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Art HERstory: Judy Onofrio

Challenging the norms placed upon us by society is what creativity is all about. Those who are fearless to the criticism of others are the innovative creators of the world. Judy Onofrio (born 1939) is a creative soul who started her career with one goal in mind: to blur the lines between traditional art categories. She became a master at intertwining the characteristics of fine art, crafts, and kitsch, or cheap decorative objects or souvenirs. Judy’s pieces resemble common household sculptures, but are much more complex than a first glance may lead you to believe. They’re colorful, well-crafted, and extremely innovative.

Initially, jewelry making was Judy’s craft of choice. The restriction of movement caused by back surgery kept her from making larger works, but her imagination was well and active. She started making jewelry from beads, buttons, and other random items. After a while the bracelets, pins, and pendants were not enough to satisfy Judy’s creativity. It thirsted for more.

'A Pair of Hares'

Eventually Judy dedicated her time to creating shrines that depicted scenes from her life. These sculptures included traits from some of Judy’s inspirations, like Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, but still reflected Judy’s personal style. Constructed of bits and pieces of other objects, Judy had conquered her goal of category bending.

Of course keeping her shrines small wouldn’t last long. By 1991 Judy was building architectural works decorated with remnants of everyday items like broken dishes, seashells, mirror shards, and buttons. She’s even started her own JudyLand in her backyard. This sculpture garden was started in the 1980s and extends beyond her Rochester, Minnesota studio and into the area surrounding the space.

Today, Judy still patrols garage sales and thrift stores to find material for her art. She’s still sculpting despite her many works on exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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