The deep nostalgia in Judy Harmon’s paintings is no accident. One of the artist’s strongest girlhood memories is of the day her family pulled up stakes in Needham and moved to the Midwest. “I was devastated,” Harmon says. “It was so flat.” Drawing as a child helped her to express those emotions, and it was a happy day when, as an adult, she returned to the place where she had spent her youth. “The New England landscape drew me back,” she says.
Whether it is a Wellfleet church steeple framed by hardwood trees, as in Main Street, or the painter and skiff in Summer on the Cove, Harmon’s images ring with light and color. “I love glows of light,” she says. “The light effects in New England are luminous.”
Although she sometimes has to fight the region’s blue haze, Harmon revels in Cape Cod’s famous diffused light, especially the way it plays on water. She recalls following her artist’s instinct one late afternoon, looking for that certain light. “I was going down Commercial Street in Wellfleet at sunset, approaching the harbor,” she relates. “I saw this glow, a beautiful glow of light illuminating the marsh.” Suddenly, what had been a dead brown was, as Harmon says, “covered with a brilliant peach, late-day light.” Almost indescribable in words, she translated the scene’s deep effect through her painting Winter Marsh.
Harmon is also adept at creating patterns, which goes back to her college days, when she was a fine arts major. “I was bored in one class,” she recalls, “and then I created a pattern and liked it.” After graduation she worked for an art director in Manhattan and, as she simply relates, “he pushed.” Today, she says, “I love patterns.”
Harmon, of Harwichport, began her serious artwork in watercolors and continued with the medium for 40 years. About 12 years ago, she switched to oils and loved it and its application, the way “you push the paint.” Her style of loose realism is very studied, though it may not appear that way at first.
Harmon’s art pulls at the hearts of her viewers, especially those who have a deep attachment to the New England landscape. “I respond emotionally to the visual world around me,” Harmon says. “I’m driven to record it and share the impressions.”