I envisioned the gallery space to be a three-dimensional illuminated manuscript: complete with figures, text and border design,” Joseph says. “The exhibit includes life-sized human figures, a ‘debt confession booth,’ a live mural including portraits of people with their words about owing and debt, paintings, and photos I took at a Tea Party rally anti-tax protest,” she says.

The interactive element also extends beyond the gallery.

“I collected electronic responses from Facebook and hand-written surveys from participants at a synagogue retreat,” Joseph explains. “I painted the Push Back mural at the Chicago Fringe Artists’ Networking Night at Red Tape Theatre in February, 2010, and inscribed it with the words of my portrait subjects as they spoke about what debt means to them.”

Judith Joseph photo 2

Push Back, mural of portraits of CFANN 2010 participants, including quotes from conversations about debt and owing

Joseph began her long and successful career as an artist in her early childhood.

“I've been making art since I was a small child, and I was always pretty serious about it,” Joseph says. This seriousness led her to pursue a degree in art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and since graduating from art school in 1978 she has been working as a professional artist.

“I mostly do commissioned work,” Joseph says. “I specialize in ketubot. The urgency I feel to interview people and record their thoughts and narratives [translates to their] ketubah. Most of my work has a narrative element, and involves human relationships.”

Along with ketubot, Joseph also creates other types of commissioned work such as paintings and calligraphy, and she teaches painting and calligraphy classes at the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Art Center, Highland Park, and artists' residencies/workshops in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Joseph also works as an art career consultant helping emerging artists with their portfolios, web presence, promotional materials and career strategies, she conducts art gallery tours and provides lectures about Jewish art (e.g., Jewish artists in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.)

“I pretty much do anything related to art that I can to earn a living,” Joseph says. “I call myself the ‘lounge lizard’ of artists!”

When asked to describe her artistic style, Joseph explained how it originated with “illuminated manuscripts (especially ketubot), which have been [her] first love for many years.”

Judith Joseph photo 3

The Owing Project at ARC Gallery in Chicago, which opened on July 21, with a reception July 23, from 6-9 p.m.

“Combining text with detailed, exquisitely rendered miniature border designs, patterns and illustrations has given rise to my painting style,” Joseph says. “My paintings are often laid out like an illustrated page of a book, with a central image surrounded by a narrative border.  Over time, the borders have invaded the ‘main’ image, and pattern and narrative have become intertwined and inextricable.”

You can catch Judith Joseph’s solo exhibit, The Owing Project, at ARC Gallery in Chicago, which opened on July 21, with a reception July 23, from 6-9 p.m.

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