Judy Pfaff is one of the most celebrated artists of her generation, known for crafting large-scale installations that combine local materials with elements of painting, sculpture and architecture.
In October Pfaff — a 1971 graduate of Washington University — will return to St. Louis to discuss her work for the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts’ fall Visiting Artist Lecture Series.
The talk is free and open to the public and begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, in Steinberg Hall Auditorium. Steinberg Hall is located near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards. For more information call (314) 935-9300 or visit samfoxschool.wustl.edu.
Born in London, Pfaff moved to the United States at the age of 13 and studied in Michigan and Illinois before receiving her BFA degree from Washington University. In 1973 she earned an MFA degree from Yale University and also staged her first solo exhibition, at the Razor Gallery in New York. In the years since she has mounted more than 100 one-person shows and installations and participated in more than 200 group exhibitions.
Though Pfaff has called herself a “dyed-in-the-wool abstractionist,” she frequently draws imagery and inspiration from the physical world: the way light falls, the branches of a tree, the intricate patterns of antique lace doilies. Working largely on-site, she incorporates both found and fabricated elements — ranging from steel, fiberglass and driftwood to vines, blown glass and neon-colored string — to create dizzyingly elaborate structures. The feeling is at once transparent and densely packed, as if the viewer had physically entered a painting or drawing.
“Do you know the way a child imagines what an artist or moviemaker does? Like at the beginning of Disney films, where they take a single paintbrush and with a single stroke create a full-color, sparkling scene? That’s what I’m after,” Pfaff explained in a 2005 interview with Washington University Magazine. “My whole life is about the labor, but I want my work to seem magical when it’s done, like a vision that transports people.”
Today Pfaff’s work can be found in such prestigious collections as the Detroit Institute of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art. Her numerous awards include a 2004 MacArthur “genius” Fellowship as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and many others.
Pfaff currently serves as professor and co-chair of art at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and as artist-in-residence at the Hui Noieau Visual Arts Center in Maui, Hawaii.
WHO: Installation artist Judy Pfaff
WHAT: Visiting Artist Lecture Series
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11
WHERE: Steinberg Hall Auditorium, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards.
COST: Free and open to the public
SPONSOR: Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
INFORMATION: (314) 935-9300 or samfoxschool.wustl.edu