Last year, based on past work and exhibitions, I was juried into the Hillyer Art Space 2010 season to have a solo show. I had just about finished painting my last series (which was on the effects of global issues on the individual), and was ready to begin something new. I started three paintings, one after another, each on subjects that just didn’t feel right in a way that would sustain a whole series. Then I came across a thought experiment by the political theorist John Rawls.
Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” suggests that we hide from ourselves our personal social status, ability, and income, when we make decisions about systems of justice. He suggests that a “veil of ignorance” helps us consider the interests of the least advantaged members of society, and make the best choices for everyone. Inspired by this hypothetical system inspiring social justice, I found that I could not stop painting. The paintings poured out of me.
For more than thirty years my work has centered on social justice issues seen throughout history. I’ve painted on such themes as the steps taken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the victims of suicide bombings, and the uncertainty of bringing a child into this world. The most intriguing part of the veil is that Rawls used such a strongly visual image to explain his concept. I thought that if I could capture that wonderful idea, I would have something special. In the past, a symbol often stood alongside the model to convey a sense of time and place. However, the veil enabled a cohesive, natural, woven image. The veil might be light and airy and dissolve into the atmosphere, or it can be a thick shroud that hides part of you. For example, in my painting titled “Veiled Judgment” (seen on this page) the veil almost floats before the woman in the painting, largely obscuring two strikingly different symbols of social status: a worn worker’s shoe and a stylish high-heeled one, and thus leaves the woman’s station in society in doubt. It became clear to me that if a veil were set in between the subject of the painting and the viewer, either one could be considered “behind” the veil depending on one’s point of view, as is the case in “Veiled Identity.” In this way, I hope the veil engages the viewer, strengthening your interaction with the painting.
Now a week away from the June 4th opening, I am obsessing about finishing up, reworking paintings that have already been photographed, and even inviting models over with new paintings in mind. I guess I like to work under pressure. Please comment here if you have any questions or thoughts, and I hope you’ll come by the opening and let me know what you think.
Judith Peck has made it her life’s work to paint about the history and healing of social injustice. A graduate of the George Washington University with a degree in fine arts, she has exhibited her work in venues nationwide, including the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA, and the Rhonda Schaller Studio in Chelsea, NY, as well as in such print media as Ori Soltes’ book The Ashen Rainbow and the San Francisco City Concert Opera Orchestra’s announcement for “Die Weisse Rose.” Peck’s latest series “Original Position” will be showing at the International Arts & Artists’ Hillyer Art Space from June 4th to June 26th with an Artist / Curator Talk to be held Saturday June 5th from 5 to 7 pm. You can visit the artists website at www.judithpeck.net.