A Regal Reflection

After twenty years of researching various artists, from those who are fresh out of graduate school, starting optimistically but with not much of a plan, to the ones in serious mid-career develop­ment, and finally to indi­vidual artists that achieve fame and fortune, the clear common denominators for the overwhelming majority of this often eccentric group are highly motivated creative activities coupled with demonstrative talents in early childhood, and almost always strong parental per­suasion and support. In every case that comes to mind, whether it is Picasso’s attraction to pencils for drawing at the age of four combined with his father’s encouragement as an art teacher, or the early works of Helen Frankenthaler, which dem­onstrated a penchant for abstraction in a color field context, that lead into an inten­sive exploration of inventive methods that strongly influenced numerous male artists such as Robert Motherwell, they all were highly innovative as children. This same phenomenon remains true for successful musicians, who picked up a violin or guitar when they were young and taught them­ selves to play while listening carefully to the musical influences surrounded them, including their parents.

Painter Judi Regal followed the same familiar road, this recognizable path to creativity, by displaying a remarkable level of curiosity and creativity as a young child. She remembers tile excitement of discovering the hands-on freedom of finger painting while growing up in her home­ town of Springfield, Massachusetts. This simple process was a catalyst to other forms of inventiveness, and solidified Miss Regal’s journey into the satisfying world of being an artist and designer. When her family moved to Peoria, her mother was concerned about continuing and devel­oping the talents of her young daughter, and enrolled her in weekend classes at the Peoria Art Guild that explored different varieties of art, which included building ceramic vessels out of rolled clay and the unusual assignment of painting on black plastic bags as a background element and covering it with abstract shapes. Twenty years later, many of the exquisite paintings that Regal is creating in her handsome studio next to the Norton Museum of Art for her upcoming survey exhi­bition at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, not so coincidentally, incorpo­rate textured black backgrounds ac­cented with cubistic shapes floating in space.

While in grade school, she began a fascination with hand puppets, which illustrated an interest in performance art, a discipline that many artists con­tinue to explore all their lives. Soon she began to fashion the clothes for her tiny stagehands, as well as the background decoration, and to this day many of those elements of design seem to fit into her calibrated compo­sitions: a clear foreground (stage), middle ground (geometric squares), and a paint­ ed black background that takes the place of dramatic curtain-shapes. Regal looks back and realizes that she was generat­ing her own world, including writing plays. Later, she was charmed by making light boxes that utilized little color pegs that would in turn create a picture through life, and wood carvings, where she learned that she was more comfortable rounding out the sides of her works, rather than leaving the hard-edge sides on their own. This showed her the value of considering the complete circumference of the area near the perimeter of her paintings, which has carried over to her recent work. There is a clear evolution taking place in Judi Regal’s new series that fits into an ongo­ing professional context of creating high level, exceptional picture-making at its finest. Her past experiments in gold film and rubbings of color made from crayon and markers, as well as her early trials in composing aggressive color fields, are in­ dispensable tools for her recent series.

Later, Regal did graduate work at the Art Institute of Chicago and earned a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration from the University of Texas in Austin, where she studied drawing, including repetitive assignments like drawing a simple egg shape until it was perfect. All of these experiences and development of her skills are depicted in her recent series of large-scale paint­ ings, which represent two distinct collec­tions. One group is the Reflections series, consisting of squares within squares that seem to mirror a window on the world from the inside looking out. The second series portrays the influence of her studies at the nearby Everglades and other Florida land­scapes, which she discovered through classes with celebrated Armory Art Center teacher, the late Dennis Aufiery, who would bring his students of plein air paintings to the Blue Heron Bridge and borders of the mighty Everglades. These day trips also brought back valuable memories to Judi, when as a young girl she explored the wa­terways and creeks in her neighborhood, which still play a part in her paintings.

These encounters, not surprisingly, have been instrumental in Judi developing a per­sonal philosophy about painting, and honing her particular talent to capture raw color that relates to the very powerful moments in her life and professional career. She also is cap­tivated with the circumstances of the natural environment, particularly the effect that fires have on the health of a forest and the meta­phorical symbol of new life that comes as a benefit from the flames. The massive green sugar cane fields need to be torched until they burn to the ground before the sweetness of their inner core can be harvested. A planned burn by farmers that turns destruc­tion into another life, is mesmerizing to Re­gal, who used to coat pages with a rainbow of colors, only to cover them up with ash­-like black top that when dry and scratched away, would expose new and vibrant worlds of hue and form. These new works have a delightful visual excitement, especially as a recurring, intriguing series that emphasizes the structure and vivacious mix of color and idiosyncratic shapes for which this South Florida artist is becoming known.

For more information on Judi Regal, please visit: www.judiregal.com