Art Beat visits Irish painter Molly Judd's exhibit, 'Losing Stories' in Westport

·4 min read

In an artist statement prepared for her current exhibition, Irish painter Molly Judd speaks of her interest in “storytelling through compositional works.” And she does it masterfully, seamlessly wedding formalist concerns and powerful narrative to produce evocative, attention demanding images.

There are ten paintings in “Losing Stories,” her one-woman show at the Dedee Shattuck Gallery. Six of those take direct inspiration from Greek mythology. The other four are more elusive, more personal. But all resonate with a palpable sense of loss.

Much ancient Greek myth deals with loss and tragedy, brought on by the usual themes: jealousy, lust, betrayal, infidelity, hubris, vanity, avarice and impiety. Those Olympian gods and goddesses weren’t the forgiving types, and in their anger, reveal their too-human foibles.

Argus Sleeping
Argus Sleeping

Judd, working with a low-key earth tone palette perfectly suited to her exploration of the subject, produces work that feels timeless, yet of the moment. She taps into the sensibilities of the Old Masters such as Titian and Goya.

It is worth noting that she studied with the Norwegian figurative artist Odd Nerdrum, who composed the manifesto “On Kitsch” and it must be acknowledged that a bit of that philosophy and vibe, with its inherent romanticism and emotionally charged imagery, comes through as well.

Atalanta Detail
Atalanta Detail

“Atalanta” is Judd’s beautifully rendered depiction of a young maiden to whom it had been prophesied that wedlock would be her undoing. Alas, her father arranged a marriage for her and she agreed to marry any suitor if he could outrun her in a footrace, a task impossible as she was so fleet-footed.

Surrender
Surrender

However, one suitor by the name of Hippomenes, with the aid of a gift from the love goddess Aphrodite, tossed three golden apples and Atalanta stopped to retrieve them, allowing Hippomenes to win the race and Atalanta herself. The loss was her freedom.

In Judd’s painting, Atalanta looks forlorn and regretful, as she cups a golden apple in one hand and hides the other two fruit behind her other, as if in shame.

“Death in the Forest” captures the pivotal moment of the tale of the hunter Cephalus and his bride Procris. There had been infidelities on both sides. The husband was seduced by Eos, the goddess of the dawn, and the wife had slept with a man named Pteleon, who’d bribed her with a golden crown.

Orion And Scorpion
Orion And Scorpion

But they loved each other and reconciled but old jealousies remained. One day, while Cephalus was hunting, Procris spied on him from the brush. Hearing a rustle, he tossed his magical inerrant javelin and it impaled his wife, making him both a killer and a widower of great sorrow.

Judd captures the moment of the Cephalus’s thrust and entering of the javelin into Procis’s body as an inevitable singularity.

A highlight of the exhibition is “Callisto Bathing.” Variously described as a nymph or as the daughter of King Lycaon, Callisto (or Kallisto) was the favorite attendant of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. She and all her sister attendants had taken a vow of chastity but Zeus seduced her by disguising himself as Artemis herself.

Judd’s painting shows the moment, months later with a belly swollen with child, when her suspicious companions forced her to strip. She was humiliated and banished from Artemis’s virginal circle. The pain is evident on her face.

One For Sorrow
One For Sorrow

Other paintings entrenched in myth include the depiction of the great hunter Orion about to meet his doom at the sting of a scorpion, Jason’s theft of the Golden Fleece, and the sleeping god Argus just before his killing at the hands of Hermes.

Judd’s other paintings are not given the touchstone of mythology or legend. But they do speak to loss, in a more personal way. The titles include “Surrender” with a woman embracing a donkey, “One for Sorrow,” with a redheaded woman on the verge of tears, and “Heavy Eyed,'' featuring a young man, looking askance and appearing to feel the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Heavy Eyed
Heavy Eyed

The personal is universal. And it can become the stuff of myth.

“Losing Stories: Paintings by Molly Judd” is on display at the Dedee Shattuck Gallery, 1 Partners Lane, Westport until July 23.

This article originally appeared on The Herald News: 'Losing Stories' featuring work by Molly Judd at Dedee Shattuck Gallery