so many moments
so many ordinary experiences
piling up, unaccounted for . . .
"People are so different at different times of day. Relaxed and easy in the morning, aggressive on the way to work. On the buses going home they seem to lean on each other a little."
The separate worlds of people, the moments of contact that most of us barely notice, the stealthy draining of the seconds and minutes as we rush through our lives as though we had forever: The poignance of the ordinary sometimes makes Judy Byron want to cry.
She tries to put it on paper.
"I wanted to break out of the galleries and reach a much broader audience," she says. "I was pretty nervous at first, but I went downtown and picked some sites where people hung out in some interesting way and where there were display windows. I had to negotiate with the proprietors and a lot of them didn't like the idea. I learned to use the editorial 'we.' Then I started taking my pictures."
Her photographer husband Rick Reinhard develops the snaps, but she prints them and draws life-size crayon figures from them, mixing figures to form group compositions, borrowing a pretty T-shirt here and a striking pose there.
Some groups are dazed tourists ("they always carry a lot of stuff"), some are afternoon loungers, some somnolent elevator passengers. The pictures go up at the sites where they were made: the 7 a.m. Chinatown group in the window of Leon's Office Machines at 623 H St., the 10 a.m. group at the Waffle Shop, 522 10th St., the 7 p.m. group at Claridge Towers, 12th and M, and so on.
Most of them stay up a month (the Leon's picture is already gone), but at least one, in the District Building, is displayed permanently.
"I've been gradually moving out from the gallery district on Seventh Street, where I started last year in d.c. space. Next year I'll go farther into the Northwest. I did three last year, three this year and will have four next year for a group of 10. The whole series is called 'Groups.' "
Though she makes editions of five for each print--four feet wide and nearly six feet high--she doesn't sell them conventionally. She hopes to build a body of work and get a commission or grant to pay for another such project in some other area. Next October she--and the rest of us--can see the first six works together for the first time, at the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in Manassas.
Wait a minute: a six-foot crayon drawing? In editions?
Nothing to it. The artist simply traces her elaborately colored picture, making the key leap that transforms lines and squiggles of color into closed shapes. Then she carves the whole thing out on a plywood sheet. It takes about 80 hours. Finally, stretching translucent paper over the engraved wood, she makes a rubbing of it, using the same crayons as in the original.
She can color a print in eight hours. She can make as many nearly exact copies as she wants.
"I took printmaking at the Corcoran," says the theater-trained Ithaca College graduate, "but I felt the printing process was alienating and distancing me from the subjects. There was so much technique. I've always loved working with wood and the rubbings give more immediacy and a tactile feeling."
Meanwhile, giant plywood sheets fill the hallway of her home on Park Road, and the living room is completely dominated by huge rolls of paper, framed works, sketches, a floorful of wood chips and about a bushel of crayons. The children, Rachel, 8, and Willa, 5, love it.
"But we do fight over the crayons a lot," says Judy Byron.