Judi Krew paints all the time. “I just always have,” she said matter-of-factly. “I just don’t know any other way to be. I’ve never done well with downtime.”
Happily, Krew is sharing both her artwork and her artistic process with the public at a studio-gallery in downtown Canton called Snarky Art. Located at 410 McKinley Avenue NW, it is adjacent to Journey Art Gallery. She paints in the front window.
“I have all my toys, and I can make a mess,” Krew said jokingly about her downtown space. “I wear my top hat when I’m painting. I have candy by the door and a guest book.”
Krew moved to Jackson Township with her husband, Michael, and sons Andy and Travis in 1992 when Michael, an obstetrician-gynecologist, was hired at Aultman Hospital. She’s been carving a niche for herself in the local art scene ever since, with multiple solo and group exhibitions to her credit. Online galleries of her work can be found at judikrew.com.
Here, Krew talks about her life and art.
Q. What do you think of the downtown Canton art scene?
A. “It’s a very dedicated and motivated group of people who are very supportive of each other. That’s a rare thing. Being around artists can be like the lunch table at high school with a lot of underlying competition. People (who paint) zombies and vampires are not my demographic, but we all fill a niche. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find someone who does that. Group shows are open to everybody. There’s a sense of bonding.”
Q. Many of your paintings depict women in a comical, caricatured style. What are those about?
A. “It is my way of making a commentary about society without being mean and in your face. If we can’t laugh about what makes us so odd as a culture, then I feel bad about that. Every single one of them is based on some real person or situation. I never have to make it up. It’s real life, and I push it and twist it. They’re deeper than people realize. Some people look at them, laugh and move on. Others like to look deeper. I love to listen to their comments.”
Q. Have you always made art?
A. “I have drawings my parents saved from when I was 2 and 3 years old that show perspective and things that were unusual for that age. I can picture my first studio on the back sun porch and drawing with Jon Gnagy on TV.”
Q. Where did you grow up?
A. “The longest time I spent in Brecksville/Broadview Heights. That’s where I graduated from high school, my husband, too. But I lived in North Canton from ’67 to 1970. I took art classes at the old Case Mansion. My father was in charge of Ohio Bell in the late ’60s, the building that’s the call center downtown now.”
Q. You’ve made “Hoard Couture” dresses out of household items such as bread bags, stickers and business cards. Did you ever work in fashion?
A. “I was a visual merchandiser for Horne Department Store in Pittsburgh. I did store windows, big displays, cut mannequins’ hair, all for $3.25 an hour. There’s a whole fun psychology behind all that. What’s on the mannequin is supposed to be the most expensive thing in the department because everyone’s going to want it, and then you accessorize it like crazy.”
Q. You are pretty candid about the local art scene in your blog postings (snarkyart.blogspot.com). Have you ruffled any feathers?
A. “Occasionally, I’ll get someone who is upset with what I’ve said until I explain why I said it. I’m going to be 54, and I’ve been around long enough and taught long enough (high-school art in Bay Village from 1986 to 1990) that I can see people’s underlying potential. Some people need a kick in the butt. Some people want to hear it and some don’t. A lot of artists don’t get any validation for what they do. I give them that leg up.”
Q. I was surprised to hear that you’ve been helping Boy Scouts earn their art merit badges at your gallery. Is that a new project?
A. “I’ve been with the Scouts since 2003. I’ve designed parade floats and patches for them. My sons and husband are Eagles Scouts. That makes me head chick in the family.”