Solon painter Judy Takács is displaying 19 portraits of women she knows at Bay Arts. They are the grittiest gals, in her opinion: Chicks with balls, figuratively, and as she displays them literally too.
The show delivers all the cheekiness the title suggests. Takács posed her models topless with various sporting balls clutched to their chests: basketballs, footballs, softballs, big modesty-enhancing exercise balls. However, the strategically placed spheres aren't just there to protect the PG-13 sensibilities of some gallery directors she's dealt with. They are visual representations of the chicks' metaphorical ballsiness. It's a difficult physical task to balance two softballs and a basketball, or an armful of ping pong balls, to your chest. No matter how light their weight, it's an awkward pose which strains balance and muscles quickly. Takács says the struggle to hold multiple balls aloft was meant to reify the multiple crises women must, can and do manage all at once.
"My women are doing big things in small ways," Takács says. "They're dealing with jobs, aging parents, troubled teens, starting fresh after divorces and starting life over."
Takács' youngest model is a collegiate rugger, and her oldest is her own mother, but most of her posers are the artist's fortysomething peers. Some she's known for three-plus decades, others she's met through kids' playgroups.
Though middle age is associated with stagnation and boredom, Takács finds her friends in real life-and-death struggles. She sees them nurturing parents sliding into dementia and decrepitude, guiding their own kids' through the hormonal and existential turmoil of adolescence, all the while trying to hold onto some professional dignity and personal identity. For all their drama, such stories are rarely told.
These chronicles are published at Bay Arts, in essays on her site and also in the paintings themselves. One participating model, "Karin," notes that of all the qualities Takács is willing to flatter, vanity isn't one of them. She lets her women look their age.
"I think that working with Judy, you're not going to come out of it looking like a beauty queen. Not a lot of people hope for a flatter stomach or clearer skin. It's all about character," Karin says.
This character shows through not just in honestly crinkled faces or patches of cellulite, but in overworked hands. Exempting the face, no other region of the body receives so much sharp and fine detail as these extremities. Maybe because of the way they were posed, or maybe because of conscious or unconscious choices by the artist, the hands look disproportionately large in relation to the rest of the body. Not absurdly so, but still noticeably. Being engaged in the work of grasping balls, bones jut, muscles pump, and veins bulge, sometimes snaking halfway up the bicep. They're not always pretty, but they're clever and strong and get things done.
Takács says it was not much of a challenge convincing most of her models to participate, despite the nudity, the promise not the censor imperfections, and even the fact that most of her models do not work in the open-minded art world. They trusted her not to trivialize their act of publically undressing their bodies and biographies, and to assert the truth that living demands resilience, even in suburbia.