public reception: Friday, July 7 6-8 p.m.
Judy Takács’ colossal, colorful, and classically-inspired oil portraits re-imagine the characters and stories from the mythology of multiple religions through a contemporary feminist lens. Viewers will learn that Medusa is a rape victim. Pandora and Eve are women forbidden to learn. Venus is a generous peacemaker to our undeserving world and Athena is re-cast a kinder, gentler Goddess, standing in solidarity with her sisters. New Muses for the arts are created and little-known ones finally given credit for inspiring joy and greatness. Apollo, Sphynx, Judeo-Christian God, Michelangelo’s David and even Satan, traditionally depicted as male deities, are re-imagined as Goddesses too.
The Goddess Project seeks to correct harmful myths; prejudices that have seeped into our collective thinking, laws, workplaces and lives as these stories have been told and retold for eons.
In its history, the Ashtabula Arts Center has shown many artworks that include the nude human form and have several as part of the permanent collection. The nude body is portrayed in countless works of fine art including many with religious content and commissioned by the church. In the history of art, the human form is not, in and of itself, considered pornographic.
Judy Takacs is a highly skilled artist and is among the award winners from the inaugural Paul and Norma Tikkanen Painting Prize and a 2023 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. The Arts Center is working to carry out the wishes of Paul Tikkanen by supporting and promoting the regional painters chosen as prize winners, hence this one-person exhibition. We have also featured other painters in articles and press materials and will be featuring the top prize winners on billboards this year. The works that are on display from Judy Takacs are not obscene, salacious in nature, or pornographic. They do include the nude female form. We do not, as an institution, support the idea that the portrayal of nudity in art is pornographic or that the portrayal of the nude body is damaging to the viewer. In response to feedback, we have made reasonable accommodations to notify visitors of the content of the exhibit and provide alternate pathways for visitors through signage on the front door and added barriers to shield the gallery from the main entrance.
This exhibit portrays goddesses and religious figures across many religious traditions and centuries of history. The portrayals are all a rethinking of these figures in contemporary terms from the viewpoint of the artist. None of these portraits are painted as religious icons or intended to be placed in a church or other religious setting. They are painted as an expression of the artist’s thoughts and ideas. The Arts Center recognizes that our community is made up of people with many different religious viewpoints and that these portrayals may not fit within the artistic traditions or specific belief systems of all our patrons. As a secular institution, we respect all people’s rights to their religious traditions and beliefs and support the rights of all Americans to worship according to their beliefs. We also respect the right to free speech and individual expression.
Art is often created with the purpose of creating a forum for discussion of ideas and concepts that reflect the current discussions in wider society. One person’s concept of what is objectionable may be very different from the next person’s. Art has many varied purposes within society and arts institutions are not capable of censoring content to the point that no person will object to an image or thought that is portrayed. We hope that this, and all our exhibitions give viewers an opportunity for reflection.
This particular exhibit has thought-provoking content and there has been a very wide variety of response to it, both very negative and very positive. Art often has content that reflects the current political conversation and we hope that when that happens, it generates substantive discussion. When there is controversial content, not all people will be in agreement, but seeing and thoughtfully considering an opposing view can sometimes bring some compassion for the other viewpoint, sometimes it will also serve to strengthen our own convictions, and that is not a bad outcome.
The Ashtabula Arts Center has in the very recent past shown artwork that expressed a pro-life sentiment and has presented many pieces of artwork that celebrate the Christian faith as well as other faiths. We have also produced many pieces of theater that are biblical in nature including recent productions of Children of Eden and Godspell.
The Ashtabula Arts Center makes every effort to present a wide variety of artwork produced by artists representing many communities and styles of art. We realize that not every show will appeal to all our patrons. The ideas and viewpoints represented in art exhibits are solely those of the artist(s) and do not represent the ideas of the Ashtabula Arts Center, employees, or Board of Trustees. The display of this artwork was certainly not chosen with the intent to offend or disrespect the viewer but to showcase a body of work by an accomplished artist.