Critics Picks: Horse of a Different Color

Equine artist Lynn Judd went hog wild for the Big Pig Gig

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Woodrow J. Hinton


Artist Lynn Judd didn't just delicately saddle up for The Big Pig Gig: She mounted it full on and galloped away. Not only did she offer to do the very first pig, but Judd, a specialist in painting and drawing horses, created nine swine over the months since last spring, more than any other artist.

The Big Pig Gig couldn't have come at a better time for Judd. "My brain was just ready for a rest. It was just a good time in my life to do something that was very light of heart. I've painted pigs exclusively (for) about three months. I always had a pig sitting in my little studio here. I had pigs here for three months," Judd says.

Melody Richardson, Judd's friend and co-chair of The Big Pig Gig, refers to the project as "the yeast in (Judd's) cake ... the leavening agent that made her life fun."

But there were other reasons for Judd's involvement.

"I'm Melody's friend, and I wanted this to be successful," Judd explains.

According to Richardson, the two women only knew each other slightly prior to launch of The Big Pig Gig. But that quickly changed.

"We're sisters in swine," Richardson laughs.

Playing on words was but one of the things that attracted Judd. "I love puns. I just enjoy them. I sent her about 20 or so names right from the beginning. I was just really enthusiastic about the idea," Judd says.

That was November of 1999, and she quickly began spreading word of her involvement. "I had told some friends of mine. Stan Cohen, whose horses I painted, wanted to do one. ... I enjoy getting the message across to people ... and who could not feel the empathy of Orange Barrow? And Mr. Cohen was in the construction business. And he really got into it. He just loved it," she says.

And what's not to love about a pig decorated as the Tristate's other mascot, the reviled orange barrel? That and a name that means a pig castrated before reaching sexual maturity.

Just how much Orange Barrow is loved will be evident at The Big Pig Gig Live Auction on Monday at Music Hall. Half the proceeds raised by the 65 pigs on the chopping block will go into an endowment for ArtWorks, which promoted the plethora of pigs on Porkopolis. The other half of the proceeds are headed for specific charities chosen by individual sponsors. Orange Barrow's sale will benefit the University of Cincinnati Foundation for the Frances & Stanley Cohen Scholarship in DAAP.

Meanwhile, Equine Swine III, the third in a series of equestrian-themed pigs by Judd and sponsored by Richardson, will also be auctioned Monday to benefit the Cincinnati Ballet. The first Equine Swine, about which Richardson had contacted Judd because of her love of horses, was created for the American Jumping Classic and was sold for $9,000 to a women in Texas who imports Belgian hogs.

Equine Swine was so popular that Judd created two more, allowing her to incorporate her specialty into The Big Pig Gig. "I think Melody called me about them (Equine Swine). It was kind of late in the game. (They) wanted it for the Jumping Classic. Man, I painted fast. Because I do horses and ride and everything else, I knew how to paint it. I knew how to paint what they wore without any problems," Judd explains.

Horses are truly Judd's passion. She owns three — one here and two at her home in Lexington. She's the president of the Midwest Hunt Race Association, "the guiding hand for steeplechase racing in the Midwest." She foxhunts in Lexington and is also a member of the Thoroughbred Club of America.

Her love of horses translates into her artwork, but she won't say she survives solely as an equine artist. "That's hard to do. No, it was not my primary source of income. I have a business, and my business stays afloat. It's not what I live off of completely, but I'm offended at the word 'hobby' because I spend far too much time and energy," she says, explaining how she must cultivate clients and build a network.

"I do mostly commissioned work. I know exactly or at least a base of what I'm going to do for the year," Judd says. This year she has had art shows at Bittner's in Montgomery and at The Christ Hospital, although most of her work is seen out-of-town in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

That might explain why not everyone knows Judd as an artist. "I have close friends who had no idea that I painted. Horses wasn't a part of my relationship with them. I knew them differently," she explains.

But The Big Pig Gig has changed that for Judd and other artists. "This has brought people downtown in droves. It's almost as if you weren't aware of what pigs were there, it's like you were ignorant. So to be current, you had to go down.

"It also says we have fantastic artists in the area. It's hard for artists to wave their hands and say, 'Hey, I'm over here.' It's such a solitary kind of life. Unless you have an agent, it's hard to be seen," Judd says.

But there's been a lot of benefit for Judd as she's been working on her various pigs. The joy is evident in her voice. "What I enjoy the most is the concept. There was a different kind of palette. And that I like the idea of recognizable form from 20 feet at 20 miles an hour, and that it evokes emotion. Hopefully, positive emotion. Or in the case of Orange Barrow, 'Jeez, Louise, someone acknowledges what we're going through.'

"So the approaches were different, because they had to suit the concept. The concepts were typical of me. They're all bold. They're all recognizable from a distance. You don't say, 'What is that?' That's what I was trying to do," she says.

Bold and recognizable truly are characteristics of Judd's swine creations — the suspended and shimmery Pigasus, the classic red of the Pig Red Machine, the whimsical and clownlike Pigliacci, which she painted with her friend and teacher Margaret Lewis, and the flamboyant Stephen Birmingham, named after the author and a last-minute addition to Judd's litter.

But Richardson believes one pig turned out to be Judd's most rewarding. To create the Hamlich Maneuver, Judd worked with Dr. Henry Heimlich, Richardson's neighbor, to make sure all aspects of the life-saving technique were accurately portrayed.

"I asked Dr. Heimlich if he had ever seen it performed, and he said 'No.' Oh, well. He is just a Machiavellian man. There are some people who have lived two or three lifetimes. He just treasures it so, and he makes great use of it. Getting to know him was just such a bonus," Judd says.

Some might say the same about Judd.

THE BIG PIG GIG LIVE AUCTION takes place at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Music Hall.

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