Bio

Disclaimer
I declare all of this recollection to be the truth. I have not made anything up. If I had to make the whole bio into one brief (third person) paragraph, it would be:
“Israel-based American artist, Judith Margolis, draws on the spiritual when confronting the political. Her paintings, drawings, artist’s books, multi-media collages and essays aim to celebrate, as well as question, to berate and poke a finger at, how utterly unpredictable and unintelligible, LIFE is. Her sense of identity and the essence of her art, spring from a life-long feminist consciousness, a radical educational philosophy of de-schooling society, commitment to counter-culture social activism, and an extreme engagement with and ambivalence about religious tradition, especially, but not exclusively Judaism. Mostly, she loves to look at, and is sometimes healed by, how things appear.
The rest is commentary (for which I will switch to first person)
Extended Biographical Recollections
I was born in the Bronx at the end of World War II, and raised amidst Yiddish endearments. Many pivotal events that shaped everything about me, happened during my first 4 years.
For example: I was 3 years old and crying bitterly over a broken baby bottle, which my mother said would not be replaced. To appease me, my father drew the outline of that bottle on the wall. Astonished, I stopped crying and  SAW how he made that bottle look three dimensional! From then on I knew how to draw.
In 1948 we moved to suburban NJ, which was rural enough to provide clear night skies, the occasional deer at dawn, and a childhood that COULD have resembled the nuanced watercolor illustrations of Dick and Jane. Well not exactly, just insert some guilty Jewish mishagas and you get the picture.
Fast forward to me appreciating the proximity of Manhattan, and DITCHING High School whenever I could! My dad drove me to school in the morning, and I walked though the building, out the back door down the steps to Route 4 and took the bus into Manhattan! I discovered myself in the cafes and bookstores of bohemian Greenwich Village. I wandered through the Museum of Natural History  figuring out how the diorama artists made dusk and distance for the stuffed animals to inhabit, and how bird bones seemed to sing. At the Whitney I discovered that there was such a thing as “American Art,” and puzzled out the hidden stories of bio-morphic abstraction in Gorkys, Klines, and Pollocks, and recognized Lower Broadway and Washington Square in the Edward Hopper paintings. Shrugging off advances from creepy guys, I hurried through the grimy Port Authority Terminal, grabbed the bus back to school, and arrived just in time, for my Dad to take me home. So much for Dick and Jane.
This was the late 50’s and early 60’s, with few professional/artistic role models for girls. I remember standing in front of a sculpture by Louise Nevelson at MOMA, so astonished that I said out loud, “A woman did this!!!” My fate was sealed. I knew I was an artist.
At 15 I started taking drawing lessons at The Art Students League. While my friends were lying about their age in order to drink beer, I lied to get myself into an art class where I drew from the (nude) model. (Drawing from the model remains, in my opinion, the quintessential way to learn to be an artist.)
With folk songs (Pete Seeger, Joan Baez) and Jazz (Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis) as my sound track, I attempted to fix the whole world, demonstrating with Dr, Benjamin Spock and Students for a Sane Nuclear Policy, getting suspended from school for refusing to participate in Civil Defense (duck and cover fallout shelter) Drills, and with my best friends, beatniks poets and politicos, everyone of them, organized Ban the Bomb and Civil Rights marches.
After high school, I attended Cooper Union where Abstract Expressionism held sway. Some great teachers (all male) of the old school, Robert Gwathmey for example, encouraged my drawing and opened my mind to conceptual imagination. Influences were: Kandinsky, Klee, de Kooning, Max Beckmann, ah the glorious Motherwell collages, eventually Rauschenberg, and, Oh! Thank God for Joseph Cornell. Still hardly any woman on the scene. Though I was committed to making art, I was turned off by the baffling, heartless NY gallery scene, and the misogyny of that era, which encouraged women to be the models/muses of their teachers, but did not provide much respectful guidance to make their own art, apply to graduate school or pursue a professional path. I had to learn to trust my imagination, to develop an iconography that made sense to me, as a woman. I started collecting things, making collages and small books. I promised myself that no matter what, I would always make art.
FREEDOM beckoned, I wanted to LIVE!  I married my dear friend and fellow Cooper Union Student, Albie Tabackman, who also fantasized a free country life. The New York art scene, with it’s macho minimalist conceptual COOL seemed utterly irrelevant. We cast the I Ching, studied organic gardening from library books, had two babies, and DROPPED OUT, putting our lives at the service of the counter-cultural revolution of the time. There was Vietnam! Peoples Park! Kent State! Soon Patty Hearst and the SLA would make the headlines!
Married young, with two small children, we criss-crossed the country a few times and found ourselves on a leaderless, egalitarian agricultural commune called Magic Forest Farm, in Nuclear Free, Think Global Act Local, Takilma Ore.
In between organic gardening and skinny dipping, I was drawing  my hippie friends, the greennhouses, the chickens, the wooden cabins,  the cluttered kitchen with its jars of herbs.  When a long-haired foodie communard  named Lucy Horton, hitch hiked up our road, researching a cook book, I showed her my drawings of the wood burning cook stove and fresh baked whole grain breads. Months later, she wrote back from NY that Coward McCann & Geoghegan would publish my illustrations in her book, Country Commune Cooking,” (1972.) Then, more drawings were printed in “Celery Wine, Story of a West Coast Commune,” by Elaine (Zablocki) Sundancer, and were included in the “Building Community” section of Whole Earth Catalog. Those were my first “Professional” art jobs
An itinerant life style (for a while we lived in a school bus) demanded that I make hand held portable art, which lead to making artist’s books and inclusion in Feminist and book shows at Long Beach Museum, Rutger’s University, Traction Gallery in Los Angeles, Amfac Plaza Gallery, Honolulu, and the now defunct Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art.
Another significant event which, though not intrinsically art-world related, had a huge impact on my work. A move to San Francisco with my kids and my second husband, the late writer, David Margolis z”l, bought us into the sphere of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l and The House of Love and Prayer community. Religious observance and Torah learning became a focus of our lives, at the same time that my Feminist take on things continued to shape my art, and, let’s face it, cause trouble. The tension between these two forces, had a profound effect on and continues to be at the center of my work.
Not surprisingly, I started to see the world and art through a lens of observant Judaism. A few years later, when I moved to Los Angeles to get a graduate degree at USC, I was working with Master Printer Jacob Samuel, in the “Litho Shop,” Sam Francis’ studio in Santa Monica. Jake educated me to the spiritual nuance of minimalist color field painting, which forced my, at that time Figurative work, to take a turn. The hard core, sexually graphic figurative work (see The Daily News/ Portfolio) that interested me, also posed a difficult problem. I experienced what I think of as a Failure of Nerve. The work was powerful and strong and frightening and it embarrassed me. I worried that I was creating more of the very thing I was opposing. The extreme concern with modesty in the religiously observant community became increasingly problematic. I didn’t want to give up either connection. I had written my MFA thesis and completed the paintings for my graduate exhibition, on the subject of violence and rape in public media and the daily news. During that time, my mother died a slow death from Diabetes and issues related to how medical technology causes acute tension between prolonging life and relieving suffering became the subject of my work (see Life Support/ Portfolio.) During these years, I also began writing and publishing art criticism for ARTweek magazine and then for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. Coincidentally, the supremely important “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” exhibit opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and I spent hours absorbing the soothing lessons. That’s when color field abstraction and figurative expressionism collided in my heart and brain and I began to do the Har Sinai triangle paintings. But I found it difficult to continue doing the gut-wrenching  images I had been doing, and eventually phased out that work which I feel was the strongest and best of my life.
I am going to take break from reminiscing and fast forward the next 35 years. When I am in the mood I will update this record with more chronological, biographical details. For now, I am embracing my inner Crone, and what the hell…I will give dates
I have lived and made art in: the Bronx, NY (1944-1948; Teaneck, NJ, 1948-1962; New York City, (1962-1967); Ridgefield Park, NJ, (1967-1968); Park Slope, Brooklyn, (1968-1969) Takilma, OR, (1969-1972); San Francisco Bay Area, (1972-1977) Ithaca NY, (1977-1983) Los Angeles CA. (1983-1993) As an artist in residence at the Arad (Israel) Arts project, in 1993-94. and then in the Holy City of Jerusalem (1994-1999); Since 2000 I have lived and maintained a studio in, Beit Yatir, a small village that overlooks the Negev, not far from the archeological site, Tel Arad and the Yair Winery.
I attended Cooper Union in New York, ’62-’64 (painting drawing); Lone Mountain College in San Francisco, ’75-’77 (BA in Fine Art and Psychology); University of Southern California, ’84-’86, (MFA  in Fine Art and Animation/ Film Graphics, ’86) I am the Art Editor of נשים/NASHIM, Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues, (published by University of Indiana Press); and most currently, Co-Curator of Women of the Book, a visual, midrashic (interpretive) project being created by 54 Jewish women artists from around the world.  I consider both writing and visual art to be my creative practice.
I have three children and six grandchildren.
May all this be the beginning of a conversation between us, dear reader, and perhaps offer some insight into my work.