3rd Street Gallery on Second Street
First Friday January
by Mary Anna Rodabaugh
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” or so the saying goes. The same can be said for a painting. Every brushstroke is equivalent to a word in a story. Paintings evoke emotions, trigger memories, and ignite the imagination. They can take you to new and exciting places, even if only for a moment.
On a cold and icy First Friday in January, I was transported to a bright and sunny Italian vineyard. For a few moments, I completely forgot about the snow lining the sidewalk outside the 3rd Street Gallery on Second Street. This brief journey was all thanks to Judith Schermer.
“I decided when I was eight years old that I wanted to be an artist,” Schermer said. After taking a figure drawing class in Detroit, she felt her finished product was the best in the class. While Schermer has worn many figurative “hats” in her lifetime, it is her “artist hat” that she keeps putting back on.
In her exhibit entitled, “Theme and Variations,” Schermer takes her audience through a series of twelve 20 by 20-inch acrylic on masonite paintings, each depicting a September scene at a farm in the Umbria region of Italy.
“I wanted to do a set of paintings that were closely related: all the same size and shape, and then thought it would be interesting to see how varied they could be within these constrictions, [like how] a composer takes a theme in music and makes a series of variations on it,” Schermer said.
During her visits to this Italian farm in 1998 and 2001, Schermer took hundreds of photos of beautiful mountains, grapevines, olive trees, and even laundry hanging out to dry. In 2008, Schermer drew 14 colored pencil sketches based on several of her photos. However, her husband took ill and was hospitalized. Schermer put her art on hold and dedicated all of her time caring for him until he passed away in 2009.
“In 2012 while cleaning up my studio I found the sketches and decided to finally carry out my long-forgotten plan,” Schermer said.
Schermer utilizes shadows to portray the time of day and radiant colors to give off a sense of warmth. These elements allow the audience to get a clear sense of time and climate at first glance. In several “Variations,” the linens on the clothesline appear to be moving gently in a breeze. From the whitish green leaves of the olive trees to the threaded fringe of a cobalt blue blanket, each work is clear, sharp and defined. Her series is an accurate representation of the landscape, but, due to the artist’s individual expression, is not classified as photo-realism.
“Although I use photographs as well as sketches to create my paintings, I do not consider my work to be ‘photo-realistic.’ I freely simplify and change things in making the paintings,” Schermer said.
From a thought, to a photo, to a sketch, to a painting, each work is part of a collective story. “Theme and Variations” will take your mind away from Philadelphia’s bitter winter cold and to the very source of Schermer’s inspiration.