By Gina King / Photos by Jeffery Lilly

dsc03074-copyHelloscar Wilde, if still alive today, would find many examples in present society of “life imitates art” far more than “art imitates life,” as noted from his 1889 memorable essay The Decay of Lying.

And so it seems to be an opposite mirror expression of art imitating life for contemporary artist Judy Friday as she showcases her pieces in her newly opened gallery on 10 Lyme Street. A local resident of Old Lyme for more than 30 years, Judy’s observations of life and events around her have molded her art form into a life of its own as she paints bold and pastel skylines, water, and landscapes with energetic abstract décor.

You might have seen her eye catching patches of colorful skylines and landscapes at the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme where she exhibited for many years. It had been her dream to have her paintings featured on the walls of the Cooley Gallery ever since she saw a Peggy Root exhibit there 30 years ago and decided that was what she wanted to do with her life…paint. She enrolled in the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts and studied formal traditional art, eventually finding her way into the abstract world. But before she took brush to canvas, she had used her skills to make a living painting walls and floors in homes.

Not limiting herself to one art form, Judy’s style has changed over the years from painting still-life figures to abstract landscapes, metal impressions, collages, and photography. The drive to showcase her work year ‘round vs monthly at the Cooley Gallery, added to her collection piling up in her studio at home, inspired her to open her own gallery and work studio and keep it local in Old Lyme. “I kept driving by this space and saw the For Rent sign and said, ‘I have to have this place,’” said Judy.dsc03105-copy

The space was pretty much ready to go with its white walls, wood floors, and ample window appeal for sunlight. Keeping it simple and doing it her way, Judy hung her paintings and opened in March of this year. “It’s been good. I like talking to people about art and seeing what they like,” says Judy. For someone who doesn’t own a computer or have a Facebook page, simplicity serves her well; and she takes pride in managing the gallery and her artwork her way.

“I know I should probably get on Facebook; but I decided I was just going to open the gallery and do things simple,” she explains.

She loves the landscape and topography that Old Lyme offers and depicts this in her oil on canvas paintings of sky over water. Her method is to pick a local place where she can park and see the water and paint from inside her car. Most recently she became so inspired with painting the sky in the morning, that she thought it would be fun to capture the images not only on canvas, but on camera as well. A series of her digital photos are framed and hang alongside her paintings in the gallery.

She admires and gains inspiration for her art from influencers such as painter Joan Mitchell, artist Stuart Shils, and master quilt makers The Women of Gee’s Bend, whose quilts are woven in an improvisational “my way” approach, weaving stories of each woman’s life history. “I like their geometric designs and color; these were women who had never seen any art but made quilts out of their husband’s old shirts,” she says. “They are a huge inspiration.” A diverse and visionary artist herself, Judy does not limit her creative talents to just one art medium…she gleans inspiration and ideas from life around her.

dsc03065-copyBeautiful hooked rugs and woven pillows are displayed among the walls of paintings in her gallery. These are Judy’s creations as well. She credits a woman down the road who had taught her how to hook rugs; and she came up with own design of colored squares and rectangles on the decorative pillows. “Color inspires me the most. It just happens,” says Judy.  Mixed in among the pastel colors of sky and water paintings are framed collages taken from her art magazines, bright and bold strips of newspaper writing, and images symmetrically starting in one corner and going across. “I try to keep a childlike quality in my art,” says Judy. “I don’t want to be too sophisticated, this comes from seeing a lot of art.” Another example of her art imitating life is exhibited in painted coffee stir sticks hanging in a frame. “I was stirring paint and looked at them and thought those would be fun to put together, and I started painting them.”
Not only does she exhibit the landscape through a lens and on canvas, but she translates it in her metal art pieces. Judy enjoys visits to Calamari Recycling Co, Inc. in Essex to look for distressed pieces of metal and copper. “I look for stuff worn with age; it has a patina to it.”

Showcasing her work in other states has kept her gallery going, with plans to stay in Old Lyme for awhile. Her paintings and artwork can also be seen at The Gallery at Four India Street on Nantucket, her home state of Ohio at the Art Access Gallery, Susan Powell Fine Art Gallery in Madison, and the Julie Heller Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

“I’m excited every time something sells,” says Judy. ‘It’s always a kick to me that someone wants my art.”

Her future goal is to take a photograph a day for a year starting Jan 1st 2017. “I might take a photo of the sky over water or whatever hits me that day and print it out,” says Judy. “The commitment of doing a photo a day would be fun.”

Judy Friday Gallery, 10 Lyme Street, Old Lyme
(860) 581-0116