Searching for the Extraordinary

Andy Hawkins visits with artist Judy Bolton Jarrett     Photographs by Kirsten Lindsay 


Judy gallery

When you walk into artist Judy Bolton Jarrett’s ArtCan Studio Gallery at 108 Beaufort St. in Chapin, your senses will be awash in color, form, and content. Bold, dramatic large canvases in simple, stark, but compelling color pull you forward. Smaller canvases with moving clock parts placed on abstract swirls of color with thought provoking words call to you. Funky, painted furniture with telling aphorisms and a folk art feel make you smile and want to sit down and have a glass of wine with the person who did this work.

All of this seemingly disparate art is by one artist, Judy Bolton Jarrett. Judy will not be put in a box artistically. She says in her artist’s manifesto, “I am an experimenter, never truly satisfied by the ordinary, always searching for the extraordinary.”

Judy will confess to you that this is never truer now that she has been a professional, full-time artist for a quarter century. In the beginning of her career, she painted for public consumption. She was always thinking about how her work would sell. But today she says, “Now, I do more what makes me happy…I paint more now for my personal edification. I think it makes my work more appealing.”

An emotional sensitivity shines through her current paintings, such as the seasonal series she has done of a tree that overlooks her parents’ graves. Judy explains, “This ongoing series of the tree is called the “Silent Sentinel” series because this tree, I believe, stands as a guardian over where my parents and many others whom I know are buried. Being there in all seasons, it is a constant.”

Judy art 2Many of these paintings, such as the “Silent Sentinel,” personally speak to individuals like the woman who recently came in her studio late one afternoon. Judy chatted with the woman and invited her to look around. She says, “I remember that it got really quiet. I found her in front of a mixed media painting with tears running down her cheeks. The woman looked at me and said, ‘This is my daughter.’”

Judy recalls, “That makes it all worthwhile!”

Also worthwhile in her life is the relationship Judy has maintained with her former English students. She taught school for 21 years before becoming a full-time artist.

She was especially gratified when a former student chose to buy two of her originals for his wife. “He told me that she ‘boohooed’ her head off when she received the gift…It’s wonderful to have that kind of connection to other people through my art.” And, this is just one in a long list of former students who have bought or commissioned art from her.

She laughs and says about the support of her students and repeat customers, “They have to support me in my old age. Now’s the time…They are doing it!”

As an artist, Judy looks back fondly on her 21 years as an English teacher. She takes pride in her development of advanced composition curriculum and of being remembered as the Grammar Nazi. “When I was a student at Presbyterian College, there was no art major offered, so I chose my other love, English grammar and literature,” she remembers.

As an English teacher, she used her artistic interest and talent to enrich her English classroom. Her bulletin boards and diorama projects are remembered by her former students to this day. “I felt like bulletin boards were teachable moments!” she declares.

As an artist, she uses her love of words to enrich many of her art works. These art works are like illustrated word poems and are often inspirational. Words and phrases like “faith in her path,” “be inspired by love,” and “strong mind tender heart” are strategically and graphically placed across one multi-media painting.

Judy respects education in English or art, but she does not regret her lack of a formal collegiate art degree. “I’m sort of glad that I had no formal art training because it can taint your perception of what is good,” she explains.

She enjoyed taking classes in different mediums and design styles with no preconceived notions. Judy is not an art snob. Any style, any project is worthy of her attention if she believes that she can do it well. She will try most anything but a portrait. “I just don’t do those well,” she said.

Judy has had a varied career in art to date. She has done hundreds of art shows around the southeast, run her own art shop in Chapin, worked with two New York art galleries, and more. Each experience has been unique. For example, the gallery owners told her what to paint, how big to paint it and the topic. Ask to see her series of frogs.

Judy artIn addition, Judy loves doing commissioned work. She has worked with local designers to provide art that matched the sofa and enhanced the client’s home. She did a series of abstracts of business machines, such as keyboards and paper shredders, for Columbia Business Equipment. She has done a commissioned series of flowers for a client who let her do whatever she wanted. Each commission is a new adventure for Judy and for lovers of art!

“I’m happiest when I have paint brush in hand and am working out a new design or having a fine time with a different medium. Therefore, I must keep moving into different realms and discovering what is the next step. After all, at my age, I must move rapidly to realize my dreams,” Judy said.

So, drop by ArtCan Studio Gallery on 108 Beaufort Street in Chapin, SC most Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons or by appointment Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to visit with artist Judy Bolton Jarrett.

You may need to go by the gallery at least once a month to see the ever changing kaleidoscope of art. Who knows what style Judy will try next. She also has no plans for retirement. After all, she is just hitting her stride, still searching for the extraordinary, and is happiest with a paint brush in hand.

ArtCan Studio Gallery, 108 Beaufort St., Chapin

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons