Judith Braun

The artist takes a childhood medium to sublime new levels

by Nestor Bailly


Picasso once said that all children are artists, and in that vein, New York artist Judith Braun keeps the youthful spirit alive, albeit with an adult’s sophisticated edge. In her large-scale finger drawings she creates wall-sized abstractions and nature scenes by dipping her fingers in charcoal powder and drawing directly on walls. Her latest mural, “Diamond Dust“, at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, is a 50-foot pastoral scene that took a week to create in front of a live audience.


“Diamond Dust” marks the largest site-specific project of Braun’s career, which began in the 1980s with realistic figure paintings and Xerox art that explored sexism, racism and feminism. The controversial pieces attracted criticism, especially her piece depicting a dead, naked angel hanging upside-down from an altar. After a hiatus she spent isolated in her studio, Braun returned to the art world with finger art.


Started in 2003, Braun’s current ongoing drawing project, the “Symmetrical Procedures”, is constrained a set of four rules: Abstraction, Bilateral Symmetry, Square Format, and Graphite.


“Abstraction keeps the images free to be anything, while the symmetry resolves that fluidity into something, like liquid energy crystallizing,” Braun explains on her website. “The crystal metaphor is also reflected in the carbon medium of graphite that, under heat and pressure, becomes a diamond. Working within constraints prompts a proliferation of possibilities that self organize into groups and subgroups, from which I then choose some to render carefully by hand.”


More recently, “Fingerings” continue her use of carbon dust to draw directly on walls using both hands, allowing the inherent symmetry of the body to manifest. “Diamond Dust” is on view through October 2012 at the Chrysler Museum of Art.