Judith Rassenti: Artist Statement
Feeling connected to something bigger than ourselves is a basic yet sacred desire we fulfill through ties with our families, friends and communities, vital connections giving shape and meaning to our lives. Sadly, during this very strange year, a disconnection challenges us to figure out other vital ways to be together.
In my paintings, I celebrate saving graces that have allowed connections in ‘approved’ ways. Staying safely inside, the marvel of ZOOM brings people together. Happily ‘tuning in’ to choir practices and also my family inspired me to create an enneaptych (9-part painting) of a ZOOM family visit. Each ‘portrait’, in the manner of a famous artist, was a stylistic shift that dragged me outside my comfort zone and emboldened me to paint with more bravado. Another saving grace has been embracing a more outdoor lifestyle which Norwegians call friluftsliv or year round, open-air activity in any weather. More recluse than outdoor person, I also enjoy staying inside watching the world outside go by. One of my windows, facing Clover Point and the Olympics, and the other, facing Metchosin and the Sooke Hills – plus the pretty yellow house across the street boasting gorgeous pines endlessly swaying in the unrelenting wind – inspired a second set of paintings, a 5-part series of the ‘view’ outside my windows with everything in motion, which I, snugly inside, celebrate on canvas. In a larger painting, I honour Italians poignantly serenading each other from balconies alongside my local choir members socially distanced on various levels of a Victoria parkade also singing in Italian, Va Pensiero, an opera chorus of longing for a lost previous life. As a narrative artist, I create visual stories of people engaged with each other and, in this year of needing resilience, I present these to you.
People in movement – singers, dancers, musicians – the other arts I embrace, are also my favourite painting subjects. Ever a late bloomer, in mid-life I took up dance, a decade later the fiddle and, another decade on, singing in a choir. Painting, though, starting in high school, has been a constant with many courses including, early on, a full-time stint at Victoria College of Art followed by evening classes and, after retiring, Vancouver Island School of Arts. In the early aughts, I was involved in art direction too overseeing mural displays for the Folkwest Music Festival and a long stint as director of the art show at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific where, as caretakers, our cottage garden became my palette. In the 60s at SFU, I earned a BA plus teacher’s certificate leading me, for a few years, to teaching high school English and later to UVic’s Fine Arts Co-op placing students into internships, a job I loved because students in the arts seem always on the brink of surprising themselves.
I enjoy best creating portraits and illustrations. Although a realistic painter – with impressionistic flair – my work is imaginative, telling a story with something dynamic always happening.