Photographs by Bob Rozycki
If you’re not familiar with Judith Economos’ sensuous work, that may be because she’s more interested in making art than selling it.
“I tried it once,” she says with a shrug. “It’s humiliating peddling your art around. It’s a time-waster.”
And, she adds, “Ultimately, you find yourself drawn toward whatever sells.”
Besides, she says with a laugh and a nod, “He keeps me very well.”
“He” being her husband, Andrew, who got in on the ground floor of computers and data analysis, heading up that effort for NBC before starting his own company, RCS (Radio Computing Services), which he sold to Clear Channel, which in turn was bought by Bain Capital.
To say that the house Judith and Andrew built in Westchester is spectacular hardly does it justice. Before a comforting fire in their spacious kitchen at a long, handsome table Andrew created from one piece of wood, we chat over coffee about art and literature as well as philosophy – which Judith taught briefly at Princeton University. It’s like being on a mini-vacation.
What makes their home – and you suspect, the couple – tick is its perfect blend of their complementary artistic talents. Andrew did the woodwork that envelopes the spaces and also sculpts. Judith carved the woodwork with voluptuous figural reliefs.
Indeed, the house is filled with her curving, undulating, unapologetically fleshy bathers, lovers, odalisques and heroic male figures – drawings, prints and oil and acrylic paintings as well as sculptures in clay, bronze and wood taken from trees downed in storms like Hurricane Sandy. There isn’t a medium she hasn’t conquered, though her website (jeconomos.com) says she considers drawing her primary means of expression. She created paintcuts, a method of tablet drawing on a computer in which the line remains seamless and the effect is that of a block print.
Judith’s style is as versatile and eclectic as the media she employs. Her figures in particular echo Pablo Picasso’s bewitching line and the solidity of Henry Moore and Henri Matisse along with Matisse and Edgar Degas’ love of the dance. Yet her style is entirely her own. One of her best works, “Dancing in the Rain,” celebrates the exquisite torque of a nude male dancer seen from the back. Or at least that’s what the work can suggest. It’s really just a few carefully calibrated strokes of white acrylic paint on a black background. That it speaks volumes is the mark of a true artist.
There are animals, abstractions and arabesques as well in Judith’s art, including a banister shaped like a sleek horse that catches you by surprise and reaffirms her belief that sculpture is meant to be touched. But you’re drawn back to the human figure, just as she is.
The artist reaffirms his own body as he creates one, she says.
“You feel what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You can feel it, sense it. Our eyes are attuned to the human figure. …Make a mistake with the human body and everyone knows it, even if he doesn’t know anything about art.”
There are no mistakes in Judith’s nymphs. Their flesh cascades, realistically and poetically, as they pour water on one another. They leap and prance like primitive Matisse bathers and dancers. They look provocatively over one shoulder, their bare backsides to us, like Moore odalisques in solitary landscapes. They stretch out pensively, comfortable in the swelling display of breasts and bottoms.
The female dominates here, but then, Judith says, look at any magazine stand. There are women on the covers of men’s magazines and on the covers of women’s as well. The difference between popular culture and art history is the greater, more realistic fleshiness in the female nudes of the latter.
“If you look at Rubens, he liked big women.”
Judith’s work is less Rubens and more Rodin. Her bronze of two kneeling lovers – the man embracing the woman from behind as she reaches for him – suggests “The Kiss” while possessing its own eroticism. Yet perhaps her most moving pairing is the facing couple in a drawing worthy of Picasso – a few eloquent lines that Andrew says she made as a gift for him in the days when they had very little.
Not that she neglects the male of the species. There are commanding male nudes as well, a reminder of those periods – ancient Greece and Rome, the Renaissance and neoclassical Paris – when the male may have been the primary sex symbol in art.
“I like to do men,” Judith observes.
She pauses for effect and smiles before impishly correcting herself:
“I like to do paintings of men.”