Alice’s White Rabbit won’t be late if he ventures from Wonderland into the studio of mixed media/collage artist Judi Wormeck. Indeed, the beast will be giddy from all the reminders of what time it is.
Clocks – rather, artworks that also serve as functioning timepieces – abound in Wormeck’s home studio. There is no cause and effect here, necessarily, but Wormeck was named the Gargiulo Art Foundation’s 2016 Flagler County Artist of the Year. As part of that honor, Wormeck, who turns 66 next week, has a solo exhibition at Ocean Art Gallery in Flagler Beach, with the opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday (March 17).
“Time you spend wasting is not wasted time – that’s my mantra,” Wormeck said, sounding as if she had taken a seat at the tea party of Alice and the Mad Hatter — this despite Wormeck’s quiet demeanor and self-avowed private nature.
Wormeck followed Alice down the rabbit hole at least one time: Her Alice-in-Wonderland-themed, boxy clockwork, titled “Don’t Be Late,” won Best of Show at “It’s About Time,” a recent multi-artist, themed exhibition at the Flagler County Art League.
Clocks, those crushers of eternity, are far from Wormeck’s only artistic obsession. The moon, crows and poppies are others. And her work with the functioning gadgetry of a clock’s mechanics is rivaled by her love of working with paper, a later-in-life obsession whose roots she traces back to her 25 years teaching art to elementary school kids in New Jersey.
But Wormeck’s “not-wasted-time” mantra “is ever present in much of what I create,” she said in her artist statement. “Thus the clock is an important part of my body of work. The clock denotes a beginning and an end, a finite time period. To stop time, slow down time or speed it up all have their own separate connotations, good or bad. Clocks rule the day. Time is ticking.”
That’sthe case at StoneSoupStudio 56, as Wormeck has named her surprisingly kempt workspace at the Hammock home she shares with her husband, Karl. With a persistence of clockworks gracing its walls, the space would be a perfect backdrop for a video of Pink Floyd’s “Time” (even if, during the interview, only one piece audibly marked the passage of time by chiming melodiously on the quarter hour).
Among the dozens of Wormeck’s clockworks, a number are straight-up steampunk, employing the gears-and-gadgetry aesthetic that’s all the rage among contemporary sci-fi fans who adore Jules Verne and mimic the technology and dress of Victorian Britain and its cog- and steam-powered machinery.
Other Wormeck clocks reflect her love of Art Nouveau, that fin-de-siecle style of art enamored by the curved lines of plants and flowers. Several wooden clocks, some three feet in diameter, resemble the faces of sundials (expect to see a revamped version of one of these in an upcoming wood-themed show at the Flagler County Art League).
But Wormeck’s obsession with gear-infested art clocks is rivaled by her love of paper, even though the pursuit took hold only in 2008, some three years after she had retired from teaching and moved with her husband from New Jersey to Flagler County.
“I believe my love of paper came from teaching grades K through five, although I’m not sure,” Wormeck said. “I don’t enjoy painting. I don’t paint directly on canvas.” The last time she did so was in college. “I will paint my papers. I love to work with my hands and I’m a three-dimensional person for sure.”
Wormeck will harvest brown paper bags from grocery shopping at Publix, go to Home Depot to buy contractor paper that homebuilders use to cover floors during construction, or “make my own papers out of pulp in a blender.”
She’ll paint those papers, using tones that aren’t garish or bright yet not too subtle. She’ll also use metallic, Thai marbled and Nepalese vegetable-dyed papers as she lays them out and waits for her muse to visit. Whether through calculation or serendipity, “when I’m happy with the initial layout, I rip, tear and cut the pieces of paper as I begin gluing them together,” Wormeck said.
Sometimes metals, glass and fabric work their way into her creations.
The results are just as often representational as abstract, as evidenced by her works depicting crows, poppies or nature. And the works can seem quite, well, painterly – only a somewhat close inspection will reveal the rich textures and materials at play, and the lack of paint on canvas.
Clocks and paper are only the latest focuses of Wormeck’s artistic journey.
Her earliest memories growing up in Pennsylvania are of art: “My mom would buy me new crayons and it was like Christmas morning. The smell of opening a box of new crayons, looking at their perfect points and the array of colors — I could sit all day and color.”
In high school, “if it wasn’t for the art classes – that saved me,” Wormeck said. “That was really the only thing that interested me.”
In college, she earned degrees in art education, art history and a master’s in studio art with a concentration in ceramics. (The private Wormeck politely if oddly declined to say where she earned her degrees, or even exactly where she grew up, though her late mother lived in the Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania.) Inspired by her high school art teacher, Wormeck became an elementary art teacher for 25 years in a New Jersey city “30 miles west of Manhattan” (she taught at the K-5 Mount Horeb School in Warren, N.J., where she lived before moving to Bridgewater, N.J. She retired in March 2006.)
Teaching and raising two boys left little time for her own art.
“I loved my job, but I would come home exhausted from teaching young children all day,” she said. Pursuing her own art “was the furthest thing from my mind.”
Still, Wormeck eventually began working with stained glass as a way to express her love of Art Nouveau. Later she had a clay studio in New Jersey. But it wasn’t until she moved to Florida, and her new friend Rita Heuter introduced her to the Flagler County Art League, that Wormeck’s art began to flourish.
“To make a long story short, FCAL became my home,” Wormeck said. Along with exhibiting her works at FCAL’s monthly shows, she also curates and hangs many of the league’s exhibitions. Wormeck also is a founding member, contributing artist and instructor for the Flagler Altered Arts group. It’s an FCAL satellite organization that meets regularly so that its members can create by “changing the function of an object into an artsy piece,” she said.
It’s such activities that contributed to Wormeck’s selection as the Gargiulo Art Foundation’s 2016 Flagler County Artist of the Year.
“We’re always looking for an artist who is a good artist to begin with, whether a painter or sculptor or anything,” said Arlene Volpe, director and co-founder of the foundation with Tom Gargiulo. “But we also look for an artist who is committed to the community in some way, whether it be through teaching or assisting organizations. Judi’s not out there crowing about herself, but she’s a bundle of energy.”
Flagler Artists of the Year:
Volpe noted that, along with her FCAL endeavors, Wormeck also organized a group exhibition for the Gargiulo Art Foundation’s Art of the Bicycle show, and she’s participated in art-related fundraising events that have benefited the Flagler Youth Orchestra, the Palm Arts Foundation and public high school art.
Wormeck’s show at Ocean Art Gallery will be her first solo exhibition in Florida.
“This is an artist who exhibits, tops, only one or two pieces at FCAL shows,” Gargiulo said. “No one has actually seen a body of her work all together at one place. So that’s what our foundation tries to do.”
Some FCAL members expressed surprise that Wormeck’s show will not be at its venue at City Marketplace in Palm Coast, Gargiulo said.
“I said, ‘Look, everybody in the Flagler County Art League knows Judi Wormeck,’ ” Gargiulo added. “We want to get her outside so she gets more exposure. And the exposure she gets is going to come back to the Flagler County Art League.”
The Gargiulo foundation was scheduled to hold the Wormeck exhibition at Salvo Art Project in January, but Salvo was forced to move from its Bunnell location at Nature Scapes and won’t open at its new locale in Bunnell until later this spring.
Along with the exhibition, the artist of the year honor also means that the foundation will be purchasing one of Wormeck’s works for exhibition in a public space.
Judi Wormeck’s exhibition will run from March 17 through April 14 at Ocean Art Gallery, 206 Moody Blvd. (State Road 100), Flagler Beach. Three events will be held in conjunction with the show:
* Artist’s reception, 6-9 p.m. Friday March 17.
* Gallery walk and Q&A session with Tom Gargiulo, 6 p.m. Thursday March 23.
* Art demonstration with Judi Wormeck, 6 p.m. Thursday March 30.
All events are free and open to the public. Information: 386-693-4882 or flagleroceanartgallery.com.