Judith Linhares, Cove, 2010, Oil on linen, 60 x 81 in., Adrienne and Chris Birchby Collection, Image courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires, Los Angeles/Seoul
Judith Linhares
Oil on linen
60 x 81 in.

Adrienne and Chris Birchby Collection
Image courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires, Los Angeles/Seoul

Judith Linhares: The Artist as Curator

November 27 - April 3, 2022

Judith Linhares: The Artist as Curator illuminates the wondrous world of Judith Linhares (b. 1940, California) and the abundance of inspirations that shape her artistic practice—from her time in the California Bay Area in the 1960s and 70s, to her dream journals, to other artists, five of whom Linhares has selected to include in the exhibition.

With roots in abstract painting, Linhares’ work reconsiders the expressive possibilities in figuration and narrative. She uses her observation and formal skills to imagine a realm of her own making through layered brush gestures that fill the composition, expressing monumentality and directness. What often emerges are long-limbed, nude figures and wild animals that coexist in a kaleidoscope of colors, liberated from logic or expectation. The women, sometimes represented in groups, own their real estate. They are not posing for the viewer but are more likely to be involved in personal reverie, possessing the agency to climb, lounge, eat, and exist as they please.

The range of paintings in this exhibition reflects Linhares’ interests in narrative as a form of personal revelation, as in psychoanalysis or the so-called “talking cure”—the desire to achieve wholeness and peace by recognizing and bringing into consciousness conflicts that need to be resolved. Linhares’ process is set in motion by making conflicts visible, working with the idea of opposing elements—abstract and figurative, light and dark, conscious and unconscious.

Accompanying these paintings, items from the artist’s studio, including collected objects, photographs, and journals, parallel to specific imagery and temperaments in the works, allowing us to imagine how these multifarious elements were transposed by Linhares. Linhares’ creative catalysts go beyond the studio space, as well, and into the greater dialogue and history of artmaking. Recognizing the importance of artist-to-artist communication, the exhibition highlights the works of five artists: Bill Adams, Ellen Berkenblit, Karin Davie, Dona Nelson, and Mary Jo Vath. Each artist represents a unique approach, with strong commitments to physical processes and explorations within representation and abstraction. The inclusion of these five artists serves to underscore their individual differences while reflecting Linhares’ common interests in the power of an intuitive process.
This exhibition is made possible, in part, with generous support from:

Gold Sponsor
Gerald and Sondra Biller

Silver Sponsors
Elaine and Bill Crouse
Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf

Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax Logo
Community Foundation of Sarasota County Logo
Sarasota Magazine Logo

Wil and Sally Hergenrader Endowment Fund
Dr. Eloise A. Werlin Endowment Fund
Charles O. Wood, III and Miriam M. Wood Foundation Endowment Fund
Sally Yanowitz Endowment Fund

Judith Linhares in her studio
141 x 304 in.

Photo: Amanda Marie Mason

Bay Area Beginnings

Judith Linhares came of age in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area during the decades of civil and social unrest,  experimentation, and challenge to authority. The search for greater “freedom” defined that moment in time. Like most artists of her generation, Linhares’ training was largely formal. Early on, she developed a respect for abstract art, specifically the work of the Abstract Expressionists and their desire to jettison many of the limitations of European representational art.

The rise of second-wave feminism in the 1970s began to shed light on how women had been represented in works of art. Art historians John Berger and Linda Nochlin were instrumental in revealing the built-in bias in Western art that privileges the “male gaze.” What also became apparent was the lack of acknowledgment women received for their contributions as makers of culture. Many talents were excluded from the story of art—not just women—and anyone who existed outside of Western art traditions was seen and experienced as “other.”

Stories We Tell Ourselves

Judith Linhares has recorded her dreams in journals for more than fifty years. Rather than using the journals as direct sources for imagery in her paintings, they are a way of charting how her mind works when dreaming—piecing together past and present, loss and joy, envy and generosity, desire and rejection.

Stories We Tell Ourselves includes dream journal entries and a group of spontaneous gouache images. Both text and gouache paintings were made by Linhares in an effort to stay in contact with the flow of her inner life.

The Artist as Curator

Linhares: “I welcome the opportunity to share the stage here with my fellow artist. The value of the artist-to-artist community has not been fully acknowledged. The connection between artists through social contact and formalized meetings has helped me clarify my own thinking. It is not about being influenced necessary, but with an art form as old and known as painting, we are all standing on someone’s shoulders. The now mythical model of the artist struggling alone in their garrets is not the full story and is a little out of date. The real story about how artists learn to make the work they need to make happens over time developing skills, cosmologies, philosophies, and whatever it takes to stay focused on their pursuit. This process is not about having a fixed destination, but more about a search that is open to change. Seeing other artists’ work in the studio or in the museum helps me think about what I am doing with my work. This can certainly be a wide range of artists – from century’s old masters to friends in my own community.

I have known the artists included in this exhibition and witnessed each of their unique paths over a period of twenty years or more. Their work takes different forms—free-standing paintings, shaped canvases, drawings, painting and ceramics, small and intimate works to large and aggressive works. What they have in common is a process that risks failure. The end product was not completely known in advance. They all have developed confidence through learning skills and disciplined thinking to arrive at their unique perspectives.

I find their commitment to their work, the clarity of their thinking, and the presence and experience of their works encouraging for my development as an artist.”

Mary Jo Vath

Mary Jo Vath (b. 1957, Illinois) has dedicated her painting practice to thorough examination and “re-presentation” of everyday objects that have been overlooked, abandoned, and dismissed. After staging the object in a neutral space in her studio, Vath intensely scrutinizes the object, painting almost completely from observation. This steadfast observation bridges the greater, common understanding of the object and the artist’s unconscious perceptions, through which Vath realizes the individual and actual reality of the object. The final work presents not only the object’s true being but also its symbolic meaning.

Linhares: “Mary Jo Vath is the one artist in this group that works only from observation. She chooses common subjects—flowers, fruit, table settings—while also embracing elements from mass culture. Vath chooses her subjects carefully, looking for what speaks to her in random encounters at the Salvation Army or a public market in Mexico.

I share with Mary Jo the idea that there is something to be learned in the practice of sitting in front of a single object or group of objects and trying to record what you see. Anyone who has tried this knows you see things differently every time you look away and return your gaze to the chosen items. There is always slippage between what you know and what you are able to see at a chosen distance.

The power of Mary Jo’s paintings is not that they are so real—it is more so that she can take a subject, like a blue wig or a cheap winter hat, and imbue it with magic. I believe this happens in her almost devotional relationship with the chosen subject. There is nothing mechanical in her process. Every inch of the painting is arrived at through intense coming together between hand and mind.”

Ellen Berkenblit

Ellen Berkenblit, Sunshine, 2018, Oil, paintstick, and charcoal on canvas, 84 x 200 in., Courtesy of the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York
Ellen Berkenblit
Oil, paintstick, and charcoal on canvas
84 x 200 in.

Courtesy of the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York

Ellen Berkenblit’s (b. 1958, New Jersey) paintings do not foreground meaning or interpretation—each work is rather an exploration of line, color, surface, and composition. Certain symbols, such as the figure of a young girl or a leopard, do not have assigned meaning, whereas others infiltrate Berkenblit’s paintings from lived experience, such as stoplights and trucks. These symbols are not pre-planned, although they persist across paintings. Their presence emerges through Berkenblit’s transfer of energy from unconscious, to paint, to canvas. Without hesitation, Berkenblit builds on layers of painted color and form until the final image appears. This full embrace of the painting process is physical, honest, and limitless.

Linhares: “Ellen Berkenblit’s development as an artist has held special interest for me—starting from small, intimate drawings that reflect the vocabulary of cartooning. Berkenblit uses an abbreviated graphic language to depict an invented character with idealized features—a kind of Cinderella character in conversation with a cartoon cat. Her paintings evolved into challenging physical wonders that have great monumentality and power.

The paintings in this exhibition are a variety of sizes—from very large to small—and are made with paint that has a specific and luxuriant physicality. I was immediately attracted to Berkenblit’s work for her mixing of references, vernacular cartoons, and the use of her invented language to make complete compositions that are not didactic but ambiguous and open to interpretation. I am very interested in how she uses color to create a sense of an urban environment.”

Bill Adams

Bill Adams, Big Shot, 2018, Oil, acrylic, and plaster gauze on canvas, 72 x 48 in., Courtesy of the artist
Bill Adams
Big Shot
Oil, acrylic, and plaster gauze on canvas
72 x 48 in.

Courtesy of the artist

Bill Adams’ (b. 1957, New York) multidisciplinary practice includes drawing, painting, and most recently, sculpture. While the works differ in material and appearance, they are united through Adams’ improvisational process. Curiously, what results from the artist’s spontaneous actions is a coexistence between works, a shared essence suggested by the unspoken language between characters. Adams describes these characters, most often animals, as Rorschach readouts of his own psychologies. The artist’s raw, unmediated energy, transferred from hands to object, can be felt in the frenzied, spirited lines and forms of these works.
Linhares: “I share with Bill and Ellen the use of animals as subjects. Adams’ animals, like Berkenblit’s, seem to exhibit very human qualities through body language and facial expression. Adams has left the option open to use other materials besides paint and brushes. Adams’ clay sculpture has all the presence and power and immediacy that his drawings have. I love the spontaneity and all the information he brings to his subjects. His work does not express doubt but captures those all too fleeting moments that express total belief and confidence.

Adams is an avid tennis player and compares his process to the concentration that is required in a tennis match. I think this is a complicated process that requires practice and rehearsal. Adams does not burden the viewer by showing the searching part of his process. His process shares something with acting and a spirit of play. Adams and I share the idea that painting and sculpture offer a unique opportunity to express the unison of body and mind and the spirit of play.”

Dona Nelson

The paintings of Dona Nelson (b. 1947, Nebraska) defy designation and convention—they are both flat surfaces and three-dimensional objects; abstract and figurative; spontaneous and contemplative. Nelson’s painting process is constantly evolving and flexible, much like the possibilities of the materials she works with.

The works exhibited here exemplify Nelson’s two-sided paintings. In 2003, while working on a painting in the middle of a field in New Jersey, pouring paint and scrubbing and hosing the canvas with water, Nelson noticed that the colors bleeding through the canvas created a different image and color palette on the back side of the canvas. This happenchance inspired her two-sided paintings. Nelson’s creative process continues to be guided by unplanned events that occur in the course of making a painting. Paint, cheesecloth, muslin, and string act as equal parts to create texture, mass, and color. The final work often evolves over several months, emerging out of simultaneity of thought and ever-present, ever-changing, material facticity.

Linhares: “Dona Nelson’s work has combined figuration and abstraction from the beginning. I find her work courageous and exhilarating. Her commitment to process over premeditation is all-consuming. The chances she takes are heroic—she has ripped painting off the wall where it has been comfortably sitting for centuries and made it stand on its own in the room.

The thinking involved in Nelson’s processes includes the history of twentieth-century art and the preoccupation with making a work feel as though it is always expressing a sense of Now. Nelson readily acknowledges her continued dialogue with Jackson Pollock and the act of pouring and dripping. She also adds to this piercing, cutting, folding, as well as observational drawing. All these methods, as options for making a painting, end in a remarkable sense of order and presence.”

Karin Davie

Karin Davie’s (b. 1965, Canada) paintings extend the tradition of gestural abstraction and combine it with optical styles rooted in the 1960s and 1970s. The works have a conviction in the formal language of painting, and, at the same time, they embody the painter’s persona. They are humorous, lyrical, and autobiographical. Information is woven together from both the external and internal world to create a dynamic field of exchange between representation and abstraction. These paintings embrace contradiction and are rich in associations.


In Davie’s most recent series, In the Metabolic, While My Painting Gently Weeps, and Beam Me Up (Small), the artist has transformed the stripe motif from earlier work into rhythmic fields of wavy strokes. The conventional square or rectangle is subtly undermined by creating “intrusions” derived from shapes traced from Davie’s own body (thumb, elbows, knees) or fracturing the center of an image using the canvas’s edge. In these works, formal relationships dissolve the barrier between inside/outside and object/illusion. With an emphasis on color and unbroken, mimetic gestures, Davie works to engage us in a realm, both optical and physical. The paintings’ luminosity and motion pull the viewer into their pervading mood, sense of mystery, erotism, and quiet tension.

Linhares: “Karin Davie is an imaginative inventor and problem-solver working from multiple angles to make works that often hover between painting and object, abstract and representational—often leaving the conventional rectangle behind until she arrives at the right combination of color, form, brushstroke, and support. The effect has emotional resonance and physical beauty that is unique and at the same time has universal and irresistible appeal.

Davie has explored the effects of color, light, and materiality, inventing images that are in constant motion. The more recent paintings have a kind of repeated movement reminiscent of a beating heart. She is endlessly tenacious in pursuit of her vision, willing to experiment with paint, brush, material, and color until she gets all the elements working in unison. I have been in regular conversation with Davie for nearly thirty years. Karin Davie has extraordinary clarity of thought and talking with her is always encouraging, productive, and inspiring.”

The Artist's Studio

The artist’s studio has long been veiled in fascination and myth as a private nexus where the artist devotes themselves to the most honest form of personal expression. It is the ultimate site of artistic creation and has constantly been reinvented as a response to evolving modes of making. The function itself has changed, from a workroom (bottega), to study (studiolo), to reflective space, as well as the setting, from a traditional European-style studio, to a loft, to even outdoors (en plein air).

Despite where or how the studio exists, it is the origin of a work of art and thus, where the work of art is most aligned with its true essence. These five artists have granted us access to their studios, repositioning the studio as a mythic, concealed territory to a place where we can garner a deeper appreciation and understanding of the artist’s process and psyche. In some of these studios, artworks lean against the wall, while others on easels; some focus on a few works, while others many at once; and some are sprawling, while others more intimate. The studio is a trace, a reflection, a sign, a carrier of meaning and context, and it is distinctive of the artist, much like the work conceived there.
Mary Jo Vath Studio

Photo: Amanda Marie Mason 2021

Ellen Berkenblit Studio

Photo: Steven P. Harris 2021

Bill Adams Studio

Photo: Courtesy of the artist 2021

Dona Nelson Studio

Photo: Gary Donnelly 2021

Karin Davie Studio Photo: Zocalo Studios/ Spike Mafford 2021
Karin Davie Studio

Photo: Zocalo Studios/Spike Mafford 2021


Judith Linhares, Photo: Amanda Marie Mason
Judith Linhares

Photo: Amanda Marie Mason

Judith Linhares

Judith Linhares has been based in New York since 1979, following her inclusion in the seminal Bad Painting exhibition, curated by Marcia Tucker at the New Museum, alongside fellow painters Charles Garabedian, Joan Brown and Ed Carrillo. Linhares’ works have been acquired by numerous public collections including the Whitney Museum, New York, NY; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; The de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; The New Britain Museum of American Art, CT; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; and The Berkeley Museum of Art, CA. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and multiple grants from the National Endowments for the Arts, Linhares most recently won the prestigious 2017 Artist Award from the Artists’ Legacy Foundation.

Judith Linhares Prix fixe

Inspired by the exhibition, Chef Kaytlin Dangaran of Bistro created this special Judith Linhares prix fixe.
This prix fixe will be available through December.

Judith Linhares Pre-fixe
green goddess, lime crema

Passionfruit, white chocolate