Mercyhurst University’s Cummings Art Gallery is well-known for displaying the talent of not only its students and faculty, but of emerging and established artists as well. Currently featured is artist Judith Brandon.
A native of Indianapolis, Brandon studied at the Cleveland Institute under enamellist William Harper. Brandon’s mixed media paintings, often depicting storms and natural disasters or other similar phenomena, and explore landscapes through the profound use of color and texture.
They’re not just pieces that can be glanced at; the finer, smaller details mixed into the organized chaos are the bone structure that adds size and demands closer attention from its audience. There is significant detail in the overall appearance of clutter.
These smaller accents may be the miniscule skyline of a city in the background, as in Light Pillars in Cyan, or of decay, portrayed by destroyed homes and power cables amidst the brilliant color value of Twin Bolts. In a piece that references destruction through war, one can see the faded words, “It’s just the missionary…”
“It’s interesting,” Brandon said, when asked about her subject of natural disasters. “They have a familiar emotional precedent to them. The world has been a stormy place, and these paintings put you right in the middle of it all with the hope to sail out.”
In some pieces, the fine details are but large, penciled circles that appear as air bubbles overlapping the central focus of the image. Brandon said they remind her of a planet.
“As the canvas may start out completely white, I’m always surprised by what’s there,” said Brandon.
One of the works, titled Ascension, creates a visceral reaction not unlike physical feelings experienced in real-life, gravity defiant situations. The black and white charcoal piece reminds one perhaps of missing a step on a flight of stairs; there is a sense of gravity to the work that is not typically seen.
Brandon mentioned that she works many of her paintings are on upside down. Another charcoal and ink piece, Atlantis Is Sinking, seems to have pastel colors running and dripping in contrasting directions.
“Water is something that’s very malleable, especially in terms of emotion,” said Brandon. “It creates a sense of control.”
There is a deeper emotional contrast inherent in this sort of art, going beyond colors and values. Many of them show us trauma and natural decay, but the disaster is created by the artist in an approach that is not what a first impression would assume.
In her works, Brandon successfully creates tragedy out of bright and bubbly or calm and tranquil colors, a sort of catharsis to the sense of loss associated with imminent destruction.
When asked about the inspiration for this concept, Brandon said, “There’s a lot of Radiohead in here. The way he (lead vocalist Thom Yorke) sings so beautifully about terribly sad things…”
Judith Brandon’s works will continue to be on display in the Cummings Art Gallery until Saturday, Sept. 28.
For more information regarding this exhibit or the Cummings Art Gallery, call 814-824-2092.