Saturday, May 15, 2021
Judith Kindler’s 'Desire' Shows How Far Women Have Come
Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Judith Kindler put the finishing touches on her large photography-based image of a young girl kicking back, her face looking joyous and confident, and got shivers.

“Whoa!” she said as she eyed the piece, which she titled “It’s All Coming to Me Now.” “It’s so powerful!”

Judith Kindler’s new exhibition—“Desire”—being shown at Gail Severn Gallery, is very different from the first exhibition she showed in Ketchum at the Anne Reed Gallery in 2002.

"The females in those images looked very vulnerable. And that," says Kindler, "is how she felt."

“My art is very self-referential, although modern. I’ve always been a sensitive person—that’s part of being an artist, part of what frames my work. I projected all the questions I had onto them,” she said.

Her new works exude an air of confidence and of strength that those did not have.

“Somehow, going from that to this,” Kindler said, leaning back, her arms in the air. “She’s like, ‘Hey, bring it on! Let life fill me up!’ There’s something that’s shifted, something’s that changed. It shows how the idea of desirability is no longer linked just to beauty and grace but to confidence and a sense of one’s own power.”

Kindler, whose work is shown internationally, will lead a free private tour of her latest exhibition from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at Gail Severn Gallery, 400 First Ave. N., in Ketchum.

The exhibition, which runs through Oct. 26,  features about two dozen pieces, ranging from 61.5-by-74-inch mixed media featuring photography-based images of females on panels to pieces made of three-dimensional cubes and cigar box-like panels.

There’s even a piece featuring sculptured blue-spotted pigs called “When Pigs Fly.”

Three dress cages housing such items as small red hearts and glass bottles, are titled “Want Me,” “Love Me” and “Drink Me Up”—each representative of our inner feelings of wanting to be desired.

“I love offering tours,” Kindler said. “Collectors today, especially the younger collectors, are not so interested in art simply as decoration. They want to connect with the artist. They want a sense of the narration.”

Kindler said her new exhibition started with the idea of desire as she thought about what makes a person desirable.

“It’s also about the objects of our desire,” she added.

She pointed to a table full of shaving brushes, crowns and animal figurines and then to another table full of heart objects that was started by a 9-year-old Irish boy gave her a heart-shaped rock he’d found on the beach.

“As you can see, I collect stuff. And I found myself wondering: What makes things desirable enough to collect?”

You could say Kindler has been ruminating about this since she was a young woman just out of finishing school. She was tall and slender, and her teacher decided she would make an ideal model. But, while she was beautiful and desirable to fashion designers, she felt vulnerable, insecure—even objectified—as she walked the runway in New York and preened before the camera for Levi's ads.

The woman in her new works show calm, even as they’re juxtaposed against abstractions symbolizing the pressures and dramas of everyday life.

“Most women from my era were not equipped to deal with life,” Kindler said. “My mother was an accomplished business woman so it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something if I wanted to do it. But that was not the case for the vast majority of my friends—they were dependent on their husbands, their families.

“Today’s women, our daughters are totally different. Guys see them as equal in school—they don’t think they should be in the kitchen. And my work is really about how far we’ve come as women.”

The three dress cages, like many of Kindler’s pieces, are rooted in her early interest in religion—she attended convent prep school with the idea of becoming a nun and later studied meditation in India. She also spent time in Italy where she immersed herself in the Renaissance.

She pulled a couple of well-used books on the art of the Renaissance out from under a table in her studio and opened one on Fra Angelico, tabbed with dozens of Post-Its marking favorite art pieces.

“A lot of my earlier work, especially, was influenced by the trinity idea, series of three, iconic saint-like figures, the idea of a solitary figure like Jesus or the Virgin Mary,” she said. “Even the color palate of the Renaissance influenced my work.”

Her time in India also influenced her work, including pieces involving bird cages.

"Indians have a saying that Americans polish the cage rather than feed the bird, "said Kindler, who mediates almost daily in an elaborate shrine she’s built in the corner of her studio. "That means they focus on the material, rather than the soul."

Kindler acknowledges that part of her evolution as an artist came with moving to Sun Valley from her former home in Seattle and becoming fully invested in this community.

“Ever since I moved here, I felt more powerful than I’ve ever felt in my life,” she said. “I’m okay with my life, with my age, with what I’ve got in life. Being able to say that you’re okay, not caring about what everyone thinks about you, gives you a sense of power. And my artwork depicts that—it depicts women who are happy with themselves, connected with all the things around them.”

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