Judith Allen- Efstathiou
The state of my studio is always in transition – seasonally packed in a suitcase and moved from one continent to another (I have three studios in all: one in Portland, one in Athens, Greece and one on the Island of Kea). I split my year in half between Portland and Greece, traveling with a suitcase full of artworks in progress. Asian paper and cloth work best, light and easily folded or rolled into a suitcase and ironed flat again on arrival. There is never room for cloth in my suitcase, and it is always opened and checked by TSI.
My studio in Athens is three blocks from the Acropolis. How does that proximity affect my work? I’m not sure. I feel the energy of The Rock, but happily don’t have a view of the Acropolis from my studio. That would be too overpowering. Instead I look out at my walled garden. When it gets too hot in Athens, I travel to my third studio on the Island of Kea, and again my works in progress travel with me.
I spend winters in Portland and love the quiet contemplative time of winter in my studio. This year my Portland studio was transformed radically as I started making sculpture again after many years. I had the honor of being granted the Maine State House copper reuse commission, to make artwork with the beautiful 100-year-old copper removed from the State House dome in reroofing. I managed to finish and install the commission in March just before packing my bags again for Greece, a good thing because 47” long copper would not have fit in my suitcase.
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Outside In, Acid cut copper, three sections, 47 x 15 x 2.5” each, 2018 in Portland studio
Judith Allen-Efstathiou, Outside In, Acid cut copper, three sections, 47 x 15 x 2.5” each, 2018, installation over the Law and Legislative Reference Library, Maine State House, Augusta
Perhaps it is because I have had to empty personal possessions and histories in a few houses lately, rummaging through basements and closets. Perhaps it is because of a fascination with the shape and design of things used in a bygone era. Perhaps it is because of a concern about the rapid obsolescence of things that we now acquire as we discard sturdy old items. Perhaps any and all of these are reasons why I looked more closely at old discarded tools, deciding to make them a focus of my recent painting.
With this new focus, moving away from the bright landscapes of the region, I now use a limited palette to capture something important about forgotten times and items. I muse about whose hand held these tools, about the strength and dexterity required to use them, and how they once made tasks easier.
I moved to Maine from Colorado in October. I grew up on Cape Cod so the East Coast is my home, but Maine is all new to me. Moving asks you to sacrifice a previously comfortable way of living. It requires that you be creative and adaptable to fall into a new flow of living and working.
My new studio flow includes lots of time working at home alone. I’ve always enjoyed being alone with my thoughts and imagination. I’ve also lived with anxiety and agoraphobia for years, so this extensive alone time at home feels almost indulgent. This leads me to examine my inner state frequently. I get a lot of inspiration from sitting with, and confronting my anxiety. “Sad Girl” and “Mental Health Day” are pieces I created from observing and expressing my feelings, viewing myself as not a body or a person, but as a feeling or an environment.
My small work space confines me to drawing, so I use ink, colored pencil, and oil pastel. I combine the three materials and use them a bit unconventionally. I play with traditional methods of line illustration and let my lines overlap. I am working towards more layering and depth in my pieces.
Another theme I explored this winter was partnership. Living with another person in a very small house through a particularly cold Maine winter brings that relationship into a clear view. I’m always inspired by birds, and the way that they generally choose just one mate for a long period of time, or for life. I created “Avocets”, “Grebes”, and “Egrets”, each with a distinct color palette and overlapping lines to explore different facets of partnerships.
When I’m not focusing inward, I look out to nature, and especially to birds and plants for inspiration. Being limited to working at home, I use what I see in my yard and neighborhood. “Regularly Scheduled Chaos” is inspired by a flock of starlings and a few odd grackles that inundated my yard for a month and a half, eating up all the birdseed every few days.
I listen to and read the news often while working. Sometimes the titles of my pieces reflect my fears about the state of the world. I feel selfish and privileged to be insulated in my house creating art while American leadership destroys civility, decency, the environment, healthcare, and the lives of immigrants. I’m currently exploring themes of nature and chaos, using overlapping lines and bold color to express my feelings about the current state of America.
These four graphic pieces are an exploration of photo collage and color. This is a very different process for me. I have to a large extent used wood as my primary medium in which color and form are generated. Using the wood as sketch, through process into product, the physicality of the process draws me in and out of the work.
The past 3-4 years have been an exploration. I have felt the need to say more than framing beauty from found wood. I dove into dance, performance, video, and have landed here with pixels, in the form of photos, shapes and color.
And amazingly enough it has brought me back to three-dimensional work and ideas that have been waiting for the opportunity to find expression.
These four graphic works have been part of that process.