We had the good fortune of connecting with Judy Gardner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Judy, what are you inspired by?
For me, artistic inspiration flows from two completely divergent directions. I have a close tie to nature, so visually, inspiration for the subject matter of my work is drawn from the natural world. Even work that is fairly abstract flows from attraction to natural forms or the way colors or light appear in nature. The other big source of artistic drive for me is fed by process. In planning a project, I think as much about the HOW as I do about the WHAT or the WHY. This has turned me into a total process junkie. Materials and processes seem to take on a life of their own and speak to me about how they want to express themselves. I’ve always been drawn to printmaking and bookbinding, probably because they are so process oriented. When computer graphics came on the scene, I was immediately attracted to the possibilities and looked for ways to incorporate digital work in with more traditional art methods. Then, the whole CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) world started opening up. When I got my grubby mitts on a laser and a 3D printer, I thought my brain would explode. To me, this seems like the essence of magic… I create something in an imaginary space out of wisps of computer code and then it gets turned into an actual physical object as I stand by and watch. I joke that my studio contains the art making technology of the 11th through the 21st centuries. Antique book presses and an etching press rub elbows with a laser, a CNC router and a menagerie of 3D printers. I often wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden inspiration about a way to meld new tech with traditional techniques. I just have to get up and go out to the studio and give it try.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I struggled for a long time to find my artistic voice. For years, there seemed to be something of a battle going on between my left and right brain. My left brain would get in control and I’d turn out a series of tight photorealistic pencil drawings. Then my right brain would get in control and I’d spew out a bunch of huge abstract canvases in bright colors and bold sweeping brush strokes. All the time, my worst critic was right there in my own head, deriding the pencil drawings as “boring” and the bold abstracts as “meaningless”. When the work was all heaped together, it was not at all apparent that it was the work of a single individual. I was bemoaning this situation to a friend over coffee and she hit on the solution. Claudine pointed out that I had successfully collaborated with other artists whose work was very different from my own. She asked, “What would it look like if you collaborated with yourself?” That question resonated deeply. About that time, I started to work with 3D printing and the answer to the question began to take shape. My current artwork incorporates 3D printing, laser cutting and laser etching with more traditional methods of painting and printmaking to create work that is pretty unique. 3D printed plants and animals leap from acrylic painted panels textured with laser cut forms. The left brain gets to do all the 3D computer modeling and vector drawing and the right brain gets to splash it all in bright color and bold strokes… Everyone is happy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve always been an introverted homebody. Before COVID, I joked about being agoraphobic-phobic. It was WAY too easy to see how I could get there. About a month into lockdown, I realized I might have dropped a phobic. Anyone coming to visit would have to be tolerant of quiet evenings on the back deck watching the dragonflies zooming over the pond as the sun sets over the mountains. In honor of their visit, I would manage to break away from home base for several day trips. A day wandering the Denver Botanic Gardens complete with a picnic lunch by the lily ponds would be on the list. Artsy friends would want to spend a couple of days of gallery hopping to catch selected shows at the DAM, MOA, MCA, or the Arvada Center. Many even a jaunt up to Boulder to hit BMoCA and have lunch at the Dushanbe Tea House. You can’t come to Denver and not go out for Mexican food, so we’d swing down to Santa Fe Avenue and maybe catch a few small galleries before lunch. Then my friend would have to decide if they wanted a sit down meal with ambience or grandma’s cooking. For good food and ambience, lunch would be on the patio at El Noanoa. For Mexican home cookin’ diner style, we’d go right next door to Tacos de Mexico. The mountains are a must for any visitor from the flat lands. The drive on the Peak to Peak Highway with a stop for lunch at one of the cafes along the way or a run up to Estes Park and then on into Rocky Mountain National Park to drive up to the top of Trail Ridge Road are both excellent mountain day trips.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to give credit to a couple of powerful women: Alice Gardner, my Mom, was an incredibly talented artist, but beyond that, she was supportive of my early artistic efforts and completely tolerant of any mess as long as it was a creative mess. She always made sure I had good quality art supplies at my disposal, even when my work was childish. She was always generous with her time and know-how, not just for me, but for my friends as well. My high school art teacher, Lita Bratt, was an invaluable support through a very difficult life phase. Without her encouragement, I would never have pursued art professionally. Actually, I’m not sure I’d even have made it through high school, let alone college. My teen years were a bit rugged emotionally and I can remember several times when I was tempted to drop out, but didn’t because I didn’t want to disappoint Mrs. Bratt. She was a powerful influence on many kids and I have kept in touch with a few who are still working in the arts all these years later.
Judy Gardner – Poppy painting Fred Reim – portrait of Judy Gardner