Walk into Longbranch Cafe and Bakery in Carbondale on any given day and your senses are in for a treat. Whether it’s the food or the friendly, relaxed atmosphere, or the constant changing art on the walls, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of experiences.
This month, the art on the walls belongs to local artist Judith Nevins Bush of Murphysboro, and she couldn’t be more happy or excited or, if truth be told, more than a little nervous.
“It probably been about a decade since I’ve had a full show,” she said. “I took a hiatus from my art because of illness and caretaking for loved ones, but that chapter of my life has ended and a new one has begun, and I’m ready to get started.”
Bush’s good friend, Elaine Ramseyer, general manager of The Longbranch, called her and convinced her to show again. Bush gathered the art that she had, borrowed some from local collectors, and the result is a feast for the eyes, paintings large and small, all colorful and interesting, populated by animals and plants and people.
The color catches your attention first.
“Color is medicinal for me,” Bush said. “Color therapy is a real thing, believe me. I’m a low-energy person, so color helps me. It energizes me.”
Bush doesn’t believe in a lot of back story or explanations for her paintings. She prefers that viewers experience her work unencumbered by anything other than their own emotions.
“Art should be experienced and not explained,” she said. “Art should feed you.”
Some of Bush’s paintings are realistic, but most take liberties with what the eye sees, in search of something that touches the heart.
“My first paintings were very realistic,” she said. “I followed all of the rules. But it didn’t take me long to realize that art should capture more than a camera can, and that the best art breaks the rules.”
“I have such an emotional feeling with each painting or series,” she said. “Everything I paint is living — flowers, animals, humans and plants — because all living things are connected.”
Bush has been painting since she was about 6 years old. She sold her first painting at age 10. But her love affair with art all started with the inspiration she received from one of Van Gogh’s paintings of his bedroom.
“My mother took me to the museum in Chicago and I just sat there, in front of that painting, for the longest time, trying to understand what I found so compelling. Why I felt such power, such energy coming from that canvas.”
Bush went on to work at ad agencies and a publishing company before starting her own graphic design business. But she has always painted.
She works in oils, egg tempera, acrylics and gouache and has also creates sculptural birds and masks. Her work has been featured in a number of juried and solo exhibitions locally and in Chicago, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau and New Harmony, Indiana. Her paintings hang in public and private collections throughout the country.