“Southerland has developed an impressive array of skills. Beginning her career as a figurative painter, she eventually turned towards abstraction with the same inquisitiveness and thoroughness she brought to her representational work. Eventually, she found her own way to combine the two approaches, often rendering both reality and abstraction within the same work, and sometimes focusing on one and then the other. It is unusual to encounter an artist who can move with such adept clarity in both and between these worlds, and who produces work that is always so consistently and markedly her own. She has dedicated her life and career to creative exploration, painting, thinking, innovating and learning, reaching for new ideas and techniques while also returning to express long-standing concerns through new means, striving always to “get to the heart of the matter”.
-Nancy Sausser, curator, artistic director McLean Project for the Arts
“Southerland makes paintings based on simple rectangularly organized compositions which are oriented to the scale of the human torso. She uses an eclectic range of media with marvelous sensitivity; her paintings radiate a sense of touch that literally tugs at the viewer’s nerve endings. The paintings are ritualistic to the extent that they are evolved organically; she’s one of those painters who knows how to let the paintings paint themselves, using time in the evolution of her work as if it were a physical medium. The way each painting is distinct from the other is indicative of a felt passage from one experience to the next.
These paintings have a surface happiness and clarity balanced with a kind of personal undertow of considerable force.”
-Pat Kolmer, art critic Washington Review, "Tell Tale Heart", Washington Project for the Arts
“After countless hours of labor analogous to the layering of our day-to-day experience, Southerland’s final images appear vivid and direct. Like swimming to the water’s surface from a deep dive they grasp vital breath.”
-Lynn Schmidt, independent curator, "Ground Force," Ellipse Art Center
"The precision that screenprinting demands can
sometimes render images static but there is a
surprising energy in these hand-pulled screenprints.
Southerland combines the distilled forms of abstraction
that in the play of shapes and color animate the
canvas with figuration that captures the intimate. She
likens the tension between slow build and the
explosive gesture to the mysteries of the universe: the
passing of time, the coming into being, and the fading
away of things and lives-how people "plowed
ground, made quilts, repaired bad roads, made music,
had fights, had babies, and buried the dead."
Remarking at the paradox of this amazing variety and
vapid repetition, she finds the most interesting
moments to be "the space in between"-that furtive
glance that channels the power of divergent yet very
real points of view such as "looking at the stars and down at your feet."
-Carina Evangelista, curator, "Crossing Lines," The Delaware Contemporary
Image above: Washington Post, "History Painting for a Small Town," Studio Gallery
"'History Painting for a Small Town,' Judy Southerland's show at Studio Gallery, began with text the local artist stenciled on a canvas, Pop Art-style. The paragraph summarizes the way people lived in villages a few generations ago, when most work was agricultural and the cutting-edge technology was the internal-combustion engine. What Southerland set out to explore, however, was not the substance of history painting, but it's literal ingredients."
"Wooden constructions suggest the material of canvas, frames and stretchers, but deconstructed into sculpture. More than a dozen medium-size pieces take the oval shape once common for portraits but don't depict the human form. Instead they showcase fabric, paper and wood; one simulates a page of notebook paper, precise expect that it's not rectangular. The closest Southerland comes to conventional picture-making is a series of pattern drawings made of blocks of dotted color. Here the parts cohere rather than fly apart."
Mark Jenkins, art critic, The Washington Post, "History Painting for a Small Town," Studio Gallery
"In times of chaos and upheaval, creative people often turn to the most powerful tool available: the written word. The six artists in this group exhibition at WAS gallery entitled T.N.T. Text. are no exception. Some use words aggressively and publicly, others subtly and privately. Some look outward to the world around them and some look inward to the private world we create within ourselves. The text the artists choose to use becomes another tool in their arsenal, seamlessly integrating with all the other visual elements they incorporate, and not simply something they fall back on. The six artists in this group show at WAS gallery approach their content differently, but they all have one thing in common: they treat their studio not as a bunker, but as a war room."
"About the work: Judy Southerland is the kind of artist who picks up things along the way, materials and experiences, and seamlessly blends them into her art-making processes. She incorporates traditional material such as paint with fabric and found objects, and then jumps to video and text. She has the enviable trait of being restless, always searching and examining everything around her and finding inspiration from a number of sources. Growing up in the American South and witnessing all the racial issues from her youth, she gained a distrust of words, seeing the hypocritical nature between what someone says and what someone does. Nonetheless, she decides to use them in her work."
The Editorial Team, East City Art, DC's Alternative Art Source, "T.N.T Text", WAS Gallery
"'The spaces between dissolve in her emptiness.' That’s one of the cryptic poems Aliza Tucker whittled into existence by carving away the other words in a found document. Tucker sometimes uses language to make an image, as in a piece in which the outline of a lightbulb is drawn by the phrase “I have no idea” typed hundreds of times. Either way, Tucker’s work fits the theme of “T.N.T.Text” a six artist show at WAS Gallery."
"The most stylistically diverse work is by Judy Southerland who stencils words onto drawing-paintings that also include physical objects that loop to places beyond the picture plane. The artist, who contributes a video piece as well, has a "distrust of words," says curator Travis Childers's note. Perhaps Southerland's distrust extends beyond language, which is why her work is as open-ended as one of Tucker's cutaway poems."
Mark Jenkins, art critic, The Washington Post, "T.N.T. Text," WAS Gallery