Judith Raphael

For much of my career as a painter, images of people have been an obsession, accompanied by an intrinsic narrative. I have created many portraits invented from various sources, photos from family albums, children, grandchildren,

cell phone snaps of friends, magazines and always art history. None of my copied images are literal transfers. My hope is mainly to create a distinctive character implied by the subject and reinvented by me.  In larger complicated work I often construct more than one figure and elements from nature and modern civilization are absorbed.  It feels like a natural evolution.  I like to use color so the figures merge into the ground of the painting a bit, allowing for places occasionally where the paint could emerge and possibly share the stage. However, I can’t seem to shake the need to invent precise characters like a writer, only without words.



I begain focusing on the young subject; mostly girls with their particular discomfort in accepting the cultural paradigm of womanhood.  European painters like Balthus, Lucien Freud and Paula Rego have been influential but I am also interested in young women or girls when I adapt aggressive postures to gently mock the macho stance of classical male sculpture.  The Greek warriors and pontificating orators, sexy satyrs and slightly intoxicated gods seemed a perfect attitude for my desire to reflect bumptious girls. I was one, so were my sisters and most of the female hooligans in my working class neighborhood. Copying these wrestling, squirming icons with their self-confident stance, worked to give my pre-adolescents the gravity they need to compete with the paradigm of self-conscious girls presented by the media.



Now with the intensity of girls at play in mind, I have been focusing on girls, twelve years to sixteen, photographing them and reinterpreting their personae as they enter the cusp in life where girls hover before entering full-blown adolescence.  My last one-person show on this subject was titled “On the Verge”.  I still borrow from art history but male stances from extreme sports magazines and the newspaper sports page have also become sources.  Sometimes soft background images of girlhood from my generation are used as counterpoint to these active subjects. Playful, but dead serious, I think of my figures as feminine foot soldiers in the process of becoming women in a complex new world.