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‘Copy Cats and Originals’

New works, recreations of
old masters highlight new exhibit

Nearly 40 works by eight
area artists will be on display

Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(September 2011) – “Artists occasionally have artists’ block,” says painter Judith S. Lewis ruefully. At a gathering of several artist friends it came out that several of them were suffering from this unpleasant affliction. Lewis casually suggested that as a way to get their own spark back they should each select a work by a famous artist and paint a copy of it and the idea quickly took off. What started as an exercise to “get back to our studios and back to work” has now developed into an exciting exhibition of area artists.
The happy results of this return to creativity will be on display when the show “Copycats and Originals” goes on display at the West Street Art Center in Madison. It is located at 301 West St. The exhibition will run from Sept. 7-25 and will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Wednesdays. A reception and grand opening will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 11. Eight area female artists will exhibit their own versions of famed masterpieces of painting. Replicas of works by artists such as Van Gogh, Rubens, and Picasso will be on display alongside new, original works created by Lewis, Joy Cable, Marjorie Connor, Lee Featherstone, Diane King, Carolyn Lopez, Dottie Shepherd and Lillie Wingham. In all, approximately 40 pieces will be shown.

Carolyn Lopez

Photo by Lela Jane Bradshaw

Madison artist Carolyn
Lopez poses in her
In-Home Gallery, located
at 411 W. Second St.

As the artists were accustomed to painting original pieces, working from another’s painting proved to be an interesting challenge. For Lopez, Georgia O’Keeffe proved a natural draw as both artists favor painting flowers. In looking for inspiration, Lopez began leafing through a book of O’Keeffe’s works and focused on the watercolors that O’Keefe had produced during her career.
“The reason I like watercolors is the freedom you can get and the excitement you can get when the water and the color come together,” she explains.
Lewis selected a painting with the same name as herself – Klimt’s “Judith.” “This was a new experience for me,” Lewis said, noting that it gave her a chance to “be a little bit experimental, going outside the box. I think all of the artists have experienced that.”
She continued, “I learned from this experience that I could not get into the mind of Klimt. I could never, ever be that person, I could never be in his soul.”
She also enjoyed discovering more about the technical aspects of the artist’s work and was fascinated to uncover the differences in Klimt’s brushstrokes in comparison with her own. She successfully tackled the challenge of recapturing the vibrant gold color for which Klimt’s work is famed. While she found her first attempts at the effect a bit jarring, she soon “learned that I could make it by applying a glaze” at which point the gold “would become a part of the painting” rather than overpowering it.
Unlike watercolors and acrylics which dry quickly, oil allows more time for reflection and correction. She believes that oil paint is “very forgiving – you can create exactly what is in your mind with the final product. There is a permanence that I love.”
Lewis encourages the entire community to stop by the exhibit and enjoy the fresh take on old favorites. She notes that while many adults may be familiar with the artists and paintings used as inspiration, for some children and younger people this could possibly be their first exposure to some of the world’s masterpieces. Lewis hopes that the show could “inspire discussion of art history.”
She also believes that the show could inspire a greater appreciation of local artists in that it gives the community a chance to see the quality of work being produced in Madison and southern Indiana.
Lopez is looking forward to the exhibit, saying the experience of combining copies and originals means that “we get to express ourselves a little differently.” And coming back to the theme of friendship that set the experiment in motion in the first place she notes with a smile, “It gives us an opportunity to show our art together.”

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