Judith Simonian
Judith Simonian

Judith Simonian received a Tree of Life Individual Artist Grant in 2017 for Digital Imaging of Site-Specific Artworks and Painting.


Judith Simonian is a New York City painter, born in Los Angeles where she was a founding member of XX, a women's art coalition. She is a Guggenheim Fellow (2014) and received NEA fellowships, Gottlieb Foundation Grants and a California Confederation of the Arts Grant. Residency fellowships include Yaddo, MacDowell, Blue Mountain Center and Fundacion Valparaiso. She was recently the artist-in-residence at Dora Maar House in southern France. A solo exhibition, Foreign Bodies, was held at Edward Thorp Gallery (2015) where she will be participating in group shows in 2017. Fred Giampietro gallery in New Haven, CT will be exhibiting her work in the Fall of 2017. Her paintings have been seen in museums and galleries including The Seibu Museum in Japan, The New Museum in NYC,  PS1/MOMA, The San Francisco Museum of Art, The Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Orange County Museum of Art in California. She received public acclaim in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Art in America, FlashArt, Brooklyn Rail, Art Critical, HuffPost Arts and Leisure, and was the subject of a recent Gorky's Grandaughter Vimeo.


Project Description

I have made art for nearly fifty years and most of my art has survived except for the site-specific projects that were meant to be time sensitive and transformed by the environment or vandalism. The early work that only exists in photo documentation involved erasing by sandblasting, selected areas of gang graffiti that covered walls in downtown Los Angeles. The unique kind of back and forth dialogue and changes that ensued (in distinctly different visual voices) were recorded in photos taken until the wall was painted over or the building torn down. The sense of juxtaposing different visual languages functions like collage, something that has informed my paintings ever since and is important part of my history as an artist. A project at PS1 Art and Urban resources (PS1/MOMA) used sandblasting to form a grid-like checkerboard pattern to excavate through the thick peeling layers of paint that revealed the history of the building. An installation for Creative Time involved Port-o-San toilets (a convenience provided during opening events and throughout the duration of the show) hidden behind what looked like a fragment of a Palladian Villa wall cast in concrete. 
The relevance of that environmental work, the process of finding something, seeing something recognizable and known in the environment and using it as a starting point to make my art is an identifiable feature of my painting today. My work is rooted in recognizable imagery; then as the painting develops and the self-criticism intrudes, I paint that too and sometimes the work becomes more abstract until finally I find myself illustrating the act of making a painting itself. Lately, I’ve used color swatches as a metaphor for the painter’s palette. The paint slurs its way into description just as the graffiti artist projects air born color from a can into vital signs or tags with specific identity and meaning.

The Tree of Life grant would provide resources to hire an assistant to work with me on organizing my early site specific work that currently exists only in slides and photographs; transforming it into digital form that can be preserved and recorded on my website. This is part of the larger project of cataloging my painting and art history.