Like most women artists of her generation, Marie Hudson did not go from high school to art school.
Dusty Benedict, her first art teacher, remembers the two years Hudson came to his classes: “She was always apologizing about being messy. I told her that was a part of who she was — to use it in the work.”
Hudson recalls that when the class would go outdoors to sketch, she would return with a precise, tightly rendered drawing. She would look at the work of the younger students and wonder what they saw that she couldn’t see.
And that very insight, says her former teacher, became an integral part of her work. “She seems to be tapped into that wellspring of herself that is unavailable to most of us. Her sense of color, of composition, and of movement is all intuitive. She is so attuned to her unconscious.
“[Hudson’s] work,” Benedict adds, “has never been trendy or romantic. She has held on to her unique personal vision, unaffected by what is going on around her. In her honesty, she pulls us all up short.”
Appropriately, flight is a strong motif in Hudson’s current exhibit at Blue Spiral 1. In “Last Flight Out,” a young crow struggles to release itself from its shell. The ground around the fledgling is littered with broken shells left by the flock of other strong young birds flying away from a bright, setting sun.
Symbolism marches through the works at a steady pace. Varied though her themes are, they always, in the end, refer to the individual searching for her place in the world.
Hudson’s acuity as an observer of human behavior is evident in “Macho, Macho Man,” a series of six small paintings wherein a nude male form, viewed from the back, dances wildly against a dark, color-streaked background. The frantically cavorting figure, oblivious to the observed absurdity of his behavior, is having the time of his life.
In “Taking a Spin,” Hudson shows us a woman swinging through a bright sky full of movement and a blazing orange sun. The figure is high in the air, ignoring a deep ravine beneath her. A gabled house with lighted windows perches atop the cliff. Wired utility poles cling to the rugged landscape. The woman has her arms wide on the ropes of the swing, excited and full of joy in her unfettered activity. Hudson’s lively sense of humor is evident in “Hanging Around Downtown”; the three paintings show figures suspended above a nighttime city skyline on various swings and rings.
And then the crow flies in again.
In “The Intruder,” a woman with fiery red hair points an accusing finger at one of the ravens, backed this time by a windy orange sky. In “Expectant Family,” two slightly abstracted crows hover protectively over seven eggs. Both birds move toward Hudson’s ever-present golden sun.
The works, all created in the last year, are a continuation of Hudson’s oeuvre. She has, as her first teacher commented, remained true to her vision of the world. It has been said that everything an artist creates is autobiographical. These works are about a life-long quest for meaning and the potential for loneliness on that kind of journey.
[Connie Bostic is an Asheville-based artist and writer.]
Marie Hudson: Paintings shows at the Focus Gallery at Blue Spiral 1 (38 Biltmore Ave.) through Saturday, Feb. 26. 251-0202.