|Interview With Artist Judith Threadgill
by Mark Sean Orr
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Mark Sean Orr®
|Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” I believe you also need art and music.
Hi Judith. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my website. I am an admirer of
your work and I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas about your
art and the art world today.
First, can you tell us a little about when and where you were born?
I was born in Mexico Missouri on February 2, 1944. I was raised in Springfield Missouri, home
of the Ozark Jubilee. My mother was a former beauty queen turned fundamental Baptist and
my father was a charming alcoholic who was unable to hold a job. Dad was a very gregarious
guy who could sell anything to anybody. During his brief periods of employment, he sold
everything from tractors to pianos. I had two brothers, one older, one younger. All of our
names began with the letter “J” including our fox terrier “Jigs”. Our family photographs portray
us as a “Leave It to Beaver” family which was certainly not the case.
What were your childhood and formative years like, and when did you begin to be
interested in art?
I graduated from Central High School in 1962. I left Missouri for California in 1969. I graduated
from City College in San Francisco in 1979 with honors. I received an AS in Criminology. My
piano and guitar lessons were given by private individuals.
was filled with colorful rugs, fascinating furniture, antique light fixtures and oil paintings. The
basement was full of treasures such as theater costumes with rhinestone and mosaic buttons.
There were paper mache busts of Beethoven and Wagner painted with gold leaf and props
from his music store. I still have the Beethoven bust, but my brother destroyed Wagner with
his BB gun. My aunt used to drag me to junk stores where I found the first of my collection of
art deco incense burners. My first art print was a Dufy. I was inspired by Al Capp’s Shmoo
image and Rose O’Neil’s Kewpie comic illustrations
I liked classical music, show tunes, and some religious music. I later discovered jazz and rock
and roll. In spite of where I grew up, I have never been a big fan of country music. In high
school, I played a cowboy in the chorus of the musical “Calamity Jane”. I was a shoo-in for the
role of Mrs. Keeney in Eugene O’Neills one act play “Ile” due to my ability to go “lose my mind”
as I sang and played “Amazing Grace” on the piano. During my break down the audience
began to laugh. Afterward I learned that it was because the card board porthole taped to the
stage curtain fell off.
My teen years were very painful. I wasn’t allowed to go to movies, dances, actually any type of
social life was verbatim due to my mother’s religious beliefs. I was selected to run as an
attendant to the homecoming queen in my freshman year in high school Thankfully, I was not
chosen because I would not have been allowed to attend such a sinful function. Consequently
I never learned to dance. Having friends over was not an option due to my father’s
unpredictable behavior, so I was a pretty lonely child.
I always loved art, music, poetry, etc. I took art, choir and drama in high school. I played piano
and guitar. I began to hang with a bohemian type crowd which consisted of actors, artists,
writers, radio announcers and I finally did manage to sneak out to a movie theater and see
“West Side Story” when I was 17 years old. At 18, I met my first husband (Bob) at a club called
Bebop Brown’s. He was a drummer. We were married and I had my daughter by age 19.
We honeymooned at the Arthur Murray Motel in Noel Missouri.
What was your life like at that time?
Married life proved to be a drag. We lived in the Le Petite Apartments. When my former
classmates came to visit us they classified us as Beatniks. My husband worked into the wee
hours of the morning and slept all day. When he went out on the road to perform, our
marriage began to unravel. There were always “chicks” (groupies) that hung out at the gigs.
We moved to Joplin Missouri and lived first in a trailer and later in a motel. It was during this
period that I attempted my form of collage. I only worked in black and white. I created one
major piece which consisted of cutting photos of faces on a diagonal line and then piecing
them back together with different faces. It took me months to accomplish and although it was
an interesting piece, I didn’t feel that the it met any type of artistic standard. I became
discouraged and stopped.
Did you have any mentors or people who heavily influenced you?
Some of my fondest memories are of a time I spent with a friend who ultimately became a
famous “Master Potter”. While he was in graduate school, I hung out at his house with him
and his group of artist friends... When anyone asked what I did, I could only respond, “I’m a
house wife and mother”.
Gary Egan a “Master Potter’ was a friend and mentor. He created some extraordinary pottery.
I spent many happy hours with him, his partner, Milton who wrote Japanese Haiku, and a
group of artist friends during the 60’s. Gary died two years ago, but some of his work is on
exhibit at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville Ark. http://www.zarksgallery.
My mother-in-law, Jackie Rosenberg is my idol when it comes to artists. She will soon be 88
years old and is still actively creating these amazing wood and metal sculptures. She happens
to be the greatest champion of my art. Her last show was in May, and since then she has
finally decided to retire. http://www.lodiartcenter.org/Special_Exhibitions.html
For a short period during the 60’s, I attempted to do collage art only, using black and white
images. I created several pieces.
How would you describe the process of making your art?
I call my art collage, but basically all I do is cut out images and place them on backgrounds. I
scan the original into my Picasa program and then print it on my computer. I don't photo shop
the image. It is what it is, so I suppose you would call the end result a photographic print. I
have a marvelous ink jet printer and I use premium plus photo paper. The print is so much
better than the original. I don't know if I could explain my pieces, at least some of them.
Do you also collect art?
I began to collect any form of art that I could afford. I fell in love with a painting hanging on the
wall in a thrift store. The store owner supported local artists by displaying their work. The
painting was by a Russian artist and it was completely out of my price range. Years later I
would not only become friends with the artist, but I would come to own that particular painting.
So you were constantly active in the art world...
Yes, I arranged shows for several artist friends and brought them together with people who
would purchase their art. For my efforts, I received some free art or was given discounts on
whatever art I purchased.
I was forced into retirement after 27 years of working a high stress job in the Criminology field.
Suddenly I had all this time on my hands and was bored out of my mind. Since my husband
slept during the day, I had to find something quiet to occupy my time. I decided to try my hand
at collage again, but I struggled with the “traditional” notion of collage.
Finally I came up with my own concept, the key being, simplicity. I was able to use only one or
two cut out images, yet I managed to convey a mood of mystery, wonder or humor.
The response to my work was overwhelming. People described it as, mesmerizing, quirky, off
beat, visually stunning, off kilter, cunning juxtaposition, etc.
of fresh air. Most of the art I view on a daily basis is photography, painting or
sculpture. I love the infinite choices you have with collage. It allows you to be so
I've noticed that you do not give titles to your work. Is there a reason for this?
There is some opposition to my decision not to give my images names. I find myself unwilling
to restrain my own vision or that of the viewer by naming my images. People constantly amaze
me by what they draw from my creations through their own imaginations. I think that if I give a
name to a piece, people will feel that they must understand or respond to the title.
When and where did you first show your art to the public?
I met another Russian artist,Vera Tour, who became my friend and mentor. She gave me my
first opportunity to show my art at the Dragon Lounge Restaurant in Alameda, California. It
was a wonderful experience with one exception, my images smelled like fried calamari after
hanging in a restaurant for a month.
art? Studio....quiet area.....listen to music or other ideal conditions?
I create my work in a small room with two windows. My view is of the tree tops. The room has
an eclectic mixture of furniture and the walls are covered with art and photographs. You
cannot imagine how many treasures are in this room. It is very quiet. I find the conditions ideal
because I am surrounded by art, and I have nature right outside my window.
My images are all 8.5 by 11, even when custom framed. I collect art of all sizes. I think my
largest canvas is 3.5 ft by 2.5 ft and my smallest is 4’ by 4’.
In many instances creating a piece “just happens” It’s like a puzzle that I put together and it
either works or it doesn’t. Sometimes a piece evolves. Today I had a brainstorm about three
pieces I want to put together.I spend many hours finding and cutting pieces for my images. I
have drawers filled with various things such as faces, body parts, objects, animals, and
another drawer that contains backgrounds. I might start the piece with an image that needs
the right background, or it could be the reverse. I usually work on more than one piece at a
I do not have a favorite piece of my art. To quote my granddaughter, “I like them all”. I was
very pleased with my last show. I was able to exhibit twenty two pieces that I custom framed in
bright colored metallic frames I thought the display was stunning. It was nice to have free reign
Usually the gallery person decides what pieces will be used in a show.
Andrei Banjanov is a favorite artist of mine. I have five pieces of his.
I also like, Jay Defoe, Saul Steinberg, Michael Sowa, Andy Goldsworthy, Daniel Merriam,
George Rodigue, and Michael Parks just to name a few.
inspires you. What do you think of all the new digital technology as it relates to
creating art? Blessing, curse ... both or neither?
I like digital art. I find a lot of it really exciting and interesting, I am old fashioned. I really enjoy
cutting out pieces of paper and fitting them into the background. You have to work with what
materials are available, and you can’t alter it with a click of your mouse (can I say that?). I
recently met a young woman who creates beautiful digital images. She was amazed by the
process that I use. We have a mutual respect for one another’s art.
Judith Threadgill is a collage artist living in Oakland,California. I first found her unique and
wonderful work on Facebook. Her work is surreal, whimsical...sometmes evocative and
sometimes dark. It is always fascinating and I love seeing what she will come up with next.
Judith's work combines the old with the new. When she uses terms like "cut and paste", she is
referring to the actual use of scissors. I like that she is keeping this genre of art alive and
wonderfully well. Judith also uses new technology in the printing of her work, but she makes
the most use of her wonderful imagination.
Her work inspires the viewer to think and interpret, something I find to be rare in the art world
today.....or at least rarely done well.
Threadgill doesn't aspire to create pieces for anyone in particular. She dislikes the confining
constraints of themed exhibits and "open calls for art". She prefers to create whatever comes
to mind without restriction, and the results, as you will see are amazing.
July 12, 2013
I know that you view a lot of art...daily! What do you think of the influx of art now?
Art on the internet, east and west coasts, midwest.....galleries?
As you know, I have developed many resources for selecting all kinds of art to post. I don’t
think I could break it down by region. I live in Oakland, and I find it pretty exciting that since the
recession, Oakland has become a veritable arts boomtown. Oakland was named one of the
nation’s top twelve “Art Places” by arts funding organization ArtPlace. Oakland has also just
opened its first outdoor sculpture garden. There’s the monthly art walk around downtown
Oakland called the Oakland Art Murmur where dozens of art galleries stay open late for an
“art crawl” It’s been a great opportunity for me because it has extended to other venues where
I am able to show my art without to having to join a gallery or pay large commission fees.
I remarried in the 1980's to another "Bob". We met and married in the Oakland Rose Garden.
He is the "brains of the operation" behind my art. Just ask him and he will confirm it.
For the last year I have shown my work in several galleries. I joined the El Cerrito Art
Association and entered two of my pieces in a juried art show. I was delighted when one of my
pieces won 1st place in its category. In some respects I find it difficult to think of myself as an
artist, but I am having the time of my life. I love talking to people about my art and I am still
amazed when they want to own a piece.
people view your work and how can they contact you?
I do not have a web site, but I can be contacted by email at email@example.com
|The art of Judith Threadgill