Judith Braun wants to make sure we convey that she is an artist, “not a designer or muralist.” It’s an easy mistake to make. Braun, a former contestant on Bravo’s unexceptional reality TV show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, uses charcoal to paint idyllic landscapes and lively, abstract patterns directly onto walls. From a distance, they look like expensive wallpaper in some Architectural Digest spread. Up close, you realize they’re much more childlike: Braun’s expressive brushstrokes are not the product of paintbrushes or even a few deft clicks of a mouse; they come straight from her fingers.
Braun calls her paintings Fingerings (yes, really), and they range from big (8 feet by 8 feet) to huge (one for the Chrysler Museum of Art was a whopping 12 feet by 48 feet). For each painting, she self-imposes a set of constraints, such as the material and paper used and the type of image created. Then applies adhesive film to the wall to protect her hands (“walls can be very abrasive,” she tells us). Finally, she dips her fingers and hands into a tray of charcoal and starts fingering the wall.
What makes this capital-A art and not just design or mural art is all in the process, Braun says. “In all my other work too, I choose parameters within which to experiment, notice sameness and difference, and manifest surprises,” she says. “This is a philosophical, psychological, and even scientific approach I prefer, so that my drawings are the result of a process and practice that I initiate, rather than just being a contrived design that I execute.” Okay!
Each painting takes just two to five days to execute–she’s a fast fingerer–but requires many months of advance planning. “I consider my studio practice time a bit like musicians or dancers, who build up a physical memory,” she says. “Then, when I arrive at an actual gallery wall, I can let myself go with certain confident, though not precise, gestures.”
Braun will unveil a new Fingering at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in December. Read more about her work here.
[Images courtesy of Judith Braun]