Revisiting Old Work

Ketubah, Judith Joseph, 1983. Watercolor, ink, ricepaper, ragboard.

Ketubah, Judith Joseph, 1983. Watercolor, ink, ricepaper, ragboard.

I get a funny feeling when someone brings me a piece of my work from decades ago.  I’m nervous.  Will the work look awkward?  Will it look amateurish?  Will this work of art be the painted equivalent of looking in a mirror and seeing a juvenile version of myself, with braces on my teeth and pimples on my face?

The oddest thing is when I don’t even remember the work.  I look at it, and I recognize the style, it’s unmistakably mine, yet I have no recollection of having made it.

The ketubah pictured here was made for a dear friend’s wedding in 1983.  I must have been in a hurry, because I didn’t get a photo of it, which is very unusual for me.  She moved with it far away, and I didn’t see it (although I have seen her) for at least 25 years.

She recently loaned me the ketubah so I could photograph it for my portfolio.  I never did a similar work, before or since.  The arches in the ketubah are cut into 4-ply ragboard, so there is a layered, dimensional quality.  I used metallic gold ricepaper, which is still shiny.  I was in a phase of using silhouetted dancers in my paintings, they appear here.

I look in the mirror of the past, and I see my younger self, smiling and joyous for my friend.

What is it like for you, when you see something you made many years ago?

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