Judy North at Electric Works

Beast of Burden

The Judy North solo exhibition, “Why Not Say It?” at Electric Works closes on this Saturday, April 18th.  It is a wonderful show.  If you have the opportunity to go before it closes, I encourage everyone to do so.




It is, in many ways, really a retrospective for this remarkable Bay Area artist and educator.  It covers a broad range of her work from 1982 to the present.  Stylistically, the work is in the Romantic tradition that reaches back through the Symbolists, to the French Romanticist, Eugene Delacroix and beyond.  There is a bold expressionist use of color and line that echoes those works.  Like those painters, much of Ms. North’s work has a distinctly narrative quality to it.  But the paintings can also be very current, with titles like “Desert Storm” and “Coercive Tactics”; as well as spiritual with titles like “I Give You A Golden Thread” and “It Furthers One to Cross the Great Waters”.   


I was fortunate to drop into Heavens Dog last night, the new venue by famed San Francisco restaurateur, Charles Phan, for a mixer organized by the gallerists, Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang.  It was a great opportunity to meet and speak with Ms. North.  It was also a great opportunity to see another side of her work.  Charles Phan has chosen to adorn his restaurant with some of Ms. North’s animal portraits for the indeterminate future.  Appropriately enough, most of the portraits are of dogs.  However, the work that most resonated with me was a trilogy of cows hanging over the bar.  Ms. North resides in rural Marin.  Apparently, bull thistle is a problem in the grazing pastures. Ranchers that she knows in Nicasio, not wanting to harm the environment with toxic weed killers, decided to train their cattle to eat the thistle.  They introduced the cattle to young thistle with molasses so that the cattle acquired a taste for the weed.  Then, they sprayed the thistle in the fields with molasses and the thistle problem was addressed.  It is so successful that the new generations of cattle no longer require the molasses.  Whimsically, the calf pictured in one of the paintings is named “Thistler” and the painting of the cow next to it is titled “Thistler’s Mother”. 


Whister's Mother

Heavens Dog is a short stroll from Electric Works, around the corner on Mission Street.


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