Artique celebrates 80 years of [Judy] Summer
When Judy Summer moved to Park City from Topanga Canyon in 1977, the New York- knew she wanted to be creative, but not at the expense of her children.
“It was a big deal to decide how far I could dream and be honest with myself and raise my family,” Summer told The Park Record during an interview at her home. “I had to put up little stop signs. They weren’t blocks. They were just places that weren’t good for me to go.
“I don’t have regrets that I didn’t go to those places, but the places I’ve been able to go and be with my art and make people smile and share something just came to be the focus,” she said.
Artique boutique in Kamas will celebrate Summer’s career with a First Friday opening on Aug. 5 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
“We’ll have our usual artist opening reception,” said Artique owner Katie Stellpflug. “We’ll have some food and drinks, and Dr. Bob as our musician for the evening. It will showcase what Judy has done in her career.”
Those works include her metal sculptures, jewelry, bronzes, masks and polymer clay horses.
“I think she will show works from even back to high school,” Stellpflug said.
The event will also be an 80th birthday party for the artist.
“Yes, I just turned 80 and I’ve been trying to get used to it,” Summer said after a little scream. “It’s almost like being 21 for me. You think you’re supposed to make some monumental changes, and I go, ‘but what do I really want to change? Not a whole lot.’”
Art is the main reason why Summer is happy with where she is today.
“It has really driven my life and like many things in my life it evolves,” she said. “It’s [always] been a place where I could go, and, eventually, instead of me taking it, it started taking me.
“Since I don’t write, it was my way of communicating,” Summer said. “I’m never alone. It’s always with me.”
That’s something that Summer learned throughout her years as an artist starting back in the early 1960s.
“I made that place and that’s the place I have to be really good, as good as I can be,” she said. “There is a lot of compromise, but I try and see it as the flip side of whatever it might be. Usually when you don’t walk on one path, there is another path you can take. The excitement, fun and adventure is finding it and seeing if you can walk on it and make it work.”
Summer, who spearheaded the founding of the Park City Professional Artists Association and the after-school art therapy program Arts-Kids, said she moved to Park City at the right moment.
“It was like a blank canvas and I like seeing things grow,” she said. “It’s a community that’s for me supporting and encouraging all the time. It allows me to try [new] things. To me that’s the essence of Park City.”
In turn, Summer has mentored and encouraged many local artists, including Katie Stellpflug and Park Record Editor-in-Chief Nan Chalat-Noaker.
“I needed help and I didn’t have any money to hire people,” Summer said, downplaying her role as mentor. “The only thing I had was knowing how to make stuff and I could say, ‘I could really help you if you have a place you want to go that’s a place I know how to go to.’”
One of those projects, founded 20 years ago, was Artworks Co-Op, which is now Artworks Gallery, located at 461 Main St.
“There was no place to sell our work here in town, and after talking with the Kimball Art Center, I thought I’ll just open a co-op,” Summer said.
She and a group of other artists moved into a space on Main Street that was recently vacated by the Park City Library.
After the first season, Artworks moved across the street.
“I called Roger Fuller to be my partner and we took nine other people and bought a bunch of burlap and stuck it on the walls and tried to figure out how to make it work,” Summer said.
Eventually, she took it over and showed more consignment work.
“For me, it was a place I could show whatever I wanted,” Summer said. “I could try things out and have a party once a month and have everyone see what was going on.”
Summer has always loved art and the creative process, but she realized that the art she made had to connect with her on some visceral plane.
“I’m very three-dimensionally oriented,” she said. “I loved to draw, but it was never artistically satisfying, so when I discovered sculpture in 1967 or something like that, I was home.”
Sculpting made sense to her because when she was a child, she would take make little dolls out of tufts of Kleenex and handfuls of pipe cleaners.
“I occupied myself day after day making little people,” she said.
Summer started her professional art career working with clay. Then after her divorce, she faced an option to teach school, but rejected the offer.
“I felt I couldn’t be a good parent and be with other kids all that long,” she said. “I decided that I was going to focus on sculpture and wherever that took me.”
Summer eventually moved to wax and started casting her work in bronze.
“This was at a time when I would go to the foundry, eat dust and finish my work,” she said.
At that time, Renaissance Faires became a big thing in California.
“I wanted to do something for the faires, but my sculptures weren’t going to work,” she said. “I had some friends who were jewelers and they were very accomplished artists. So, I started making miniature sculptures that eventually turned into jewelry.”
That changed when she moved to Park City.
“I realized that casting locked me in and I felt stuck, and I wanted to do whatever came to mind,” she said. “So, I bought a hammer and piece of railroad tie and started forging metal. After which I took a few classes. I had to see if I liked it first.”
Summer fell in love with forging.
“I love hammering metal and the fact that I could take this seemingly immovable and stagnant thing and make it curve, form and drape,” she said. “I stopped wax and started forging metals for many years.”
After a while, Summer felt she needed more color in her life, but refused to apply any paint or pigment onto her metal works.
“That just gives me the creeps,” she said. “It just doesn’t feel right to me.”
One of her friends took her to a gem show, and that was all it took.
“I saw all of these incredible things coming out of the Earth,” she said. “I fell in love with stones and had to learn how to use them.”
Summer even learned how to belly dance.
“We were called Arabian Daze,” she said fondly. “We weren’t serious, but we had the most fun.”
Arabian Daze performed in Springdale, Kingsbury Hall and the Park City Arts Festival.
“I would leave my booth and get into costume and dance down Main Street for two years,” she said with a laugh. “I was having a ball.”
During that time, Summer made the charms and bracelets that her troupe wore.
“The last time I danced was in the ‘Park City Follies’ a few years ago,” she said. “I had so much fun belly dancing. I made the charms and bracelets for the dancers, so I combined the two arts.”
These days, Summer is known for her polymer clay creations of horses and other animals, but she discovered the medium back in the 1970s.
“I bought some for my kids, but it [ended up] dried out in this box in my studio,” she said with a laugh. “It was there to remind me that I wanted to play with it someday.”
That day came in the early 1990s, after a car accident.
“I lost my eye and my life started changing after that,” Summer said. “I realized that my play in polymer clay was something that I had to pursue, because I no longer could do the jewelry without a lot of frustration.
“It wasn’t that I had to switch,” she said. “I just had to put the other stuff aside.”
Summer is thrilled for her upcoming show and birthday party at Artique. The last time she did a show there was nearly one-and-a-half years ago, and that was only her polymer clay work.
So when she and Stellpflug began talking about doing another show at Artique, Summer opened everything to Stellpflug.
“I’ve been opening up all the drawers and boxes to see what would go well together,” Summer said.
Stellpflug is honored for the opportunity to host Summer’s birthday party exhibit.
“Judy was an inspiration to me,” Stellpflug said. “I rented an apartment from her and worked for Artworks Gallery. [So] I thought that was an honor that she wanted to be part of my place, instead of some place in Park City.”
Summer believes there is no place as perfect as Artique to celebrate her birthday.
“My life seems to have a path of its own that I have to chase to keep up with,” she said. “I must have the greatest guardian angels ever.”
Artique, 283 N. Main St. in Kamas, will present Judy Summer’s 80th birthday art retrospective on Friday, Aug. 5, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/artiqueartandgifts or call 435-640-8048.
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