Kenneth Paul Lesko Cleveland Art Gallery


Judith Brandon

Atmospheric Distortions

November 18th, 2011 - January 28th, 2012


     Judith Brandon's mastery of drawing is evident in every piece she creates, but it is the way in which she uses that mastery to forge a link between herself and the viewer that makes her work so exceptional. Her work has a sense of mystery and a powerful gravity to it, a subtle but irresistible pull that draws the viewer in and gives one a sense of being a privileged witness to epic moments in flux.

     Ms. Brandon has tapped into something both primal and mystical, as though she has submerged herself in the collective subconscious of our dreams. Her well-conceived and fully-realized compositions not only draw the viewer in, but also make the viewer feel transported to a higher plane of emotional and sensory experience, giving earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and tornados a feeling of transcendence.

     In her more turbulent pieces, like Carnival Weather, depicting the swirling vortex of a forming tornado, one witnesses the supreme majesty of nature. The intensity of this scene is aided by the complex design and multiple layers of the piece--the ink-saturated geometry of the inscribed lines and curves provides a compositional framework, while the rising waves of heat drawn up into the vortex seem to fuel the churning storm, drawing the viewer in as well, revealing the embedded imagery within: a line of clouds becomes a herd of pigs scuttling across the sky, caught up in the tornado with a cow's head, referencing the Latin root of "carnival" as "meat."

     In Ms. Brandon's less turbulent pieces, like Aegean Storm, depicting pillars of light spanning the distance between thunderclouds and the glowing surface of the sea, there is still a powerful intensity, and a sense of spiritual union between the heavens and the earth. There is also an intriguing contrast between the foreground imagery (an expertly wrought sky and water that is so well-drawn we can feel the undulating swells and movement of the sea) and the de-emphasis of the background imagery. Like so much of Ms. Brandon's work, there is imagery that might be missed at first glance, but emerges as the viewer remains engaged--here is what appears to be land in the distance and rising pyramids beyond. This emerging imagery lends mystery to the piece and makes us question what we are seeing: is it simply atmospheric distortion, or are we seeing into another plane of existence--or are we, in the role of the privileged witness, being shifted into another plane ourselves?

     What is most impressive about Ms. Brandon's work is not that she has created a single piece that evokes so much for the viewer, or even that she occasionally does so, it is that she consistently creates powerful works of art that engage the viewer and elevate that engagement to a sense of communion with the artist--and in that communion, she seems to show us forgotten scenes from our most powerful and secret dreams.