Fluent Fall 2017 Winter 2018

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A Circuitous Path S

tand in front of a Judy Rand painting and you sense that you are not merely looking at it, you are entering it. “In almost everything I do, there’s a way to move into it or through it,” says Rand. It’s not accidental. Rand realized very early that she was drawn to art that “brings the observer in”—from a photograph her grandfather took in New England in the early 1950s. That photograph, which shows a path, hangs in the dining room now, perhaps a reminder of that realization. At the New Morning Gallery in Ashville, North Carolina, owner John Cram, who’s been selling her art for over a decade, “doesn’t want me to send him anything that doesn’t have that,” meaning a path, Rand says. “He encourages me to do more, to vary seasons, to keep pushing in the type of landscape.” Rand’s own path from roots in Framingham, Massachusetts, to working artist in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, has veered in different directions. In the mid60s, as assistant Dean of Students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she took a summer course in experimental psychology, and knew from the first class that she had found “it,” career-wise. Three years later, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Ph.D. in experimental psychology and desperate to find work, she accepted a full-time, tenure-track position teaching at Bowie State. “I liked it in the beginning,” Rand says, “but after a few years, it became clearer and clearer to me

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that it wasn’t a good fit—not so much the location, as it was what I like to do and how.” Walking into a classroom and presenting material was “too much out there” she says. “I was never comfortable with it.”

Taking a New Direction Rand learned that she loves to build and make things, on her own. During a summer break from teaching and in need of a dining room table, she bought a lathe and a planer—neither of which she had ever used— took out a library book, and made the table. “It took me all summer,” says Rand. She loved the lathe and continued making things— small pots and bowls and such. On Memorial Day weekend 1977, she took her lathe to the Smithsonian Mall for “Artists in Action,” a program sponsored by the National Park Service. There, she turned some pots and bowls, and sold them. “I made $47 the first day,” she says. “I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s what I want to do.’ ” That day, she made the decision, one her dad thought was crazy—to give up tenure and a good salary to pursue art. She was cautious, though, and it was three years later when she took a year-long leave of absence from Bowie and went into arts and crafts full-time. “That year, if I really fell on my nose, I could go back,” she says. “But I knew I wouldn’t, and I didn’t.” She had found the lifestyle she wanted: working for herself. “I worked harder, but I loved it.”