Judy Pfaff: Picking up the Pieces

November 19, 2023 - March 24, 2024

Judy Pfaff’s (b. 1946) prolific artistic career spans more than five decades. Highly influential and renowned for her site-specific installations, Pfaff has ceaselessly reinvented her distinctive visual lexicon, employing conventional and unconventional materials. Like an alchemist, she transforms the mundane and ordinary into something extraordinary and mesmerizing. Pfaff adores investigating materials and handcrafting all her objects as painter, sculptor, carpenter, welder, glassblower, printmaker, and designer. Guided by intuition, Pfaff makes her singular vision concrete by creating surprising combinations of objects that highlight life’s contradictory forces and inherent duality. Her work is a topography of human emotions, the nexus of countless storylines linking the events of our time to our personal and collective experiences.

This exhibition, Picking up the Pieces, results from Pfaff’s exploration of Hurricane Ian’s devastating impact on southwestern Florida in September 2022. Sensitive to environmental issues, like the recent and unprecedentedly frequent natural disasters, Pfaff has responded by producing sculptural works. Still, witnessing for herself the devastation at Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island in the wake of the storm left an indelible mark. In the eponymously titled massive site-specific installation, Picking up the Pieces, Pfaff simulates the storm’s bewildering chaos and tumult, its destructive power, and its aftermath.

The exhibition is divided into two parts. Pulsating with exuberant colors and LED and neon lights interwoven into a bricolage of found objects and paintings, the first section is Pfaff’s hymn to nature, celebrating the natural beauty and abundance of Florida in particular. Joyful, resplendent references to flowers, vegetation, and light abound in this section’s mixed-media wall and table pieces. The second part of the exhibition is the site-specific installation, Picking up the Pieces. This emotionally charged, powerful environment, with an array of objects hoisted in mid-air, invites viewers on a visceral journey, a vicarious witnessing of the destruction of human and natural habitats.

The exhibition’s title, “Picking up the Pieces,” refers to the act of putting life back together, evoking human resilience after a disaster or tragic event. It also alludes to the septuagenarian artist’s own process. Delving into her memories and her artistic repertoire, Pfaff has recycled three-dimensional components of works from decades ago and incorporated them into the new work.

Often regarded as a pioneer of installation art, Pfaff has held more than 100 solo exhibitions in the United States and abroad and received numerous prestigious awards, including the International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2014) and a MacArthur Fellowship (2004). She represented the United States in the 1998 São Paulo Biennial.

Judy Pfaff: Picking up the Pieces is dedicated to Museum Founder, Artist, and Muse, Peppi Elona. This exhibition is organized by Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College of Art and Design, curated by Rangsook Yoon, Ph.D., senior curator, Sarasota Art Museum, and made possible, in part, with support from: 

Platinum Sponsor
Shari and John Hicks

Silver Sponsor
Appleby Foundation
Elaine and Bill Crouse
Judy and Fred Fiala
Huisking Foundation
Mary Ann and John Meyer
John and Charlotte Suhler

Special thanks to the many generous donors who made gifts in memory of Peppi Elona.

Tourist Development Tax Logo

Gallery Didactics for Picking up the Pieces: