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Judith G. Levy Artist Statement

My work is about history, culture, and identity. I explore complexity, commonality, and contradiction in personal stories, historical narratives, and socio-cultural issues. I use my queer gaze to examine memory, authenticity, and desire, while I reconfigure and recreate in order to describe departures from traditional understandings and to create new meanings. I use text, found objects, and appropriated materials in an effort to create links between external and internal worlds. I tend to work in multiples and series because it helps to establish different understandings and shifts in perspective. My use of repetition is one of the ways I try to destabilize commonly held beliefs and explore how established assumptions are shaped and revised.

The ideas in my texts, signs, photographs, and neon work push language and imagery to evolve and to more accurately represent an ever-changing world in which concepts of identity are center stage. Reversing the Order, for example, explores the use of pronouns and questions the hierarchy of binary descriptors as it makes room for new definitions. The two videos in The World Outside and The Pictures in my Head use imagery from the Noir films I watched on television as an adolescent as I searched for representations of myself in popular culture.

Appropriated imagery is used in Panoramic Postcards, and in the video installation Among the Trees. Using appropriation and found objects allows me to react, question, and reshape, as I reveal junctures where self-definition, interpersonal relationships, culture, and history wrestle to establish meaning. In the photographs, Portraits of Queer Couples, found salt and pepper shakers combined with found photographs and other materials confront the definition of couplehood by recasting commonplace kitchen items to shed binary notions of identity. Among the Trees and Panoramic Postcards share a focus on landscape and it’s significance in our lives. The postcards are faux scenes that question what is real, as they each narrate and depict historical conflicts in American history. Among the Trees is an installation created from found 35 mm slides and from video obtained online that examines the range of the relationships we have with trees. The images move from small-scale intimacies to large-scale environmental disaster.

In the video, Kissed by Elizabeth Taylor, and in the Family Memoir installation, narratives describe the past as new revelations poke through the cracks of reexamination and re-telling. Tearing, comprised of thirteen photographic images, is a performance of grief. The Jewish tradition of Kriah, the Hebrew word meaning “tearing,” refers to the act of tearing one’s clothes in recognition of the sanctity and importance of life at a time of loss. I made tears in thirteen shirts in response to the October 2018 murders of eleven Jewish members of a synagogue in Pittsburgh and two black residents of Jeffersontown, Kentucky who were grocery shopping.

Other work in this exhibition follows similar trajectories, as I explore the cohesions and the breaks in feelings, associations, events, and ideas that make up the way we understand the past, reckon with the present, and imagine the future.

RECEPTION May 17  |  5-7 pm
INSIGHT Art Talk May 18  |  2 pm


May 17, 2019 @ 5:00 pm
June 22, 2019 @ 9:00 pm
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Lawrence Arts Center


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