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Judith Reilly – "The Girl with the Purple Hair" – A Retrospective

April 1 - May 29
Opening reception:
Friday, April 1, 5:00-7:30pm
Gallery Talk: Sunday, May 1, 3:00pm

We all start out pretty young. And it has been said that the child artist is the only true artist because they have an uncluttered path to their own intuitions. This perfect intuitive mind of a child has been a model that Judith Reilly has tried to follow throughout her life. The Girl with the Purple Hair, the title for one of the award-winning fiber artist's transitional pieces, represents a side road, a turn she was impelled to take. This intuition (literally meaning ‘inner tutor') has guided her on many such side trips along the way from beginning as a traditional quilt maker to becoming an independent, whimsical, and sometimes thought-provoking multi-media artist.

Flash forward and you will find the Brandon, Vermont artist in her studio creating representational, but not literal work; pieces which express both realistic and fantastic interpretations in a catawampus and quirky style.

Making and creating for 50 plus years, Judith has discovered a great deal about herself, creativity and life in general. As she looks back, she sees her life in stories, chapters, lessons and side roads. To her, it's not really about the art. “It is about the life that evolves and unfolds that then creates the art. The artwork is just the evidence that you have lived and listened to the intuitions and followed through. The ideas are always developing within us. Life is the muse."

This retrospective exhibit presents her work as she has seen it develop through each chapter and side road and as it relates to the ‘Twelve Life Lessons for Creativity' which evolved through reflection of her own artistic journey.

If you go back to that “sensitive child”, as she describes her youthful self, you will find a farmer's child, one who loved the freedom of living in nature, playing alone, and who only ever wanted to make things – paper dolls, clothes for her Barbie, cookies, goofy drawings, and daisy chains – who learned to sew with her grandmother and was like a sponge, soaking up all that 4-H had to teach her, even then needing to create, to construct, to use her hands and fingers, her mind, instincts, and childlike curiosity; to be washed over with color and fiber and textures, to form and to shape, and to ask herself “What would happen if...?”. 

The question “What would happen if…?” was what sparked her into the transitional phase. “I claim that I was a traditional quilt maker for 15 minutes”, she says. This may be a mild exaggeration, but as she explains: “After learning the basics of pattern design and construction, and slogging through yards and yards of uninspired fabric choices, boredom quickly set in. And when after making the first block for a 36 identical-block quilt, I declared “I have already made that. I'm not making that again. What would happen if..?””  

So how do we clear the path and regain the magic of our genuine intuitive self? Judith found some answers when she was asked 20 years ago to give a talk about her quilts. She was astounded at what she discovered when reviewing images of all her past work. She quickly began to recall all that she learned while creating each piece and discovered the lessons learned were actually the lessons of life. These lessons which she has dubbed ‘The Twelve Life Lessons for Creativity' proclaim that you should keep “what you think they think” out of your creative process, that if you are not having fun, you're not doing it right, that you will need to kiss a lot of frogs, and that you should determine what is traditional, accepted and expected, and not do it! You may do foolish things, but we must do them with enthusiasm!

The move she and her husband George made from Connecticut to Vermont in 2004 is when she officially “left the quilt maker behind”. She found herself in a flourishing arts community that embraced her as an artist. It was here that she reconnected with her inner child and let this intuitive child come out to play. She was inspired by all the artists she worked with and learned from, yet truly found her own voice as an artist. She played, doodled, experimented, and made mistakes. She created what she wanted to create for herself, not for anyone else and channeled her inner child by being enthusiastic, silly, timeless, fearless and passionately curious.

A child's approach to creativity is something she is quite familiar with, being a grandmother to four young children. How they know every finger painting is a masterpiece and that it doesn't matter what others think because to them it is perfect (because it is), brings things full circle for Judith. These reflections reinforce that ‘The Twelve Life Lessons of Creativity' truly are lessons for inspired creating and living.

Judith's work has been shown in national and international exhibitions as well as in government offices. Her quilts have been awarded in several competitions internationally and across the U.S., in addition to articles about the artist and images of her work having been published in books and magazines. She maintains a gallery in her home in Brandon, Vermont where she sells original artwork, print reproductions, a delightful collection of accessories, and most recently, hand-hooked rugs she designs for the Chandler 4 Corners company of Manchester, Vermont. Visit her website at

This event is a part of Vermont Arts 2016, celebrating public funding for the arts.


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