Judy Keene

Judy Keene



In my new paintings I continue my exploration of the resonance of color.  I first encountered the term numinous in reading the 18th century poet and philosopher Novalis. He used it as an adjective meaning “a strong spiritual quality,” a sense used by other art historians, and one I feel describes how I try to think about my work—not in a pretentious or religious way, but in the sense that two-dimensional art can sometimes help us find meaning beyond our three-dimensional world.

I work primarily in oils on linen, juxtaposing luminous passages of saturated color with more muted tones.  I paint intuitively allowing shapes to appear and dissolve under layers of pigment and glaze. Using large and small brushes and palette knives I combine forms of opaque and transparent color, layering, adding and subtracting forms, building on the compositions of previous works in a continual search for balance and unity.

While my debt to abstract expressionist and color field painters is obvious, my background in art history and museum work has had its own influence. I experiment with the subtlety of lost and found edges using some techniques derived from the study of classical academic painting.  I am fascinated by the color harmonies of Renaissance painters, have copied old Master paintings in situ at the Louvre, and continue to study traditional figure and landscape painting.  Even with the fine paints readily available, I sometimes grind my own pigments to get the colors I am seeking. The Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki, and his mark making has further influenced my work.

The paintings in Numinous Light are not landscapes in any traditional sense, but they are rooted in a time growing up when I first experienced the power of nature. My father was a prospector of rare and precious metals in the American West and my appreciation of this terrain runs deep.  I define forms in my paintings using calligraphic gestures found in the natural world, whether it is a long-distance view, or an intimate pattern found in an agate. Finally, while I can speak to my influences, the work tells its own tale.


Judy Keene was born in Texas and graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a BA in Art History. She has worked in museums including the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the North Carolina Museum of Art. Her previous show at Craven Allen Gallery was named one of the “Top Ten of the Year” by Blue Greenberg in the Herald-Sun–one of two at a commercial gallery. She lives and works in Durham.