INDIVIDUAL - SCAD ID - #459
Florence County, SC
Mary Ellen Judge is an artist from Florence, South Carolina. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, surrounded by flower power, peace, love, and with an explosion of colors and design, Mary was drawn to bold and vibrant patterns from an early age. She began her art career in the late 80’s when the female figure became her main source of inspiration.
She considers herself as an experimental artist by finding new ways of applying materials to her artwork by using collage materials, recyclable items and stitchery to her artwork. She uses collage and painting as a means to both physically and conceptually bring layered depth to her work. Using images cut from fashion magazines, science magazines, found objects, nude photography, and old art books, she pieces together feminine figures that are both chic and controversial. Her work is playful, subversive and often humorous. Mary received her MFA from Lesley University, Cambridge Massachusetts and is in her 22nd year teaching high school visual arts. She was the sole winner of the 2019 Alumni Art Exhibit at Francis Marion University Gallery Place in Florence South Carolina. She was also featured artist in Kolag Magazine #26 2019. In 2010, she had solo exhibition at Francis Marion University Hyman Fine Art Gallery, Florence SC, and has been part of many group exhibitions which include the Pee Dee Regional Art Competition, SC, Figure Out Exhibit, SC, Artfields, SC, Roberts Galley, Lunder Arts Center, Cambridge MA, Vagina Monologues, SC, and the Art Trail, SC.
I grew up in the vibrant and bold era of the 60s and 70s. As a young girl, I made dresses for my dolls and Barbies out of recycled materials, and I’d spend hours creating an entire narrative for them. As I grew older, art making became more than just playtime. My colorful paintings and collages humorously explore the restricting facets of feminine beauty, fashion, sexuality, ageism, the feminine grotesque and the opposite sex. My theory originates from my own experiences as a woman.
My current work is a series titled ‘Grandmother”, in which I bridge the connections between my grandmothers, me, and my own granddaughters ages 1,2, and 4. I’m interested in the temporary aspect of our own lives in regards to the legacy we leave behind. This stands as a guarantee that the memory of my grandmothers thrives vividly, forging a tangible link from the present to the distant past and serves as a visual testament to a life richly lived. My paintings and collages include embellishments such as threads, rhinestones, beads, my grandmother’s vintage costume jewelry and found objects.
Also, back by popular demand, I am resurrecting “The Sisterhood Project” from 2017 in the intention of getting 50 more participants. It is titled “The Sisterhood Project II.” This work is an ongoing and ever-changing project that requires collaboration from all types of women. The main idea for this project was to create a social bond and a dialogue amongst women concerning what society deems disgusting. In this case, pubic hair was the focus. I asked women, mostly my friends, if they would donate their pubic hair to this artwork. I put each donation in a small glass jar and encased it in epoxy, much like a science specimen. Each jar is labeled with the donor’s first name, or pseudonym if preferred, age, ethnicity, and personal identification number. In return, participants become a “sister” and I mail them a certificate that links them to their donation. Sisterhood is the fundamental component to empowerment, social change and freedom. Each jar represents a woman that is worthy of being seen, heard, accepted and loved. The Sisterhood Project was a challenge for many reasons. First, it was difficult to explain the concept behind contemporary art to my non-artist friends. Second, many of these women have been conditioned not to discuss such topics as pubic hair, much less allow it to be part of an art project for the public. Finally, it was problematic to obtain their pubic hair once they agreed to donate it. I titled this work The Sisterhood Project because it symbolizes a support circle created by a woman for women.