Judith Vivell was born in California, attended the University of California at Berkeley where she received her BA in The History of Art. After graduation she spent an year and a half in Colombia, South America, where she studied with Edgar Negret the great Colombian sculptor, at the University of Los Andes. On her return to the United Stated she began work on a Master’s degree in Art History at Columbia University, but left after a year to begin studying painting and printmaking at The Art Students’ League. She spent the next three years studying with Larry Poons, and Morris Kantor and Roberto De Lamonica. In 1971 she received a Master’s degree in painting from Hunter College, where she studied with Ray Parker.
For the first part of her career Vivell was an abstractionist, working with mixed media, but always tethered to the real world. Then in 2000 she began working in a fully figurative style. The work is about nature, though it owes much to the lessons of her early years as an abstract painter. The concern with either lush color or constrained color (the feeling that it is her choice), the often-large format, and the fascination with scale and spatial dynamics. These things attest to her early training. And there is an attraction to the monumental, but also a fear of the cliché.
Vivell has exhibited internationally and is represented in many important private and public collections including Yale University School of Architecture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art. She lives and works in New York.
I work in the gap between the outrageous beauty of the real world and the simplicity and severity of my personal taste. The first time I looked through a camera lens and saw Roseate Spoonbills dance I was struck with the same sense of awe that first drew me to study painting in New York in the 60's. At that time, seeing the massive canvasses of Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Franz Kline, I realized that art is not about documenting existence, but something far more ambitious. The subject of modern painting is expression itself, just as the dance of a Spoonbill surpasses the need to mate and become pure expression, pure beauty.
I became attracted to the sublime in art, for the ability of art to surpass life, not by exaggerating it but by rendering it, by seeing it fully. The capacity for seeing life is at the root of painting, and we can express even, in a sense, our limitations -- point out the place where we cannot go. This is the essence of the sublime.