Judy Major-Girardin
Liquid, lush, ornamentation, fabric, fluid, fertile, floral...
Story by Sally McKay
Alternate View
In most of Judy's artworks, there is no fixed place for the viewer. While the layered images and patterns have depth and spatial properties, the lush physicality of her media always comes to the forefront and her spaces are fluid and immersive, unhooked from the tethers of gravity or linear perspective.

Teacher and leader

As a professor in the Studio Art program at McMaster since 1983, Judy has had a major impact on an uncountable number of artists in the region. She has participated in many residencies and exhibitions both nationally and internationally, but she has always also always been committed to the regional art scene. In the early 1990s she was part of Afterimage, a Hamilton collective of artists working with abstraction. Between 1983 and 1999 she showed a number of times at the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, and she supported a campaign to help them secure their space when the city wanted to appropriate the building for other uses. During this period she also exhibited work at the Glenhyrst Art Gallery in Brantford, the London Regional Art Gallery, The Leamington Art Gallery, the Mississauga Civic Centre, and Cambridge gallery, and she had major solo shows at the Kitchener/Waterloo Public Art Gallery and the Burlington Art Centre.

Sparking creativity

In some ways, teaching has supported Judy in her artistic practice. As she explains it, “Teaching art keeps your brain going, it keeps you continually thinking and questioning, and talking with students about their art helps you understand your own ideas.” Judy has had a huge impact on many, many students throughout the years, she remembers a surprising number of them individually, keeps track of their progress, and continues to provide mentorship and support.

Judy proceeded in the studio, always changing her colour palette from series to series, switching and recombining print plates, working back into the image, and incorporating bits of patterned fabric. “If Only I had your Stardust” for example, includes a piece of her Grandmother’s rag rug, embedded in the paint.

Judy Major-Girardin. “Surfacing 1”. 1997. Oil, fabric and shellac on canvas. 90 x 62 in.
Judy Major-Girardin. “Green Chintz”. 1996. Shellac and oil on canvas. 32 x 30 in.
In 1990 she made a trip to Italy and filled her sketchbook with studies of classical sculpture and architectural detailing. This inspired a body of work, including works like "Acanthus", that incorporated more recognizable, realistic elements, along with a new level of investigation into pattern and ornamentation.

“I’ve always wanted to convey a sense of transforming, rather than being in a fixed space. I like that challenge of breaking away from known relationships and resolved patterns. Resolved things seem dead. Something else has to happen to it…that’s the fun of art making!”

– Judy Major-Girardin