Holes of Truth (Installation)
Holes of Truth

My art emerges from a Gothic sensibility, a place where beauty and horror exist in close proximity, where innocence encounters depravity, where the spirit is consumed and revived from moment to moment.

I have obsessively focused my artistic energy for the past twenty-five years on the human condition, exploring such subjects as the transcendence of death through regeneration, the abuse of power and the plight of the powerless, the struggle between physical necessity and spiritual values, and the fluidity of history—coagulating, dispersing, and reconstituting. I consider myself a visual historian, recording and interpreting the spirit of my times. Through the exploration of specific issues, I search for patterns, for the aberrant, for the profane, for the divine, for that elusive propellant that hurls us from one moment to the next.

My art has consistently included the presence of the figure—not surprising, considering my focus on the human condition. The form, however, has swung between representation and abstraction, and between painting and sculpture. Many works combine both these approaches, and for the past ten years my art has also included collage, drawing, photography, sound, and text. Recent examples include the audio/visual installation Blood Music (2002); my grade school diary rewritten visually as Memoirs of a Beast (2002-2003); text and tar gel portrait paintings on the subject of war, The Mouseketeers in Iraq (2004); my ongoing sculptural diary, 365 Dumb Days (1996-2008); and a series of portraits that combine photography and paint including Portraits in Plasma (2003-2007) shown in 2007 at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and published in 2008 in Post Road magazine.

The title of my most recent installation, Holes of Truth (2008-2009), is derived from the Italian, buchi della verità, a custom of public postings, denunciations by one citizen about the activities of another. My “postings,” however, are less confrontational than revelatory. Using cast off objects, old diaries, books, photographs, and real and constructed memories, I selectively reveal aspects of my personal history as I expose the underlying passion-filled dreams, persistent anxieties, and dark desires of humanity. This installation of paintings, sculpture and audio takes the form of a multimedia memoir that juxtaposes my personal history with the political, cultural and social history of our time. It includes Fault Lines (2008) and selections from four previously mentioned bodies of work— Memoirs of a Beast; Blood Music; The Mouseketeers in Iraq; and 365 Dumb Days.

The basis of Memoirs of a Beast is my grade school diary. Beginning in 2002, I “rewrote” it using tar gel, mixed media and collage. The 180 pages that comprise Memoirs of a Beast are installed in chapter-like groupings, connected visually through a balance between blank pages, pages with partial text and those that obliterate the text entirely. Important to the composition of the pages are original collage elements such as tickets stubs, newspaper clippings and photographs. Combined with contemporary photographs, family photographs, gesso, tar gel, graphite and acrylic paint, the diary represents a life—my beastly life, your beastly life, a mess of details, scraps of disappointment and fragments of hope. 365 Dumb Days is another kind of diary—a sculptural diary—assembled from a life’s accumulation of miscellany. Treasures (silver baby spoon, psychic’s doll, volcanic rock) and trash (shattered auto glass, discarded Barbie, broken necklace) fearlessly intermingle in a testament to the comedy and tragedy of life—days of bumbling and recovering, submitting and transcending, hoping for the best and sometimes getting it.

My audio visual installations evoke the oral tradition of memory keeping—important events retold and embellished in conversation and song, in living rooms and around campfires. Bonnie Ann Brown, the audio component of Blood Music, is based on a notorious unsolved crime committed in my hometown, one that affected me profoundly as a young child and that I retell as a meditation on death and regeneration. The Mouseketeer paintings bridge the gap between the oral tradition and the written narrative. They began as a series of “studio portraits” of the original Mouseketeers painted in layers of pink tar gel. The “backdrop paper” that sets off each portrait is like a blown-up page from a fictional memoir or a transcript from a television interview, the text written over and over so it is nearly unreadable. In 2004, this series evolved into paintings on the subject of war, The Mouseketeers in Iraq. The “backdrop paper” is a soldier’s report from the battlefront. As harsh as the Mouseketeers in Iraq might appear, the subject matter of these paintings, the resilience of the human spirit, transcends the physical destruction of the individuals portrayed.

The paper installation, Fault Lines, was inspired by a 19th century copy of Plutarch’s Lives given to me by a family member. After reading it, I began visualizing those individuals who impacted my life as chapters in a book; as paintings, row upon row, in a history museum; and ultimately, as planets in the sky, connected randomly as constellations are. Once in progress, I realized that Fault LInes was less about hard truths than fluidity—history slipping and sliding off the page, images melting, and solidifying—the incessant, glorious flow of the universe pausing for a reflective moment, then moving on.

Judith Page
November 2008